When Ian Snell stepped to the mound on Sunday, it was perhaps the most important start of his career.
But more importantly, his six-inning performance could be a very good momentum builder as the season comes to a close.
The Mariners lost, but Snell left with the game tied at two. While it won't go down as a win on his record, he showed things unseen by Mariners right-handed pitchers not named Felix Hernandez.
While Snell doesn't have incredible control, he showed tremendous command, causing fastballs to miss bats. He pitched like a starting pitcher, only reaching back when necessary, and keeping his emotions under control.
Apart from a line-drive double, Snell's only two significant blemishes were two mistakes for which he paid, home runs by David Murphy and Michael Young, though Young's home run would have probably been an out in Safeco Field.
So what should be taken from this outing? A single start is the definition of a small sample size, and extreme reactions are the definition of a hyperbole, but Snell has always had the potential to pitch this way.
He ran his fastball up to 95 mph, another positive sign, as his fastball velocity has slowly decreased since 2006.
Snell worked inside and outside, high and low, and had a very professional outing.
Another thing that Snell may benefit from—much in the same way Hernandez has—is the excellent game calling of catchers who aren't Kenji Johjima.
Snell pitched a lot of games to Ronny Paulino, some of his best. Perhaps Paulino's departure from Pittsburgh is to blame for Snell struggles.
Johnson appears to have handled Mariners pitchers so well that he's been given the nickname Sarah in USS Mariner comment threads, referring to this Catcher’s ERA (CERA) and lack of offensive prowess.
Jack Zduriencik has shown the ability to be a master of reclamation projects. Russell Branyan, despite recent struggles, is having the best season of his career while David Aardsma, once a bust, has become a bullpen stud.
There are reclamation stories on several pitching staffs throughout the majors. Typically, they are guys who have recovered from injuries.
So is Snell Chris Carpenter? Probably Not.
Edwin Jackson? Maybe.
At the very least, in an odd semi-buy trade that brought the Mariners two big league talents, it's nice to see the younger of the two contributing early.
The Mariners replaced the depth in their starting rotation with a big-league ready depth, and we'll get to see Luke French later this week.
Though the deadline was disappointing for many Mariners fans, today was a positive sign for the future.