Last night the Mariners kicked sand in the face of a helpless Angels team and boarded the plane for Oakland.
The M’s won the game that wasn’t as close as the 8-2 final score. James Paxton turned in a dominating pitching performance, allowing two hits and striking out nine in his seven innings of work. Lefty Joe Beimel looked good working a perfect eighth in his first outing of the season. Hector Noesi reminded us that he’s still on the team in giving up a pair of runs in the ninth.
Paxton was in trouble only in the first when he gave up a lead off double to right-fielder Kole Calhoun, and followed with a walk to Mike Trout. But Albert Pujols followed with a double-play grounder to third baseman Willie Bloomquist to end the threat, and that was as close as the Halos got to scoring before the ninth.
Mariners hitters were again on fire in this game pounding out 13 hits against starter Hector Santiago and four relievers. They scored single runs in the 3rd and 5th innings, but as with the two previous games, blew the contest wide open with a big inning in the sixth, rolling out a four spot to take a 6-0 lead. Robinson Cano singled after Brad Miller doubled in the third to give the $240 million man his first RBI as a Mariner. In the fifth, a Bloomquist walk combined with a Miller single and Josh Hamilton throwing error led to a second run. But the piece de resistance was in the sixth inning when eight Mariners came to bat. First baseman Justin Smoak and DH Corey Hart led off with singles. Right fielder Stefen Romero hit his first career double, driving in Smoak for his first career RBI. After a Dustin Ackley ground out, catcher Mike Zunino hit a long fly over the left field fence for a three run dinger. Mariners lead 6-0
The scoring was capped in the ninth when Smoak, batting left handed for the first time of the night pounded a home run into the right field bleachers. He was followed by Corey Hart’s first home run of the season, his first in over a year, to left field. Both came off Angels closer Ernesto Frieri, in the game to get some work. Both home runs seemed like messages to remind the Angels they’d just had sand kicked in their faces by the former 90 pound weakling up the beach.
The M’s finished their first 3-0 series since 1995. So what does it all mean? It means they still have 159 games to play. There will be plenty of losses and probably some stinky baseball among them. But here are a few things to stoke your enthusiasm and get you to think:
- The young guys this team needs to play well to win are off to a hot start–Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley, Brad Miller–even guys who aren’t going to play every day like Stefen Romero and Mike Zunino have played key roles in the first three games.
- Robinson Cano has been quietly effective, with five hits, four walks and a couple of runs scored. He hasn’t owned the show, and the team isn’t winning because he is winning for them. I’m not quite sure what this means, but at some point pitchers will stop pitching around him so that Justin Smoak can double off the wall or pump it over the wall.
- The three starting pitchers-Felix Hernandez, Erasmo Ramirez, and James Paxton were all excellent in their starts.
- The bullpen has been better than passable. Caveat: Tom Wilhelmsen visibly stumbled with his command on Tuesday and Hector Noesi was his own abominable self last night.
- According to Baseballreference.com, the M’s are leading the league in most offensive statistics. The are also second in the league for strikeouts. Of course it’s offset a bit because the pitchers lead the league for most strikeouts.
Tonight Roenis Elias will open the four game series with the A’s. It will be interesting to see how Elias and Chris Young will pitch. It will be interesting to see how the team will play against what should be better pitching. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to see if the opening sweep was about the Mariners in their first game, or if this is about how terrible the Angels may be.
Be excited about the sweep. Keep your fingers crossed. Wish the boys well. I like to measure a team after 40 games to judge a team’s progress. The last few years 40 games have told the tale of crappy baseball, and a long, boring summer. Maybe this year will be different.