ON DECK: After splitting their first two home games of the season, the Seattle Mariners welcome in the Oakland A’s for a three-game series starting tomorrow. Seattle will throw their No. 1 and 2 starters, Felix Hernandez and Erasmo Ramirez, and throw veteran Chris Young in the finale on Sunday. Oakland will counter with Tommy Milone, Sonny Gray, and Scott Kazmir. Oakland took two of three games from Seattle over last weekend in Oakland. Milone will be making his season debut against Seattle where Sonny Gray beat the Mariners 6-3 last Sunday. Kazmir, like Hernandez is 2-0, but he has yet to face Seattle this season. The A’s are coming off a three-game sweep at Minnesota. With their win today, Oakland is now in first place in the A.L. West marking the first time all season Seattle has not been in first.
OFFENSE COOLS DOWN: The offense got off to a surprising hot start scoring twenty-six runs in their first three games. In the A’s series, the Mariners dropped their output down to eight runs in three games. The number dropped to five in two games against the Angels including being one-hit in the finale of the series, Wednesday’s 2-0 loss. Corey Hart, though, broke out of his icy start to power Seattle to a win in their home opener. After batting .167 in the six road games, Hart hit two home runs and drove in four to led Seattle to a 5-3 win on Tuesday. Hart now leads Seattle in home runs (3), and he tied for third on the team in RBI. The power numbers remain low for Robinson Cano (0 HR, 2 RBI in 8 games), but he is batting .300 with an OBP of .417, leading the Mariners in both categories.
ANOTHER INJURY IN THE ROTATION: The Mariners’ rotation took another blow as James Paxton was put on the 15-day DL. Paxton strained a muscle on the left side of his back during Seattle’s 5-3 win on Tuesday. Despite a rocky first inning where Paxton gave up two home runs, he retired fourteen straight batters and moved to 2-0 on the season and 5-0 in his six career starts. With Taijuan Walker and Hisashi Iwakuma still injured, the Mariners will eventually need another starter. Chris Young, who has yet to start because of Friday’s cancellation at Oakland, will take Paxton’s start on Sunday. The early guess is Blake Beavan will be called up to start on the upcoming road trip through Texas and Miami. For now, Seattle called up Lucas Luetge, a relief pitcher, from Tacoma. Luetge was 1-3 with a 4.86 ERA in 35 games with Seattle in 2013.
PREDICTION: I thought Seattle would take advantage of some pitching injuries in Oakland, but the A’s got to skip the No. 5 spot in their rotation with a rain out last Friday. Oakland rolls into Seattle winning, but it was announced Jim Johnson, the closer obtained from Baltimore in the offseason, will be demoted out of the closer’s role after a slow start (0-2, 18.90 ERA, 1 SV). Will this help Seattle? Runs will be at a premium with the quality of starting pitching in the series, and the Mariners’ bats may be able to take advantage of a struggling A’s bullpen. Although Erasmo Ramirez struggled in Oakland in a 6-3 loss on Sunday, I think he will bounce back to the sharper version that we saw in his first start against the Angels. I like Seattle to take two of three games this weekend, and catapult back into first place at this early point of the season.