After a successful run in 2012 where they captured the AL West title on the final day of the regular season and took the Detroit Tigers to five games in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, the Oakland Athletics will start the season off against the Seattle Mariners today and try to one-up themselves.
The A’s had a successful spring training in Arizona, going 8-1-1 in their final 10 games, and they’ll look to ride that momentum into the regular season, where they cannot afford a slow start in a division that should prove to be more competitive than the past several years.
Their first test comes against a Mariners club that set a franchise-record for wins in spring training, and the Oakland offense will be challenged by 2010 Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez tonight at the Coliseum. This will be Hernandez’s fourth straight season opener against the A’s, his fifth overall, and he’s 4-0 in those starts.
Taking the mound for the A’s will be Brett Anderson, the 25 year-old left-hander who will be looked upon as a veteran presence after the A’s had four rookie pitchers starting at different points in the season last year. After several injury setbacks the last two seasons, Anderson will look to become the undisputed ace of the staff in 2013 now that he’s healthy with a full preseason’s workload under his belt.
Manager Bob Melvin will also be integrating some new faces into the lineup this season, as Billy Beane made an effort to shore up different positions that were seen as vulnerabilities last year. Catcher John Jaso was brought over from the Mariners to split playing time with Derek Norris, and he’s projected to get the start against his former team tonight. Jed Lowrie was brought over from the Astros when Billy Beane shipped Chris Carter to Houston, and it appears he’ll get the start at shortstop tonight. Also on the roster are outfielder Chris Young and first basemen Nate Freiman, and Melvin will be employing the platoon strategy that brought the team so much success last year again in 2013.
The rest of the Opening Day lineup looks pretty familiar with the exception of Eric Sogard, who served primarily as a utility infielder last year before going on a tear at the plate in spring training and winning out the starting job at second base.
Infielder Hiro Nakajima will be starting the season in Triple-A Sacramento after straining his hamstring last week, and he’s disappointed that he won’t get to experience his first Opening Day in the big leagues.
Overall the A’s are carrying some good momentum into the season. They took two of three from the San Francisco Giants over the weekend, and the middle of the lineup is getting into a groove at the plate, as evidenced by the home runs Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick launched in the series.
The Mariners are out to prove that they’ll be a factor in the AL West this year, and their offensive output was a major factor in their success in the Cactus League. Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales were added to the roster this offseason to contribute at the plate, and Seattle also has some younger talent like Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders. If all goes right for the Mariners, they could play the role of the young upstart team like Oakland did a year ago.
Tonight’s game will get underway at 7:05 PST, and the forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a small chance of rain at the sold out Coliseum. We’ll be here live blogging the action, so keep those computer screens up while you’re watching the game as we break down the Opening Day action.