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Mariners-A’s Opening Day Roundup

March 28, 2012

The Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s opened up the 2012 MLB season early Wednesday morning when they played a night game in Japan. And while I nor many other people wouldn’t pick those two teams or location to begin the season it is baseball that counts, and any baseball that counts is good baseball.

The Mariners won 3-1 in 11 innings thanks to a great start by Felix Hernandez (8 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K), Dustin Ackley‘s home run and two RBIs and Ichiro‘s four hits.

Felix pitched a gem today, and while he was a little spotty with his location early on and a couple mistakes were missed by Oakland hitters, he was able to dominate using the outside part of the plate throughout the game. Through six innings only four pitches were well-hit by A’s batters, and two of those were by Cliff Pennington in one at-bat. After giving up a line drive to Jemile Weeks in the first for a hit, Felix retired nine hitters in a row, including four strikeouts. With Weeks on third in the first Felix snuck a two-seamer past Seth Smith and then got him swinging on a nasty changeup to end any Oakland threat.

In the fourth inning Felix missed with a pitch that ended up middle-out instead of low-out and Pennington went with it and drove it to the left side of center field for a double; he eventually scored on another pitch that Felix missed location on and left up, which Kurt Suzuki hit for a double that was almost caught by a diving Mike Carp in left field. Pennington is a favorite sleeper of mine this year. He’s batting second in the A’s lineup, which isn’t dangerous by any means, but he should be in a prime run-scoring position for most of the year and he offers upside in steals and average.

Those were really only the two pitches Felix missed on that came back to bite him in his eight innings. He got lucky on a couple of line drives – one that came right back to him and was magnetically attracted to his glove and the other that was a rocket off the bat of Josh Reddick with runners on first and third and two outs in the sixth that was caught by Carp.

Felix had his pitches working, all right. His four-seamer was going, his changeup was working and he was hitting his spots with his curveball – especially against Yoenes Cespedes. He fooled Cespedes with a couple curves in the second, got one by him in the fifth before hitting him, and got one by him in the seventh before Cespedes realized what was coming and hit a breaker for a double to center.

Cespedes has raw power and should be able to hit fastballs and other junk, but will probably struggle to get used to major-league off-speed pitching, which was evident in his struggles against Felix’s off-speed pitches and Cespedes’ at-bat against Tom Wilhelmsen in the ninth.

Felix’s best pitch of the day was his two-seam fastball. He was able to get it inside on lefties and then it would work its way back in for strikes multiple times. Against Weeks in the fifth he snuck the two-seamer past him for the second and third strikes of the at-bat.

Opposite Felix was Brandon McCarthy, who put on a show of his own right. McCarthy induced, by my count, 16 ground balls, which includes hits, on the day. Two of the hits he gave up were infield singles by Ichiro, who looked good and in his only out of the day struck the ball well but right near the left-fielder.

McCarthy was always low in the zone with his pitches, which is his calling card. He had a 46 percent ground-ball rate last year and should be even better this year. Ackley capitalized on one of the few times McCarthy missed location in the game, hitting his home run to center field. Ichiro did the same in the next at-bat. I’m not sure if it was McCarthy being a beast or the lack of punch in the Mariners’ lineup, but McCarthy was able to miss his spots a couple times in the sixth and seventh but work around it. He struck out Ackley after falling behind 2-0 in the sixth and got Miguel Olivo to pop out after leaving a few hangers around the heart of the plate in the seventh.

McCarthy induced weak contact all night – most of the groundballs he produced hit directly in front of home plate and had no chance of getting through the infield. With that groundball-inducing repertoire and Oakland’s spacious ballpark he should be able to reproduce last year’s numbers.

Ackley’s other hit in the game – the game-winning single in the 11th – was a mistake pitch up in the zone that he was able to fist off. He should be an OK produce at second this year, but don’t get your hopes up too high after one game.

I’ve got to mention Jemile Weeks’ defensive play at second base. On a Michael Saunders‘ grounder in the fifth Weeks ranged to his left, gathered the ball, and while somewhat backpedaling was able to set his feet and deliver a strike to second to Pennington to begin a double play. Then in the ninth, if I’m remembering the inning correctly, Weeks, where the first baseman normally plays, gathered a ball that bounced high off first base and was able to flip the ball to the pitcher covering first to get an out. Weeks was right near the first base foul line when he flipped the ball, showing off his great range.

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From → Fantasy Baseball, MLB

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