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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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April 17, 2008 11:26 AM

Kings for a day

Posted by Geoff Baker

That's how the Mariners are feeling this morning after Felix Hernandez shut down the Oakland A's, 4-2, in a complete game victory last night. I'll take you on a video tour of the McAfee Coliseum within the hour, once we get some technical issues out of the way. For now, let's look back on what last night's ballgame meant to a Mariners team still reeling from early-season injuries to Erik Bedard and J.J. Putz.

For all of their troubles, the Mariners are suddenly back to .500 at 8-8 and just a game behind the first-place A's and Los Angeles Angels. A big reason is the work of Hernandez and Carlos Silva. Simply put, that duo is doing the job that Bedard and Felix Hernandez were supposed to be doing. Bedard was supposed to be what Hernandez is right now, while 22-year-old Hernandez was supposed to be a little closer to what Silva is doing.

Silva and Hernandez are both 2-0. They have gone at least seven innings in six of their seven starts between them -- Silva doing it in all three of his contests. Jarrod Washburn has done it once, making that seven outings of at least seven innings by a Seattle starter already. Do any of you remember how long it took the Mariners to receive seven such starts last year? Not until they were well into the month of May.

The results of that work are out there to see. Seattle currently has the best winning percentage of any American League team against clubs from its own division. The M's are at 5-2 against the AL West so far, going 2-1 versus Texas, 2-1 against the Angels and 1-0 with the A's.

Yes, it is very early. This is a small sample size and a few losses in a row will negate that 5-2 record quickly.

On the other hand, this is the stuff we talked about last winter when it came to determining whether or not Seattle truly had a chance to win the AL West. Or the wild-card race. We talked about the need for the M's to play well within their own division. Talked about how the Mariners had to get more seven-inning outings out of starters to spare the bullpen.

Especially this bullpen, right now. The M's have lost their closer, have yet to see a pitch thrown by their main righty setup man and have banished their situational lefty to Class AA. Not only that, but the "ace'' pitcher they acquired over the winter is on the DL as well. On most teams, that spells disaster, especially when you combine it with a bunch of hitters batting .200 or less the first two weeks of the season.

But the Mariners have survived. They are a .500 team as of today. They may be a .500 team a month from now, but that's OK. They did not wither up and die, or let the gap between them and the division leaders get out of hand. They have gone 6-3 since leaving Baltimore, playing against three teams with winning records so far. They are within a game of the division lead. And they are still working through some early season injuries and warts in both the bullpen and on offense. It could be a lot worse.

What last night's game by Hernandez also did was buy his team some wiggle room for this weekend in Anaheim. Let's face it, the M's would probably have prefered to go with something other than R.A. Dickey, Washburn and Miguel Batista on the mound in that series.

In a worst case scenario, they lose all three games. Better off to do that with your team tied for the division lead, or a game out, than when you're already three games out. A couple of days ago, the Mariners were three games out of first place. They have shaved a couple of games off that lead and won the contest they had to last night.

They now know, no matter how badly things go from here, there is no chance they come back from this road trip a half-dozen games back before the season is even three weeks old. A couple of days ago, that was looming as a serious possibility.

And no matter how early it still is in a season, no team wants to be six out at any time. You can spend an entire season trying to make up such a gap. As of now, the M's won't have to worry about a gap like that forming on this trip. In fact, if they can take the finale of this short series tonight, they can head in to Anaheim relatively relaxed and confident. At the very worst, they would finish the trip 2-3. more than likely, they could go 3-2 or even 4-2. With Silva taking the mound tonight, that 2-0 start to this trip has a good chance of happening. That's what improved starting pitching -- and an ability to go seven innings or more, limiting the exposure of a fragile bullpen -- can do for a club.

The M's have lost only one of their first five series this season. No matter what happens tonight, that stays the same.

Considering what's gone on, that's nothing to sneeze at. For now, the next few hours, at least, they are kings for a day.

NOTE TO AL IN COMMENTS THREAD, 12:40 p.m.: You're right about my goof-up on Hernandez's one-hitter (not two-hitter) in Boston last year. Guess he was in better form than me last night. Know when I realized that mistake? In my head at 7:15 a.m. today when I was trying to sleep until 9. Woke up with the "ah-ha!" realization that I'd messed up. No chance of snoozing after that one. Stresses you out a little. My apologies.

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Posted by Grandson

11:32 AM, Apr 17, 2008

Without a doubt, Grandma is my hero. I love you Grandma!!

Posted by AKMarinersFan

11:35 AM, Apr 17, 2008

What's with the love affair with Silva? Outside wins/losses and ERA (which are close), Washburn has better numbers. Putting Silva in the same sentance as Felix is a joke. By the end of the year, I bet Silva's number are closer to Batista's then Felix's.

Posted by Ziasudra

11:45 AM, Apr 17, 2008

Well, what else can we complain about today? Snow over the weekend? The price of gas? We win last night, and yokels are still looking for whinning opportunities.
In my opinion, Silva has performed as expected. Actually, Wash has too, but I expected less from him, and that's what we got.
We have hope, tonight, since their pitcher has a high ERA - but I'm hoping we get some subs in the game. For one thing, I'd move Joh up to 6, maybe even 5. Put in Norton and for sure move Vidro and Sexson to 7 and 8. Hope that would send a message. . . .
For the Anaheim series, might turn into a slugfest, with their starters not being on top of their game (either) right now.

Posted by Chris from Bothell

11:48 AM, Apr 17, 2008

Eeyore (AKMF) - Geoff's just talking about Silva's start, not his lifetime stats overall. I agree he's probably going to regress to the mean a bit later in the season, but I'll take the innings-eating he's been doing so far, until JJ gets back and the bullpen settles down.

Posted by daddydriz

11:58 AM, Apr 17, 2008

While not a reflection of reality, making Bedard, not Felix, the #1 starter was probably not a bad idea. The King seems so much more relaxed, yet focused, than last year when those bloopers would have really affected him.

Geoff, thanks for the travel video blog. I'm not sure why I find them so fascinating, but I do.

Posted by AKMarinersFan

12:02 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Hey CFB (Clueless from Bothell) - I was comparing Silva's and Washburns 2008 stats. .

Posted by Adam

12:13 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Anyone else having trouble posting?


I just lost one that made the point that said, basically, if we should be happy at 8-8, then the Angels should be ecstatic at 9-7.


We need to finish ahead of the Angels at the end of April.

Posted by Chris from Bothell

12:14 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Eeyore - Again, I agree he's probably going to regress to the mean a bit later in the season, but I'll take the innings-eating he's been doing so far, until JJ gets back and the bullpen settles down.

You asked what the love affair with Silva was. It's liking his first two starts.

Posted by Chris from Bothell

12:23 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Adam - Agreed. Ms and Angels play 8 times in September, but that's going to be a depressing slog rather than a fighting chance if the Ms aren't at least a couple games up going into May. JJ back next week though, here's hoping that helps right the ship.

Posted by Al

12:25 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Not to nitpick Geoff, but in your article about Felix last night you made a slight error. It was a 1 hitter he threw against Boston last year not a 2 hitter.

Posted by Adam

12:31 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Chris - you do understand the principle that better teams generally have better records than worse teams, yes?

Posted by AKMarinersFan

12:33 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Clueless from Bothell - Silva has gave up 9 and 11 hits his last two games. He gave up 7 runs in those two games and it could have been much much worse. He was tetering on disaster. Silva is going to get hit hard this year.

Posted by tallahassee-mariner's fan

12:42 PM, Apr 17, 2008

can we get a sub for wilkerson tonight?

btw, i watched last night's game on mlb.com, so i heard the A's announcers, and you should have heard the way they were talking about Felix. eg

"I've never seen anything like that"
"Thats just not even fair, no one can hit that" (as an A struck out)

We have the real deal here. Lets hope the FO doesn't pull a "Bavasi" and screw up a longterm deal for baseball's best pitcher.

Posted by DenMike

12:42 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Nice difference is that Silva has pitched 4 more innings than Washburn with a lower ERA (even if close)...point in fact is that 1 and 1/3 longer each outing WITH fewer ER is a big deal AK, eventhough I generally agree with you, in that at the end of the season he will be closer to Batista, nevertheless, Silva is pitching well and when a pitcher is "hot" that gives the offense and defense confidence going into the game...therefore, I would agree with Geoff, that Silva, our second best pitcher, gives us a great chance to win, and the SECOND BEST CHANCE to win over our other SP's right now

Posted by tallahassee-mariner's fan

12:43 PM, Apr 17, 2008

can we get a sub for wilkerson tonight?

btw, i watched last night's game on mlb.com, so i heard the A's announcers, and you should have heard the way they were talking about Felix. eg

"I've never seen anything like that"
"Thats just not even fair, no one can hit that" (as an A struck out)

We have the real deal here. Lets hope the FO doesn't pull a "Bavasi" and screw up a longterm deal for baseball's best pitcher.

Posted by tallahassee-mariner's fan

12:45 PM, Apr 17, 2008

can we cut out the name-calling please?

(sorry about the double post)

Posted by K-Man

12:45 PM, Apr 17, 2008

I likes me some Silva. Over 3 games, he's pitched 22 innings, given up 8 earned runs for a 3.27 ERA and a 1.227 WHIP. I'll take that anytime. Right now he's our #2 pitcher, and I'm very happy to have him.

Also, calling folks clueless is classless.

I miss JJ. Go M's!

Posted by debby downer

12:51 PM, Apr 17, 2008

pooh pooh pooh Morrow, pooh pooh MacLaren, pooh pooh we didn't get Lincecum, pooh pooh Sexson. Pooh pooh we gave up Adam Jones for for 2 yers of Bedard,. Does that about cover it?

Posted by Everett fan

1:18 PM, Apr 17, 2008

One comment on Sexson - his walks are due, in part, at less swinging at sliders in the dirt. He still strikes out on those on occasion, just less than last year. He may hit a hr with the bases loaded, but only if a pitcher grooves it. Mostly, the pitchers know they can throw a slider in the dirt, and he chase it- at least he did that constantly last year. Can he learn? TBD.

(PS - I tried to post this on the latter thread three times, but it seems to be out to lunch. . . .)

Posted by hcoguy

1:22 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Yes we are not below .500!

Bench WIlk for Bloomie!

Joh sucks so does the other guy from Japan!!

Does that about cover it?

Posted by Chris from Bothell

1:56 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Adam -
You said, "We need to finish ahead of the Angels at the end of April."
I said that the Ms need to a couple games up going into May.

We're violently agreeing.

Posted by Chris from Bothell

1:59 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Eeyore - Last I checked, there's wasn't such a thing as a "teetering" column in the season standings. Silva pitched deep into 2 games. The Ms won those 2 games. I'm fine with that. I also agree that he's due to lose some too.

You just see it as half-empty (focusing on Silva likely not being able to pitch the same to get wins in the future). I see it as half-full, focusing on the Ms having won both games that he started w/o having to go to the bullpen. Management of which, we can all agree, has been less than stellar.

We're violently agreeing.

Posted by AKMarinersFan

2:15 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Clueless Chris - If you look at Silva's numbers you would understand teetering. Lots of baserunners and has to have the DP to get out of the inning. Thats Silva (and Batista). He's a back of rotation guy getting front of the rotation money. His good fortune will not last.

Posted by Magwhich

2:29 PM, Apr 17, 2008

the main problem here is that Mac doesnt know how to use his fullback correctly. If the bullpen was undermanned he would go 7 innnings with them. I did some research for the last hour and all sign point to putting wilerson at DH, ibanez to left and call up Dickey to start friday.

Posted by fortheloveofsexson

3:05 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Current thoughts on our buddy Richie Sexson? He has moved from FFF to C- in my book. Good enough to keep playing. On the margin as opposed to absolutely insane.

Posted by good guy fan

3:36 PM, Apr 17, 2008

it certainly was a good game- I'm glad Felix got to stay in and get the complete game win.

the game wasn't a sloppy win, like some of the recent wins have been, but it would be nice if the LOB's would go down more.

Posted by Pete

4:02 PM, Apr 17, 2008

"...while 22-year-old Hernandez was supposed to be a little closer to what Silva is doing."

What do you mean by "supposed?" If you mean that Silva, even in his current, top-notch form, has a tiny fraction of the talent Felix has, and that expecting Felix to resemble Silva is silly, then compare away.

Other than that, putting Felix and Silva in the same comparison sounds hilarious.

Posted by Chris from Bothell

4:16 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Eeyore - You just see it as glass-half-empty focusing on Silva likely not being able to get wins in the future, pitching like that. I see it as glass-half-full, focusing on the Ms having won both games that he started w/o having to go to the bullpen.

The money is irrelevant.

Posted by scottM

4:36 PM, Apr 17, 2008

from AKM'sFan: "He's (Silva's) a back of rotation guy getting front of the rotation money. His good fortune will not last.

Your glass is half empty assessment strikes again. Silva is a legitimate #3 starter. That puts him right at the exact dipping point where the glass is half full and half-empty. Let me do the math: 1-2-3-4-5. See, three is smack in the middle.

Again, the number one off-season objective for the M's was to acquire TWO solid Starting Pitchers. Carlos Silva is delivering as advertised (and a good bit better thus far). He's an innings eater, a workhorse, a reliable #3, a positive member in the clubhouse, a groundball pitcher who needs his defense to perform behind him. What's not to like? That he MIGHT revert back to his solid #3 form, instead of the #2 level of performance that he has shown thus far.

As for the 4 years and $48 million, I understand the M's logic. Here is a veteran, proven, yet young (29 year old), who we could lock up for the best years of his career at a price that, in two or three years, will look very reasonable.

Felix shows awesome ability now. I think that Bedard will deliver the goods, too, although there is legitimate reason for concern. However, if the M's are going to be a strong contender for the next few years, it's a guy like Silva who solidifies the team. With JJ out and Bedard out, he is more than earning his keep right now. He's the blue-collar lunch-pail workhorse of the staff keeping the company producing our favorite product: wins.

We'll see how Silva, our Seņor Obrero, does tonight.

Posted by Faceplant

6:04 PM, Apr 17, 2008

"What's with the love affair with Silva? Outside wins/losses and ERA (which are close), Washburn has better numbers."

Sorta. That's a pretty small sample we are dealing with. Over his career Silva has had a better K/BB ratio, and a higher GB percentage.

Is Silva pitching over his head, and getting pretty lucky. Almost certainly. But he's still better than Jarrod Washburn IMHO.


"Clueless Chris - If you look at Silva's numbers you would understand teetering. Lots of baserunners and has to have the DP to get out of the inning."

I agree that he is going to regress. I also agree that you are being quite at an ass to Chris from Bothell.

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