Once again, the Mariners open the season against the East Bay Elephants, this time with an 18-hour time difference. As in 2012, the M's and A's lead off the season in Tokyo with a two-game set that will count as home games for the A's.
Last year the Mariners won 10 of 19 against Oakland, the eventual Wild Card entrant in the postseason tournament. The A's won 97 games somehow, despite a lackluster pitching staff, but don't expect a repeat. It's never wise to make predictions with the A's—they have a way of confounding logic—but it seems unlikely that they will pull off the same kind of success in 2019. Bob Melvin as always will get the best he can out of a limited crew, but that best won't clear 90 wins.
The big loss from last year's Oakland lineup is Jed Lowrie, who left the A's for the New York Mets; otherwise they'll field a familiar group, one that bashed 227 home runs in '18. Matt Chapman is the star, even if DH Kris Davis gets the headlines. Chapman not only anchored the lineup with a .278/.356/.508 line in 2018, he provided Gold Glove-level defense at third base, something Oakland fans—what few of them show up to watch—haven't seen in years. Davis, meanwhile, is a one-trick pony, your typical all-or-nothing power hitter that has strangely batted exactly .247 in each of the last four seasons. Replacing Lowrie is ex-Ranger Jurickson Profar, who underwhelmed in Texas despite his hype as a top prospect.
On the mound, the A's again have a patchwork rotation. Opening the season will be Mike Fiers, who put together a good season last year between Detroit and Oakland, and newcomer Marco Estrada, who had a miserable 2018 with Toronto (7-14, 5.64). None of their other starters—Daniel Mengden, Chris Bassitt, and Frankie Montas—have much of a track record, having made a combined 25 starts last season; Mengden did toss a shutout last year, though. The guy the A's really want to see is Jesús Luzardo, who is not a bad guy from Planet Ten but a hot prospect Oakland got from the Nationals in the Sean Doolittle trade a couple years back. Luzardo will start in the minors, but you can bet he'll be suiting up for the A's before too long.
The Mariners are starting Marco Gonzales and Yusei Kikuchi in this opening series,
|MIKE FIERS VS. MARINERS (CAREER)|
|MARCO ESTRADA Vs. Mariners (Career)
|MARCO GONZALES VS. A's (CAREER)|
|YUSEI KIKUCHI Vs. A's (Career)
Players to Watch
Matt Chapman: Oakland's best all-around hitter, Chapman has been something of a barometer for the A's—when he hits, they win; when he doesn't, they lose. In A's victories, Chapman has a line of .315/.391/.593; in losses, just .224/.302/.386. So if you can keep this guy off the bases, you should be in good shape. So far in his brief career, he's not done particularly well against the Mariners, batting an anemic .206 in 18 games.
Matt Olson: The other Matt in Oakland's infield, Olson won a Gold Glove at first base last season, giving the A's defense at the corners unheard of in quite some time; Oakland had developed a well-earned reputation for making errors, but Olson by himself makes the whole infield better. At the plate, he's got good power—53 homers in a year and a half at the big-league level—but like a lot of longball threats swings and misses a lot as well; his strikeout total of 163 was eighth in the league in 2018.
Khris Davis: The defensively-challenged Davis is well-suited for a DH role, where he figures to be all year. The free-swinger is the only Athletic besides Hall-of-Famer Jimmie Foxx to post back-to-back 40+ homer seasons, which he's done twice now with three consecutive campaigns of 40+. He's also struck out 536 times in those three seasons, and last year his K:BB ratio was over 3:1 discounting intentional walks.
Bob Melvin: Melvin has proven to be well-suited to the East Bay environs. His quieter, more laid-back approach wasn't appreciated in Seattle after we all had gotten used to the energetic antics of Lou Piniella, and despite success with the Diamondbacks, he was canned out of frustration in Phoenix, where it was suggested he was scapegoated by then-GM Josh Byrnes because of poor results by Byrnes' player acquisitions. Oakland, though, appreciates what it's got, which is a solid leader that has brought Oakland to the playoffs four times in eight years.
Fernando Rodney: Ah, yes, how well we remember the Fernando Rodney Experience. In 12⁄3 seasons with the M's, 2014-15, Rodney saved 64 games, but he did it in adventurous fashion, particularly in 2015. Somehow he only blew six saves that year before he was traded to the Cubs; his 5.68 ERA suggested he was nothing but kerosene on a fire in the ninth inning. Traded to the A's late last season, Fernando went 1-1, 3.92 down the stretch in 202⁄3 innings but wasn't given any save opportunities. Now 42, he figures to be a setup man for Blake Treinen.
|Oakland Athletics||(1968 - present)|
|World Champions:||1910, 1911, 1913, 1929, 1930, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1989|
|League Champions:||1905, 1914, 1931, 1990|
|Division Titles:||1971, 1975, 1981, 1992, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2012, 2013|