They had a promising bullpen. An improved defense. Ken Griffey Jr. smack in the middle of the lineup.
About the only thing stopping most folks from handing the American League West to the Seattle Mariners this spring was the towering question mark that was their starting rotation.
Once around the block, that rotation is the envy of the division - and the heart of a Mariners team that is off and running with a 4-1 record.
Behind the fifth man in that rotation, diminutive left-hander Tim Davis, Seattle flattened divisionrival Texas, using five Rangers errors and solid pitching for a 4-1 victory.
“Confidence is a circle; it just keeps going around,” catcher Dan Wilson said. “Right now, our starters all have it. Our whole team has it.”
Five games into the season, one for each man in the rotation, Seattle’s starters are a combined 4-1 with a 2.10 earned-run average. And those five pitchers - Randy Johnson, Chris Bosio, Dave Fleming, Bob Wells and Davis - have struck out 23 batters while walking seven.
Though last season ended so long ago it seems like a fading photograph, the Mariners insist the way they finished the year - winning nine of their final 10 games - has carried over into the 4-1 start.
Texas spent most of the night in disbelief, watching mistake after mistake and then flinching as Seattle took advantage. After back-to-back errors put two Mariners on base in the second inning, Wilson doubled them home for a 2-0 lead.
He will also keep Wilson in there behind the plate.
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