Apr 5, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Seattle Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak (17) waits for the ball to tag Oakland Athletics left fielder Yoenis Cespedes (52) during the first inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Mariners Home Opener Series Preview versus the Angels

Welcome to the Seattle Mariners Home Opening Day.

The Mariners kick off the 2014 home slate season with a two-game teaser series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Southpaw James Paxton takes the mound for the home opener. In his extremely young Major League career, he has done nothing but impress thus far.

Game 1:  James Paxton (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Hector Santiago (0-1, 7.20 ERA).

These two battled in game three of season in Anaheim, when the Mariners won 8-2 behind 7 scoreless innings by Paxton. Santiago went 5 innings allowing four runs– all earned– en route to the loss. A replay of this game wouldn’t draw any complaints from Mariners fans.

Game 2: Roenis Elias (0-0, 1.80 ERA) vs. Garrett Richards (1-0, 1.80 ERA).

Though a little wild at the beginning of his first Major League start, Elias pitched five strong innings of one run ball. Richards nabbed the Angels their first one of the season in a similar 1 run, five-inning outing. However he issued five walks– being a little wild– meaning the Mariners will look to be patient at the plate and make him earn each out.

Lineups:

Mariners

CF Abraham Almonte
SS Brad Miller
2B Robinson Cano
1B Justin Smoak
DH Logan Morrison
3B Kyle Seager
RF Stefen Romero
LF Dustin Ackley
Mike Zunino
P James Paxton

Angels

RF Kole Calhoun
CF Mike Trout
1B Albert Pujols
LF Josh Hamilton
3B David Freese
DH Raul Ibanez
2b Howie Kendrick
Chris Iannetta
SS Erick Aybar
P Hector Santiago

These are the Home Opener starters. The lineups are subject to change and are not official until handed to the umpire prior to first pitch; we do our best to keep them updated periodically until first pitch. Fortunately, it doesn’t look like the Mariners will be trotting out 142 different lineups like they did last season.

Things to watch:

The Mariners have already seen Santiago this season– with welcomed results– but the matchup against Richards will be the first of the season. It will be interesting to see if Santiago approaches the Mariners lineup differently after being chased early in his first start.

Also, after five stellar starts by the rotation in the first five games of the season– four of them ‘quality starts’– Erasmo Ramirez was shaky and tagged for five runs against the Oakland Athletics on Sunday.

The first five games of the season were about as good as they could get. Most people didn’t expect the 4-2 start on the road– myself included (though I always tend to be overly optimistic anyway). It will be important this first home stand to win games for the fans, because people want to get on this bandwagon. The question will be whether or not they implode the bandwagon before it has a chance to get rolling.

Another thing to look out for is the continued hitting by Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley. They share the second highest batting average on the team– .292– and are first and second in RBIs, Smoak with nine and Ackley with six. They also share the team lead in runs scored with five. If this is really the year they break out for good, the Mariners lineup becomes potent from top to bottom.

On the flip side, typically solid hitter Kyle Seager has struggled to start the season. He is batting just .111 with two hits in 18 at bats. His two hits are doubles, and he has walked four times already this season. Also, the first base bag robbed him of a base hit last night when the ball ricocheted directly into the approaching glove of pitcher Sonny Grey.

To win two more games against the Angels would not only delight the home crowd, they would also bury the Angels further into the AL West cellar. As always, it’s only April 8th, but a win is a win, especially against a division opponent. And with Taijuan Walker and Hisashi Iwakuma slated to come back sooner than later, it’s not hard to imagine this team only getting better as the month, and season, progresses.

More Home Opening Day news, stories, and thoughts to come! Baseball is back in the Pacific Northwest.

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