Am I crazy for now being optimistic?

I'm not sure if it makes me sound fickle or just plain bonkers to say that I'm actually pretty encouraged by what I've seen out of the Mariners in the past week.

For those of you who missed the duel of the future between King Felix (age 20) and Francisco Liriano (22), you missed out on one of the more exciting games to come our way in a while. Felix looked like the Felix of old -- if you can say that about someone who's 20 -- keeping the ball down, throwing that 97 mph sinker in places where hitters can't even dream of hitting it hard. And that yakker he threw to Torii Hunter in the fifth with the tying run on base ... well, if you didn't see it, there's really no point trying to describe it to you. Just know to strike a guy out on that pitch in that situation reminded us all why we have such high hopes for this kid.

Then, I watched the team sprint out to a five-run lead late in the game yesterday, only to blow it all on a grand slam, then go on to win it in extra innings on a Carl Everett home run.

No, they couldn't figure out a way to beat former Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana today, but they now have won six out of eight, and I don't care that it has come against the Royals and the Twins. I'm seeing signs of things that I like, things that ought to carry over when they play better teams.

For example, I like Adrian Beltre in the two hole. He seems to be swinging with more confidence, and he seems to be swinging at strikes a lot more often. I've said all year that his biggest problem seems to be a complete lack of command of the strike zone -- after all, none other than Ted Williams said the biggest key to hitting is just making sure you swing at strikes -- and it sure looks right now like he's flailing a heck of a lot less than he was before. He's batting nearly .300 the past two weeks and even has a couple of home runs. Modest, but it's an improvement. Jose Lopez in the three spot still isn't ideal, but he looks like he's sticking with the same approach and continues to rack up RBIs.

Additionally, Richie Sexson seems to be heating up, something he does every year around this time. Guys always seem to play to the back of their baseball cards sooner or later, and he's no exception. For his career, Sexson has batted under .250 in each of the first two months of the season, hitting a homer just once every 16.5 at bats. From June on, though, his average in any month is no less than .272, with homers coming every 15.3 at bats. For an even greater dividing line, he hits .253/16.9 before the All-Star break, and .285/14.1 after.

And while Joel Pineiro still is maddeningly inconsistent, Hernandez looks like he's getting over his slow start (does anyone else remember him starting slowly last year in Tacoma? I wish I could find some statistics to back him up as a slow starter, but evidence will have to be anecdotal for now ...), Jamie Moyer still looks ageless and Gil Meche even looks like he's starting to get over his MMS (aka Mental Midget Syndrome, activated every time a guy gets on base and results in his freaking out irrationally and failing to throw any strikes to the next four hitters).

In other words, I see reason to continue to hope.

Or maybe I'm just nuts.

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