The Texas Rangers are without a doubt the hottest team in baseball right now. After a sweep of the AL Champion favorite Red Sox, the Rangers have quickly blown through two games against the Mariners.
And it's not like Seattle looks bad. The Mariners opened up with a 2-1 series win over the Oakland A's, who were favorites to win the AL West. Their starting pitching has done relatively well, and their hitting has definitely improved from last year.
Erik Bedard had a decent outing after coming back from a year on the sideline. He let up just three runs in five innings to the guys that hit 13 bombs in the first four games. His pitches were precise and he only left so early because the Rangers worked his pitch count up early.
Michael Pineda looked even better, living up to any and all expectations. He went through six, letting up three to the relentless Rangers batting order. It was his first major league start. It's not reasonable to predict how he'll do later in the season based on his ERA in this game. His pitches looked great, and he's really going to benefit from watching Felix.
An encouraging sign was the Mariners' ability to produce runs late in the game. While they were blanked by the very effective Alexi Ogando for six innings, they made a final effort. A nice play by Julio Borbon cut it short, but it's something we didn't see much last year.
The bottom half of the order mainly fueled the almost-comeback, combining for five of the Mariners' six hits and both runs. Miguel Olivo and Adam Kennedy are establishing themselves as strong hitters who could move up in the order if Jack Cust continues to struggle.
How will Felix fare against the dangerous bats of the Rangers?
Jamey Wright looked solid for the final two innings, not allowing any hits or walks and striking out two. He could become a centerpiece in the Seattle bullpen, as a potential set-up man for Brandon League or David Aardsma.
Tomorrow the Rangers get their first taste of the King in 2011. They're surely trying to devise a plan to get on base in some way, shape, or form. Hopefully, Felix Hernandez can put an end to this capricious 5-0 start that the Rangers have put together.
4/6/11: Felix Hernandez vs. CJ Wilson, 2:05 p.m. EST