Baseball fanatics across the country will set their alarm clocks early tomorrow and catch a little baseball with their breakfast.
The Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics open the 2012 regular season in Tokyo. The game starts at 6:10 a.m. Eastern time, which is 3 a.m. in Seattle and Oakland. Opening in Japan is nothing new for the MLB, but that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous.
For a game that calls itself America’s Pastime, the MLB sure does make it difficult for its fans to celebrate Opening Day, which should be like a national holiday. Instead, a large number of even the biggest baseball fans will sleep through the first game of the season.
Whether you like it or not, however, the Mariners will take the field behind Felix Hernandez to face Brandon McCarthy and the A’s early tomorrow morning. The spotlight won’t be on the pitchers, however, as Ichiro makes his return to the Tokyo Dome.
It was 11 years ago now that Ichiro came to the U.S. and became the most successful Japanese position player in MLB history. In 2001, Ichiro was the American League MVP, Rookie of the Year and batting champion. Now 38-years-old, Ichiro is coming off his worst season since leaving Japan.
Seattle infielder Munenori Kawasaki, another Japanese import, is expected to make his MLB debut at some point during the series. One of the lightest players in the game, the 160-pound Kawasaki brings plus speed and is a capable defender all over the infield. The only A’s player of Japanese decent is catcher Kurt Suzuki, who is actually from Hawaii.
McCarthy will be pitching on the biggest stage of his career up to this point. He went from not pitching in the majors in 2010 to the cover of ESPN The Magazine this offseason. McCarthy was pictured with his smokin’ hot wife, Amanda, alongside the clever headline “Chicks Dig the Ground Ball.” He was 9-9 with a 3.32 ERA and 1.13 WHIP last season and ranked third among qualified starters in walks per nine innings pitched and had an above average ground ball percentage at 46.7.
While you have to dig a little deeper to find what makes McCarthy so successful, there’s no subtlety to Hernandez’s greatness. The 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner, King Felix ranks third in strikeouts (671) and second in innings pitched (722) over the past three seasons.
Last year, Hernandez had a 1.45 ERA against the A’s and McCarthy had a 1.99 ERA against the M’s.
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