Pineda proving himself at every turning point

Mariners manager Eric Wedge remembers when he truly realized Michael Pineda was ready to be an impactful Major League starting pitcher. It was the big youngster’s final spring training start against Milwaukee, when the kid threw six shutout innings with just two hits, two walks and seven strikeouts.

“I sat there trying to punch holes in it,” Wedge said, “and I couldn’t.”

Nope, there’s not to pick apart when it comes to Pineda’s meteoric progress. The 22-year-old improved to 4-1 with a 2.01 ERA on Thursday with a 7-2 victory over the Tigers, helping Seattle to a series sweep that breathed life back in a club now sitting 11-15.

If you’re wondering, that’s the same record the Mariners had at this point last season. But at that juncture, the 2010 club was four games into an eight-game tailspin at Safeco Field that took the starch out of Don Wakamatsu’s team.

This year’s club struggled early, but for now at least has begun playing competitive baseball with seven wins in the last 11 games and some offense to team with the productive starting pitching.

No secret formulas here. The Mariners just finally gotting some production in the middle of their order with the return of Justin Smoak and the surprising success of Miguel Olivo in the cleanup role.

“They’re a good baseball team,” Wedge said of the Tigers. “It’s tough to sweep another Major League team and even that much tougher on the road. But we came in here, our starting pitchers gave us great effort, we had some timely hitting and that was really the difference.”

And what a difference it was. Did we see this sweep coming? No. But if you’ve been paying attention, you knew Pineda had a chance to be special and Bedard could be solid if he got back to how he was pitching this spring. Felix is Felix and Doug Fister and Jason Vargas fill out a pretty decent rotation. Given a little run support and some solid bullpen work from guys like David Pauley, Jamey Wright and Brandon League, the Mariners are finding their footing.

Can it continue? We’ll see how things play out in Boston the next three days, but at least the Mariners reminded us they can make things interesting. And now, it’s on to Fenway.

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