By Shannon Drayer
So, be honest now. When the Tigers announced Justin Verlander, Drew Smyly and Max Scherzer as their starters for the series against the Mariners, did you think Seattle had much of a chance? How were you feeling about those chances when Robinson Cano was scratched from the lineup on Thursday?
If last year was the year of the roller coaster, I am not quite sure we are off it yet. This is a different roller coaster, however. A better one. There are still the ups and downs, but somehow when you least expect it this team does things. This weekend it was a great thing to see.
Manager Lloyd McClendon wanted this series. Even though he had nothing but good things to say about his eight years in Detroit, this series had to be personal for him. How could it not be? After Sunday's game he indicated as much when asked about the importance of the series in light of so many people thinking the Mariners wouldn't have much of a chance heading into it.
"I don't really care what other people think. I care about what my team thinks. I might have been nervous but they weren't, so that is the only thing that counts," he said with a chuckle.
On the way to the buses to leave for New York, McClendon was stopped by a group of Tigers players, including Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, who talked to him excitedly. It was clear that McClendon was someone they thought highly of.
It was a good series win with Roenis Elias storming back after four rocky outings. He was eye-opening dominant Sunday. It's still early in his big-league career and time will tell, but it had me thinking about and wondering what his true ceiling is. I think he has been penciled in as a back-of-the-rotation starter. He could be more. What he showed Sunday was a step forward. He had an improved changeup and a crazy good curve, which he threw 28 times with none falling for hits and 26 of them recorded as strikes.
After the game he said that someone told him he needed to have three pitches in any given start to have a good outing. Well, four good pitches added up to a three-hit shutout and the Mariners' first complete game of the year. Not bad.
Unfortunately not everything was good this weekend as center fielder James Jones left Sunday's game with tightness in his left groin. After the game, however, McClendon said he didn't think it was anything serious.
"Just a little tightness. I didn't want to take any chances so we got him out of there. I am sure he is going to be fine," McClendon said.
We will find out more Monday in New York.
No word on Cano's return date
As I mentioned above, second baseman Robinson Cano missed his fourth straight game with what McClendon called a bone bruise. The bruise is between his thumb and forefinger on his right hand. It is a bruise that needs to heal, otherwise he could be one swing away from missing significant time.
We have yet to get any estimate of when he could return, but unless this is worse than originally thought then it is a good sign that he was not put on the 15-day disabled list.
Some of you have asked about the seriousness of the injury in light of the fact that it looked like he was getting ready to pinch hit in the ninth inning of the game against the Angels on Thursday. Well, yes, he looked ready and I think that was the idea. McClendon was most likely trying to see if he could prompt a pitching change by getting Cano up.
• This team (and reporter) may be a little blurry-eyed the next few days. The Mariners traveled after the game Sunday and got into New York at about 2 a.m. to play the Yankees on what was supposed to be an off day. So that's a night game Monday followed by travel to Atlanta, another early-morning arrival with a night game Tuesday and then an early game the next day – all on East Coast time, of course. The streak of 16 straight games will come to an end on Thursday with the off day in Tampa, Fla.
I talk about this and what the Mariners are doing to try and lessen the impact of travel on my latest weekly podcast. Check it out.
• Felix Hernandez should be a little sharper than the rest of the team as he flew to New York early so he would be well rested for his start Monday night.