Jason Vargas looked strong in his first 2011 appearance.
Seattle Mariners fans have been tormented over the past few years with incredibly disappointing seasons. This is in part due to the unfairly high expectations that have been set by analysts.
Other factors include poor performance, inconsistent pitching, injuries, and bad management; but let's put those behind us and examine the successes of 2011.
In both games, the Mariners have generated runs late in the game, something we haven't seen in a while from this team. Even though the starting lineup is young, they're playing like veterans—taking pitches, running the bases well, and playing shutdown defense.
The stellar defense is surely a nice amenity for Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas, but what they are really enjoying is the run support. Last year, the M's averaged just 3.2 runs per game and finished the season with a -185 run differential.
It's already looking better this season, with six runs in the first game and five in the second, the Mariners have already accumulated a +7 run differential.
Seattle's starting pitching has been holding up its end of the deal, allowing just three runs over 15.2 innings, and the bullpen looked decent as well, even though they were only given 2.1 innings. Brandon League could establish himself as the go-to guy in the ninth inning in David Aardsma's absence.
How many games do you see the Mariners winning in 2011?
Now I'm not saying the Mariners will be a World Series contender this year, but I can see them winning 81 games. Not a whole lot was expected out of them this year since they are clearly rebuilding.
I'm going to take a line from the 2004 Red Sox, and say that our faith has been rewarded. We will definitely see some good baseball from the Mariners in 2011.
Players to watch:
Jason Vargas SP
Chone Figgins 3B
Brendan Ryan SS
Chris Ray RP