The Seattle Mariners just knocked off the Texas Rangers behind the pitching of Kevin Millwood, and it has me believing this team has the talent to really compete. It also has me feeling that it isn't impossible for the Mariners to make a run at an American League West title this year.
I already know that some people reading this article may think I am crazy or delusional in my support of the team. But what success all boils down to is great pitching and timely hitting. Any team that can put together that combination on the field has the chance to win every night.
The Mariners have won three of the seven games they have played against the Rangers this season, with three of those losses being by two runs or fewer. One of them was a 1-0 loss that could have easily ended up in the win column for Seattle. The team now stands at 21-25, many of those losses coming on grueling road trips like the last one. Playing on the road against the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians is a tough task for any team in baseball.
There is also the aspect of the early season schedule working against the Mariners. They have played 28 road games and only 18 home games, showing that there are quite a few still to get played at Safeco Field. That could really help the pitchers get those pitch counts down and get some confidence through lowered ERAs.
Opponents are hitting just .238 against the Mariners this season, which ranks fourth in the AL. The fielding is also at an elite status, with the team having the fewest number of errors in all of baseball (16). That .990 fielding percentage is in a class of its own, led by the best fielding shortstop in baseball (Brendan Ryan).
Sure, there are some deficiencies on the Mariners, especially when it comes to power hitting. The Mariners have a lot of good line drive hitters, but nobody who is a threat to hit a home run every time he comes to the plate. Maybe a few of them are developing to that point though, with Jesus Montero, Alex Liddi and Kyle Seager really hitting the ball well lately.
The Rangers are a really good team, there is no getting around that, but I think that the Mariners roster has evolved to the point that it can really compete with any team in the AL. Hopefully that continues when the Los Angeles Angels come to town to finish out the week. Now is the time to really make a statement and winning three of four games against the Angels would be a very loud one.
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*Ryan is a lifelong Seattle Mariners fan who never misses an opportunity to attend a game at Safeco Field. He has been attending games since 1985, and has fond memories of The Kingdome, Edgar Martinez, and the historic 1995 team. Sodo Mojo!