Looking ahead to the Mariners’ next two series

Mar 30, 2012, 2:31 PM | Updated: 3:00 pm

By Jim Moore

Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like there are a lot of disgruntled Mariners’ fans already.

And I have to admit that after the 4-1 loss to the A’s on Thursday, there was a feeling of “same old Mariners.” Good pitching with no hitting.

Heard another familiar refrain after the 3-1 win over the A’s on Wednesday: “Poor Felix … great performance but nothing to show for it — a no decision, just like last year.”

I’m not concerned about what we saw as much as what we’re going to see. We have yet to watch the 3-4-5 starters in the Mariners’ rotation. Maybe I shouldn’t be worried about the No. 3 guy, Blake Beavan, who seemed fairly solid last year.

Maybe I shouldn’t be worried about the No. 4 guy, Hector Noesi, who was used mostly in relief by the Yankees last year. There’s a reasonable chance to think that he’ll transition nicely to a starting role.

After allowing one run in the opener, Felix Hernandez will start when the M’s resume regular-season games next week. (AP)

And maybe I shouldn’t be worried about the No. 5 guy, Kevin Millwood, who pitched well at spring training. Besides, no one should ever have high expectations for a fifth starter, and Millwood might have enough veteran savvy to get the job done.

When the Mariners return to regular-season action next Friday and Saturday in Oakland, we’ll have a repeat of the first two games in Japan with Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas starting.

If they can duplicate what they did in Tokyo — each allowed only one run — the Mariners could head to Texas for a four-game series with a 3-1 or 2-2 record, worst case. I suppose 1-3 would be worst case, but with Hernandez pitching, you like your chances for another split, even with anemic support.

More concerning is that series in Texas with the 3-4-5 starters going in the first three games. Against the Rangers’ big boppers, that could be gruesome. And in the first game, Beavan will be greatly overshadowed by the debut of Texas’ Yu Darvish.

At least the Mariners will have Hernandez on the mound in the last game of the series, which is the eighth game of the season. Normally the eighth game of the season is not a critical one, and to suggest that any one of the 162 the Mariners will play this year is critical is crazy, when we all know that they’re not contenders, but still …

I don’t want to see them limping into their home opener against Oakland on April 13 with a 2-6 record. I know buzz kill is coming sometime this season, but I don’t want buzz kill in the middle of April. I don’t want to read a Geoff Baker post in The Seattle Times telling me that it’s fitting that the Mariners are playing their home opener on Friday the 13th because they’ve certainly been unlucky thus far.

I may be delusional and uncharacteristically hopeful, but I don’t think they’re the “same old Mariners.” Though it didn’t show it in the first two games, that lineup has more pop than the lineups we’ve seen the past two years.

As I think I’ve mentioned before, I’m even looking forward to some of the Mariners’ losses this year. I’m ready for 7-6 defeats. If the other team scored seven runs last year, the Mariners would have countered with one, maybe two runs.

This year when the other team builds a big lead, the Mariners aren’t necessarily out of the game. I like that they’ll have the ability to rally. Only problem is, with their rotation and bullpen, rallies might be needed on a regular basis.

But I’m OK with that too. Give me a 7-6 loss in which the Mariners show some life at the plate. Some of those 7-6 losses will eventually turn into 8-7 wins, with the Mariners actually producing some walk-off hits at Safeco Field. They promise to be more entertaining if not more successful record-wise.

Granted, I was disappointed that the Mariners did not muster more than three hits against Bartolo Colon in their 4-1 loss on Wednesday. It’s one thing to struggle against Brandon McCarthy, quite another to be handcuffed by Colon, who is well past his prime.

I think we have to hang in there during the first half of the season. Around June or July, I’m expecting a few of the following things to happen, which are bound to increase the excitement level at Safeco Field:

• Kyle Seager becomes the every-day third baseman.

• Dustin Ackley is selected to play in his first All-Star Game.

• Jesus Montero has 15 home runs by the All-Star break, fueling his candidacy for AL Rookie of the Year.

• Jack Zduriencik will announce that Chone Figgins has been released.

• Jackie Z will also announce that Danny Hultzen and James Paxton have been recalled from Tacoma and will immediately join the rotation, replacing Noesi and Millwood. Noesi will become a reliever and strengthen the bullpen, and Millwood will be thanked for his efforts and released.

• This won’t necessarily increase the excitement level, but one of the developments I’m expecting is a trade of Brandon League for prospects while Tom Wilhelmsen becomes the new closer.

• Because he’s swinging a hot bat, Michael Saunders becomes the every-day center fielder, leaving Franklin Gutierrez’s future in question.

No starting pitcher.

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Looking ahead to the Mariners’ next two series