Wednesday, March 20 at 5:30 AM ET
The 2019 MLB regular season begins Wednesday morning in Japan when the Seattle Mariners clash with the Oakland Athletics.
This two-game series in Tokyo will be centered around legendary right fielder Ichiro Suzuki, who will start both games in possibly the last two official appearances of his Hall of Fame career and I can't think of a better way to say goodbye from MLB than with two games in your home country.
The Mariners pretty much ripped apart their roster over the winter, looking to begin a rebuild, so this game marks the beginning of a new era for them, one led by young players like Daniel Vogelbach and Marco Gonzales, their Opening Day starter.
The 27-year old left-hander went 13-9 with a 4.00 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP in 166 2/3 innings over 29 starts last season and he posted a 4.70 ERA in 15 1/3 innings over three starts against the A's.
The Athletics were the most surprising team last season, winning 97 games. This year they still have a strong squad, they did lose Jed Lowrie and Jonathan Lucroy over the winter but they signed Jurickson Profar and Nick Hundley to replace them and they still have Khris Davis, Matt Olson and Matt Chapman leading a potent offense and don't forget star closer Blake Treinen in their solid bullpen.
Mike Fiers, who came over in a midseason trade with the Tigers last year, re-signed with the A's as a free agent and he will make his first career Opening Day start. Fiers was 12-8 with a 3.56 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP in 172 innings over 31 games (30 starts) with the Tigers and Athletics last season but he struggled against the Mariners, posting a 6.75 ERA in 14 2/3 innings over two starts against them.
The Seattle Mariners are:
2-8 in their last 10 games against a starter with a WHIP less than 1.15
1-4 in Gonzales' last five starts during game 1 of a series
1-5 in Gonzales' last six starts against American League West opponents
1-7 in Gonzales' last eight starts
The Oakland Athletics are:
9-4 in their last 13 games against American League West opponents
8-1 in Fiers' last nine starts
4-1 in their last five games against a left-handed starter
The Athletics battled with the Mariners for the second American League Wild Card for most of last season but Seattle couldn't keep up with them in the end and this is a completely different team.
Adding Edwin Encarnacion is a great move but they lost their ace James Paxton, sluggers Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano and All-Star closer Edwin Diaz.
Ichiro's presence will motivate them to perform well but the talent gap between both teams is evident and this pitching matchup favors the A's, even on a neutral field.
Fiers is the better pitcher and his struggles last year were against a very different Seattle lineup. The A's have very dangerous hitters and I can't go against them here.
MLB Pick: Athletics -125 at Jazz Sports
Check odds here: http://bit.ly/jazzsportsON