The Mariners will take a six-game Opening Game winning streak into the Oakland Coliseum Monday night when they start the season against the Athletics.
GAME: Mariners (75-87, 4th, AL West, -19.0 GB) at Athletics (94-68, 1st AL West, 1.0 GA). GAME #: 1. SERIES: 1st of 4 games. MEETING: 1st. WHEN: Monday, 7:05 p.m., Oakland Coliseum. STREAKS: Mariners W/L 0; Athletics W/L 0. TV: Root Sports. RADIO: ESPN 710, Mariners Radio Network
After a successful spring training, in which the Mariners set franchise records for wins (22) and home runs (58), they begin the 2013 regular season in Oakland fairly secure in the knowledge that they won’t finish last in the new, five-team AL West.
With the Houston Astros sporting a meager $25 million payroll — $3 million less than what the injured Alex Rodriguez is scheduled to earn — the Mariners should not have much difficulty leaving last place in the division to a club widely predicted to lose at least 110 times this season.
Question is, can the Mariners move up from their predicted fourth-place finish? The offseason additions of big bats Michael Morse (from Washington) and Kendrys Morales (from the Angels) to the middle of the order should ease the pressure on talented young players such as Kyle Seager, Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero, Michael Saunders and Justin Smoak, who have spent recent seasons learning — and flailing — on the job.
“We’ve got veteran guys now, and everybody knows it’s going to be different,” Montero said as the Mariners broke camp and left Peoria. “Nobody has been talking about us, but we’re fine with that. We’re quiet, now we have a nice team. Everything is coming together. We’ve got power, we’ve got hitting, we’ve got pitching. It’s going to be different.”
Smoak and Ackley will be heavily scrutinized early. Smoak had a mostly miserable first five months in 2012, then provided another major tease to his potential by hitting .426 with 11 RBIs over the last month. In spring, he hit .407, with five homers.
Ackley had a bad 2012, batting .226, and manager Eric Wedge dropped him from the leadoff slot to deep in the order during the spring. He finished with a .365 average.
Seattle’s starter Monday night, the usually upbeat Felix Hernandez, has flatly predicted the Mariners will make the playoffs.
“I will do my best — more than my best — to get to the playoffs,” Hernandez said after winding up spring training with a 2.65 ERA in four starts. “We’re going to make the playoffs. We’ve got a lot of talent, and we’re going to be one of the toughest teams in this league.”
Hernandez will make his sixth Opening Day start, a total that will tie Randy Johnson’s franchise record. Hernandez, who took a no-decision against the Athletics in the season baptismal last year in the Tokyo Dome, is 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA as an Opening Day starter.
In four of his five career Opening Day starts, Hernandez has gone at least eight innings. Over the past 30 seasons, only Jack Morris (five), Roger Clemens (five) and Johnson (four) have had as many as four Opening Day starts of at least eight innings.
The Mariners are 6-3 in openers against the Athletics, who are coming off 94 wins and a division title. Overall, Seattle has won six Opening Day games in a row — the longest active streak in the majors.
MARINERS: RHP Felix Hernandez (13-9, 3.06 ERA, 1.14 WHIP)
The soon-to-be-27 Hernandez, two wins shy of 100 career victories, signed a seven-year, $175 million contract during the offseason after finishing 2012 with a thud: After winning seven of nine decisions from mid-July to late August, a stretch that included a perfect game (Aug. 15 vs. Tampa Bay), Hernandez closed out with four losses in his final six outings. He went 1-2 with two no decisions against the Athletics last season.
ATHLETICS: LHP Brett Anderson (4-2, 2.57 ERA, 1.02 WHIP)
The 25-year-old Anderson, a fixture in the Oakland rotation since 2009 when he made his major league debut, returned from Tommy John surgery late last season with largely the same skill set he possessed before it and won four of his six decisions. Entering his fifth major league season, Anderson has made 68 career starts with a mark of 25-25. Anderson did not have a good spring, finishing with a 6.75 ERA, but he has largely owned the Mariners with seven career wins in 13 starts.
MARINERS STATS / NOTES
|4/2||Tue||at Oak||RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (9-5) vs. RHP Jarrod Parker (13-8)|
|4/3||Wed||at Oak||LHP Joe Saunders (3-3) vs. LHP Tommy Milone (13-10)|
|4/4||Thr||at Oak||RHP Brandon Maurer (0-0) vs. RHP A.J. Griffin (7-1)|
|4/5||Fri||at CWS||RHP Blake Beavan (11-11) vs. RHP Jose Quintana (6-6)|
|4/6||Sat||at CWS||Felix Hernandez (13-9) vs. RHP Dylan Axelrod (2-2)|
|4/7||Sun||at CWS||RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (9-5) vs. LHP Chris Sale (17-8)|