GAME: Mariners (67-94, 4th AL West, -29.0 GB) at Athletics (74-88, 3rd AL West, – 22.0 GB). GAME #: 1. SERIES: 1st of 2 games. MEETING (2012): 1st. WHEN: Wednesday, 3:10 a.m. (PT), Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, Japan. PROBABLE PITCHERS: RHP Felix Hernandez (Seattle, 14-4) vs. RHP Brandon McCarthy (Oakland, 9-9). STREAKS: Opening Day. TV: ROOT Sports, MLB TV. RADIO: KIRO 710 (Seattle), Mariners Radio Network).
Outscored 14-4 by the Hanshin Tigers (3-1) and Yomiuri Giants (9-3) in two exhibition mismatches in the Tokyo Dome, the Mariners will hand the ball to staff ace Felix Hernandez Wednesday in what will be the first of two Seattle chances to avoid going 0-for-Japan.
The Mariners and Oakland A’s launch their 2012 regular seasons with Hernandez, the 2010 American League Cy Young winner who went 14-14, 3.47 last year, contesting RHP Brandon McCarthy, who went 9-9, 3.32.
The Mariners and A’s are playing the first of two under the Tokyo Dome. Following the series, the Mariners will return to their Peoria, AZ., spring training headquarters and finish Cactus League play with five exhibition games. Seattle and Oakland resume their regular-season schedules Friday, April 6, in Oakland.
Following that two-game series with the Athletics, at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, the Mariners play four on the road at Texas before their April 13 home opener, also against the Athletics.
The Mariners are coming off a 67-95 2011 season (last, AL West) in which their longest winning streak was six games (May 18-23) and their longest losing streak 17 (July 6-26).
The Mariners finished last in just about every major offensive category last season. The A’s went 74-88 in 2011 (3rd, AL West). Oakland is managed by Bob Melvin, who skippered the Mariners in 2003-04.
This marks the first of 19 games between the Mariners and Athletics in 2012. Seattle and Oakland also met 19 times in 2011, the Mariners winning 10, the A’s 9. The Athletics, however, outscored the plate-challenged Mariners in the season series 71 runs to 56.
The Mariners and A’s have met three times so far in spring training. The Mariners won 8-5 (March 8), lost 9-2 (March 3), and lost 6-1 (March 16).
The Mariners and Athletics had been scheduled to open the 2003 season in Japan, but the trip was cancelled the day after war broke out in Iraq.
OPENING DAY NOTES
- Mariners are 20-15 in season openers, including a current five-game, Opening Day winning streak.
- Mariners have won 6 of past 7 openers, prior to which they had lost 6 of 7.
- Mariners are 5-5 in season openers on the road (this is an official road game) and 5-3 in openers vs. Oakland, after winning the past three.
- This will be the fourth consecutive “night” opener for Seattle; Mariners are 17-9 in night openers.
TODAY’S PROBABLE PITCHERS
MARINERS: RHP Felix Hernandez (14-14, 3.47)
Hernandez opened last year with a 5-hit, 6-2, complete-game effort against the Oakland A’s, and went on to post 14 wins. But he ended the season sourly, losing his final three, one to the Yankees and a pair to Texas (he also lost his last spring training start — badly).
The Mariners posted a 17-16 record in Hernandez’s 33 appearances, largely because they scored an average of just 3.27 runs when he started.
This will mark Hernandez’s fifth Opening Day assignment. He went 3-0 with a no-decision in his first four with a 1.70 ERA and 27 strikeouts.
- LAST START (March 21): Shelled for seven earned runs on 10 hits in a 13-8 loss to the Chicago White Sox March 21 in Seattle’s final Cactus game before the Mariners departed for Japan.
- CAREER VS. A’S: Hernandez is 12-4, 1.54 in 21 appearances, all starts, over 145.1 IP . . . Has tossed three complete games vs. Oakland . . . Has averaged 8.8 K’s per 9 IP, but has been dinged for 12 home runs.
- 2011 VS. A’S: Went 3-0 in 4 starts (31.0 IP) with one complete game, 18 hits allowed, including 3 home runs and a strikes-to-walks ratio of 5.33 (32 strikeouts, 6 walks) . . . Last defeated Oakland Aug. 2, 2011, scoring a 4-2 win at Safeco Field for his 10th win of the year. Worked a modest 6.1 innings, allowing 5 hits.
- LOVES TO FACE: Coco Crisp (.161 BA, 7 K’s), Jonny Gomes (.222 BA, .273 OBP), Cliff Pennington (.250 BA, .280 OBP, 7 K’s).
- HATES TO FACE: Kurt Suzuki (.308 BA, .400 OBP. 3 RBI, 3 BB).
- Fernandez is 46-31 with a 2.73 ERA and 671 strikeouts in 101 starts since 2009. Over that span, he has the lowest ERA and most quality starts (81) of any AL pitcher, and the second-most strikeouts (Justin Verlander).
- In 2011, led the AL with seven double-digit strikeout performances, registering career-high 13 at San Diego May 22.
- Had three 2011 starts with 10+ strikeouts and no walks (no other major league pitcher had more than one such start).
- Has 16 career games with double figures in strikeouts, third most in franchise history behind Randy Johnson (94) and Mark Langston (28).
ATHLETICS: RHP Brandon McCarthy (9-9, 3.32)
Manager Bob Melvin (former Mariners skipper) made the announcement Feb. 28 that McCarthy would be his Opening Day starter, saying McCarthy was an easy choice based on last year’s results and trades that left the team without All-Stars Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill.
McCarthy had career highs in wins, starts, complete games, innings pitched and strikeouts in 2011.
He made 25 starts, and had 123 strikeouts in 170.2 IP. McCarthy also recorded a 4.92- to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, the highest by an A’s pitcher since 1901; walked 25 batters.
- LAST START: Not sharp against a split-squad Cubs lineup last Tuesday, allowing four runs — two earned — on five hits and three walks over four innings of work. Excuse: was apparently dealing with a fingernail issue.
- CAREER VS. MARINERS: 2-5, 4.20 ERA in 11 games, including 9 starts, spanning 60.0 IP . . .Has pitched 3 complete games with one shutout . . . Has allowed 12 HRs to Seattle batters and averages 7.7 K’s per 9.
- 2011 VS. MARINERS: Went 1-3 with a 1.99 ERA in four games, all starts . . . Whiffed 7.7 Mariners per nine innings pitched . . . Last pitched against Seattle Sept. 26, 2011 at Safeco Field, taking a 4-2 loss in a game in which he worked 8.0 innings and allowed four runs on eight hits. . . . Last defeated Seattle Sept. 3, 2011, scoring a complete-game, 3-0 shutout with 10 K’s among his 114 pitches.
- LOVES TO FACE: Dustin Ackley (.182 BA, .182 OBP, 2 K’s, 0 BBs), Justin Smoak (.222 BA, .300 OBP, 3 K’s), Ichiro (.241 BA, .267 OBP, 5 K’s).
- HATES TO FACE: Chone Figgins (.385 BA, .467 OBP, .851 OPS), Miguel Olivo (.333 BA, 1.333 OPS).
PROJECTED BATTING ORDER
|Chone Figgins||3B||.188||1||Jemile Weeks||2B||.303|
|Dustin Ackley||2B||.273||2||Cliff Pennington||SS||.264|
|Ichiro Suzuki||RF||.272||3||Coco Crisp||LF||.264|
|Justin Smoak||1B||.234||4||Seth Smith||DH||.284|
|Jesus Montero||DH||.328||5||Yoenis Cespedes||CF||R|
|Mike Carp||LF||.276||6||Josh Reddick||RF||.280|
|Miguel Olivo||C||.224||7||Kurt Suzuki||C||.237|
|Michael Saunders||CF||.149||8||Brandon Allen||1B||.205|
|Brendan Ryan||SS||.248||9||Josh Donaldson||3B||.156|
- Hanshin Tigers 5, Mariners 1 (March 24): After clobbering the ball for the Arizona portion of spring training, the Mariners reverted to their offensive feebleness of the past two seasons, getting only a ninth-inning home run from Casper Wells to avert a shutout in a 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Hanshin Tigers. Except for a terrible third inning, Mariners starter Hector Noesi did all right. But in that inning, he gave up a double, a two-run home run, a walk, a balk and hit a batter. He threw 76 pitches in five innings and gave up six hits and three runs.
- Yomiuri Giants 9, Mariners 3 (March 26): Hisashi Iwakuma, who will start the major league season in the bullpen, received the start against his countrymen and gave up six runs and 10 hits in four innings in Seattle’s 9-3 loss to the Giants at the Tokyo Dome. The two other Japanese players in Seattle’s lineup, Ichiro and Munenori Kawasaki, combined to go 0-for-7. The only noteworthy offense among the five Mariners hits came from Dustin Ackley, who homered in the first and tripled in the third.
MARINERS STATS / NOTES
- Mariners departed spring training with a 12-8-1 record, having lost 5 of past 7, including 13-8 loss to White Sox March 21.
- Chone Figgins, who has endured two dismal seasons with the Mariners, will carry a four-game hitting streak into the regular season.
- Alex Liddi hit .429 (15×35) with 7 doubles and 9 runs scored during Cactus clashes. Seven other players hit above .300 in Cactus games, none higher than Liddi.
- In 10 Cactus games, Ichiro hit .400 with 2 home runs, 2 doubles, 6 runs scored and 8 RBIs in 10 games.
- Ichiro will start the season batting third in Seattle’s order. He has played in 1,749 games for the Mariners, batting leadoff in 1,720 of those.
- Ichiro will be making his 11th Opening Day start, third most in club history behind Edgar Martinez’s 15 and Ken Griffey Jr.’s 13 (missed the 2009 opener).
- The Mariners open at home April 13, hosting the Athletics. Seattle is 21-14 all-time in the first home game of the season after starting a season on the road (or in a neutral venue).
- The Mariners’ 30-man traveling roster includes 14 pitchers, 4 catchers, 7 infielders and 5 outfielders.
- The youngest player on the team is RHP Erasmo Ramirez at 21 years, 10 months. The oldest is Ichiro at 38 years, 5 months.
MARINERS WON-LOSS BREAKDOWN (2011)
|Rec.||Home||Road||Day||Night||vs. RHP||vs. LHP||Hit HR||No HR|
|3/29||Fri||vs. Oak||Jason Vargas (10-13, 4.25) vs. Bartolo Colon (8-10, 4.00)|
|4/6||Fri||at Oak||To Be Determined|
|4/7||Sat||at Oak||To Be Determined|
|4/9||Mon||at Tex||To Be Determined|
|4/10||Tue||at Tex||To Be Determined|
MARINERS 2012 SCHEDULE/RESULTS
|Gm.#||Date||Opp.||W/L||Rec.||Win / Loss|
|Gm. #||Date||Opp.||W/L||Score||Win / Loss|