Just when I thought it was time to give up on him as a worthy member of the team, Erik Bedard went out and dazzled on the mound and completely blew my expectations for him clean out of the water.
As a Mariner fan, it’s a cause for celebration.
With King Felix and “Prince” Pineda anchoring the rotation and Doug Fister and Jason Vargas doing their job as mid-rotation starters, the onus was on Bedard to pick up the slack. And finally, tonight, seven innings of five-hit, one-run ball was how it went for the once highly coveted ace.
As a long-time Bedard supporter, I couldn’t be more ecstatic that after who knows how many surgeries he’s had, Bedard may still have what it takes to pitch in this league; it doesn’t hurt that he’s from my same home town either.
But overall, everything clicked for Bedard against the Tigers, with a lineup featuring feared slugger Miguel Cabrera. The off-speed pitches were somewhat hittable, but strong enough to keep the Tigers hitters off balance, while the fastball reached respectable velocity at 91 mph.
He gave up a run and got into a jam in the fifth inning, but nine of the final ten batters were retired by Bedard; after seven innings when it was all said and done, Bedard had delivered in a big way.
To see Bedard pitching like this has to be encouraging news for the Mariners, who for once may have the rotation firing on all cylinders. And at the moment it’s a nice comeback story in the making for a pitcher whose fall from grace was so mighty that few can believe that this same pitcher was among the best in baseball back in 2007.
For Bedard, it’s his first victory since June of 2009 against Minnesota; for reference, Michael Jackson was still alive that month.
But of course, as a huge Justin Smoak supporter it just wouldn’t be complete without a little more love for Seattle’s newest slugger. The effect that Smoak had on the offense, especially when he was gone on bereavement due to the passing of his father, is polarizing.
Going two for four with five RBI, two runs scored and another walk, Smoak once again proved his worth to the team as a top offensive cog. His first inning home-run put the Mariners up early against ace Justin Verlander, and set the tone for a smothering victory against Detroit.
The X-factor the offense has lacked is driving the top of the order- guys like Ichiro and Figgins- home to score runs consistently. But this year, with the timely hitting of Miguel Olivo and scorching hot bat of Justin Smoak, there’s some makings of a legitimate offense that can capitalize on Ichiro’s ability to get on base.
As the M’s move to 10-15 on the season, the remains a glimmer of hope that at five games back, a bit of a win streak could get the team at .500 and a shot at making the leap out of bottom-feeder status.
They’ll get a great opportunity to build momentum as rookie phenom Michael Pineda faces Brad Penny, who had a brilliant outing against the White Sox but has struggled for the most part this season.
A sweep of Detroit would give unbelievable confidence to the M’s as they look to stay competitive in this still young 2011 season .