The Seattle Mariners play the Oakland Athletics on Opening Day for fourth consecutive season. The Mariners have had a great degree of success, winning the last three matchups. All of them have been on the road for Seattle, although last year the opening series was played in Japan.
Manager Eric Wedge is looking to improve to 3-0 on Opening Day as the manager, here are three keys to a Mariners victory.
Felix Hernandez needs to show that he is worth the money. Hernandez signed a seven-year $175 million contract extension over the winter, making him the highest paid pitcher in the MLB until last week when Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers signed a deal that eclipsed $200 million. Hernandez will be making his sixth career Opening Day start on Monday and he has yet to lose one, as the team is 5-0 when “King Felix” starts the first game of the season.
The bats will need to show up. The Mariners made some very nice acquisitions this offseason, adding sluggers like: Michael Morse, Kendrys Morales and Raul Ibanez to bolster their lineup. Manager Eric Wedge will need to see some base runners get on in front of them if the Mariners want to score some runs, something they have struggled to do over the last three seasons.
Tom Wilhelmsen needs to continue to be a lockdown closer. Although Hernandez threw a complete game against Oakland on Opening Day in 2011, it is unlikely that we will do it again against a more talented A’s lineup than in the past. Wilhelmsen converted 29 of 34 save opportunities last season, after taking the closer job from Brandon League in the middle of the 2012 season. Oakland had a lot of late-game magic in their 2012 playoff run and Wilhelmsen will need to shut that down.
This is undoubtedly the most talented Oakland team that the Mariners have run into on Opening Day over the last four years, but I don’t think that Brett Anderson will be able to defeat Hernandez and the Mariners Opening day winning streak will continue.