In the movie Castaway , Tom Hanks is on a desolate island, alone, with nothing but a psychologically challenged volleyball named Wilson.
Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners must feel the same way. He stands on a mound of dirt, an island, dominating hitters as he attempts to keep the Mariners in the running for the American League West Division crown.
The Seattle Mariners opened the season as expected, with a win as Hernandez took the rock and kept the M's in the game until the offense could produce enough runs to seal the outcome.
While Felix is busy building another raft that might surpass the breakers, the rest of the Seattle pitching staff sits hopelessly on the shore waiting for something or someone to come to their rescue.
Like Hanks and the volleyball in the film, Felix creates the setting, puppeteers the dialogue, and initiates the rising action of the baseball story, realizing all along the end will more likely be akin to a Greek tragedy rather than the feel-good movie of the summer.
After the first three games, the Mariners' offense had scored 11 runs. The Oakland A's offense scored exactly as many. The difference is the A's won two of the three games.
Dropping the final game of the series on Thursday, Seattle found little production from either the offense or the pitching staff.
Ichiro Suzuki and Chone Figgins are off to slow starts, both batting .200. Milton Bradley is struggling to an .077 clip. Manager Dan Wakamatsu knew the offense would be limited at best as the team has been built upon pitching and defense, but those poor stranded, marooned, shipwrecked pitchers appear "lost" after the first trip through the rotation.
Worse yet, they are dragging the rest of the pitching staff into the murky depths with them.
Ian Snell pitched very well in game two of the series, but Seattle used up its bullpen in the extra-inning game. Ryan Rowland-Smith and Doug Fister could not keep the less-than-impressive A's lineup in check in the last two games of the series, and the already-taxed bullpen was forced to pitch more innings than it should be counted on for.
Brandon League threw 40 pitches in one outing!
Mariners fans realize success is dependent upon Cliff Lee and Eric Bedard returning from injury, as well as better performances from the other starting pitchers, but will it be too late by the time the reinforcements are available?
No need to panic, right? It's just the first series of the year. The season is not even a week old. However, the writing was on the wall prior to the start of the season, and nothing thus far has disproved the concerns.
Seattle's offense needs to create runs with timely hitting, aggressive base running, and occasional power. The pitching staff and defense need to keep the team in games.
Through four games, the offense is struggling. The starters are not pitching enough innings, the bullpen is already being overused, and Hernandez can pitch only once every five days.
Can the Mariners really just keep stoking the bonfire on the beach hoping a plane or ship sees the distress signal and sends help?
Lee and Bedard may be the saving grace the Mariners need. Jarrod Washburn is still available to be signed. Several pitchers could be traded for to shore up the staff with some veteran, inning-eating arms.
Meanwhile, Hernandez will continue to make conversation with his "Wilson" baseball every five games as the undertow drags the rest of the team into the currents of sedimentary losses.
Righting the ship will depend on some roster moves or vast improvement by the young starters in the rotation, but the first series isn't giving M's fans much hope for a happy ending.