The Seattle Mariners figured they’d be a contender last season largely thanks to the offseason acquisition of Erik Bedard, but instead they became the first team with a $100 million payroll to lose 100 games.
Perhaps their vision was just a year ahead of schedule.
Bedard will look to continue his turnaround from a disappointing 2008 season Friday night as the surprising Mariners open a three-game road series against the preseason AL West favorite Los Angeles Angels.
Seattle was perhaps the biggest bust in the majors last season, finishing 61-101—and 39 games behind the first-place Angels.
Bedard (1-1, 1.86 ERA) made just 15 starts in an injury-plagued season, but after three appearances in 2009 he’s looked much more like the pitcher the Mariners (10-6) thought they were acquiring when they dealt five prospects to Baltimore.
He’s struck out 23 and only walked three, and has been excellent in his last two outings, spearheading a Seattle staff that has a major-league best 3.01 ERA.
The left-hander picked up his first win April 12 at Oakland, allowing three hits over 8 1-3 innings in a 1-0 victory, and he was solid again Saturday against Detroit. He got even less offensive support, however, and despite allowing only two runs - one earned - in six innings while striking out eight, lost 2-0.
“Again, he was on top of his game,” catcher Rob Johnson told the Mariners’ official Web site. “He threw more pitches (per inning) than he did last outing, but (Detroit) is a team with a veteran lineup and they were fouling off some pretty good pitches. He threw the ball well.”
Bedard’s lone start against the Angels last season didn’t go well. He allowed five runs - four earned - over 3 1-3 innings in a 5-4 home loss on June 3.
Center fielder Torii Hunter, who leads Los Angeles with six homers and 11 RBIs, is 9-for-20 (.450) with two homers off Bedard.
Seattle was involved in another pitchers’ duel its last time out, but this time came out on the winning end. Felix Hernandez tossed seven sharp innings and Ichiro Suzuki’s homer to lead off the bottom of the first was all the Mariners needed in a 1-0 win Thursday against Tampa Bay.
Seattle took two of three from the defending AL champs and leads the division by 3 1/2 games.
“Just a great win,” said reliever David Aardsma, who has allowed one hit in 6 2-3 innings. “To make a leadoff homer stand up and to do it against the AL champions? You can’t say enough.”
Los Angeles (6-9) was expected to again run away with the AL West. But while an injury-ravaged starting rotation has sported a 3.50 ERA, the bullpen, has been a different story, registering a league-worst 8.04 ERA.
The relief corps held up on Thursday, however, pitching three scoreless innings to support the offense. Five Angels had multi-hit games - including Hunter - in a 10-5 victory as they took two of three from the Tigers.
Shane Loux (0-1, 3.65) has been solid in two starts, though he’s still looking for his first win. Loux allowed 10 hits Sunday in Minnesota, but walked none and allowed three runs over seven innings in a 3-1 loss.
“Shane has pitched really well for us,” manager Mike Scioscia told the Angels’ official Web site. “When his command is sharp, like it’s been, he gets a lot of ground balls.”
Loux gave up two runs in 5 1-3 innings against the Mariners in his first start, not factoring in the decision in a 3-2 loss.