Hey Cleveland! Welcome to Seattle! Those tall things? Those are mountains. Oh, wait, you mean those?….those are buildings. You guys don't have those in Cleveland? Oh, they're usually abandoned? Oh, OK, makes sense. Sorry about Lebron.
The only reason I was so harsh on Cleveland just now is that Cleveland really has been pretty harsh to the Mariners in the past. Eduardo Perez and Ben Broussard really look good this year, but I think I'd still take Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera. I hate you Bill Bavasi. Moreover, the last time Cleveland came to Seattle (last April), they swept away the Mariners in convincing fashion. Yet another reason to hate Cleveland (I mean the Indians).
Anyway, the Mariners enter their second home series of the season with a 6-5 record, including a 5-2 record against Oakland. Cleveland boasts a 4-4 record and are coming off of a road series against the Royals during which they scored at least eight runs in all three games, sweeping the series. Obviously, that makes the Indians 1-4 against non-Royal opponents. That makes them eerily similar to the Mariners. Cool. Three game series, three pitching match ups.
April 17: Kevin Millwood (0-0, 1.50) vs. Justin Masterson (0-1, 2.77)
Justin Masterson is a really good young pitcher. Kevin Millwood was a really good young pitcher in 1995. But on Tuesday, the youngster will oppose the 38-year old as the two make their third and second starts of the season respectively. OK, so Masterson is 27, which technically is older than Felix. I would never call Felix a youngster. Therefore, Justin Masterson is relatively young. He's also the Indians ace on a staff that includes Derek Lowe and Ubaldo Jimenez. That's rather impressive. Per ESPN, Masterson has a 2-0 record with an ERA around 2.50 in five career starts against Seattle. Shit. I don't like that. But I did like Kevin Millwood's start against Texas. That was awesome. Plus, John Jaso got him the win that night. Also awesome. #FreeJaso
April 18: Jason Vargas (1-1, 3.44) vs. Derek Lowe (2-0, 1.98)
Derek Lowe has an appropriate last name when it comes to his current ERA. Wow, that was insightful. Jason Vargas does not possess a last name that in any way correlates with his statistics. That means absolutely nothing. Jason Vargas is inconsistent sometimes. Derek Lowe has always struck me as a consistently very good pitcher. That could pose problems or help. Vargas could pitch like Dr. Jason and 2-hit the Indians while Lowe give up three or four runs. Then again, Jason could pitch like Mr. Vargas and give up six runs in two innings while Low gives up one or two runs. It feels like a crapshoot, especially against a good offense like Cleveland's. To be fair however, Vargas has pitched with much greater consistency this year than Mariner fans have come to expect in the last few years.
April 19: Larry Bernandez (1-1, 3.80) vs. Josh Tomlin (0-1, 8.31)
Wouldn't it be awesome if Felix sported the sideburns and glasses for this game? Just a fantasy I guess. It would be a huge "fuck you" to Josh Tomlin if Felix's alter ego beat him. Although that 8.31 ERA serves as a big enough "fuck you" already. I think it's fair to say that Felix holds an advantage in this matchup. Although Felix hasn't been vintage Felix so far in 2012. I think a bad start here would cause legitimate worry about his arm. That velocity, which still hangs around 93 MPH, needs to keep increasing. A win here would be a great confidence booster for the King, who has only pitched against Oakland so far. I sincerely hope the Mariners hit Josh Tomlin. He just seems like one of those not so good pitchers that would shut us down. A Bruce Chen type pitcher.
Three to watch:
Chone Figgins: Geoff Baker wrote a great column about Figgins taking a bunch of pitches at the plates this year. He takes an average of about five and a half pitches per at bat in his first at bat in 2012. That's really awesome. At the very least, he makes pitchers work hard to get him out. He's still getting out a bit too much though, as his OBP has dipped to .298 after recent struggles. I'm still supporting him as the leadoff hitter though, mostly because I like what Ichiro has done in the three-hole. If Figgy can get one hit a game, I'll be OK with that. In this series, I want him to create at least two runs with his special abilities. Those abilities include speed, line-drive singles, count-working, and being a piece of shit. That last one won't help, but I hope the other three will. He'll be vital to a Mariner series win.
Brandon League: Brandon League's meltdown week that killed his momentum last year culminated in a grand slam from Travis Hafner, who hit the pitch with his eyes closed. The Mariners don't win a lot of games by more than three runs, especially against good hitting teams. Therfore, League will play a pivotal role in wins for the M's this week. He's four for four in 2012 so far, and has been fantastic in six appearances, allowing just five base runners. Fortunately, this series is at home. League's appearances technically won't be all or nothing. That relief of pressure should make this series different from his meltdown week last year, which took place on the road.
Jason Kipnis: Kipnis is an interesting case so far in 2012. He leads the Indians with three homers and seven RBIs. He also is dead last in average among regular starters, batting just .188. That confuses me. He's got six hits. Half of his hits are homers. That sort of reminds me of Bucky Jacobsen. That's not a good comparison, unless you're participating in a beard growing contest. The point with Kipnis is it seems like he'll either be really easy to handle or at one point he'll really make the Mariners pay. I'm hopeful that it will be the former.
These three games will test the Mariners. It's their first games of the season against a ham sandwich team. The Rangers are very very good. The A's are very very not good. The Indians are ham sandwich. Not bad, but not too flashy. Accordingly, the M's should win at least once, especially at home. Will game one be the once? Probably not. Justin Masterson sets up nicely against a Mariner lineup that hits ground balls, and so does Derek Lowe in game two. I'll take the Indians 4-2 in game one and then, after Vargas' first stinker of the year, 9-3 in game two. Felix will pitch Felix-ish on Thursday though, and the M's will avoid the sweep, winning 5-2. #FreeJaso. Go M's.