BASEBALL IS BACK! The Mariners are set to kick off their 2023 season as they will host the Cleveland Guardians in Seattle for a four-game set. It's a big-time test right away to kick off the season. Both teams made the playoffs last year, and there is an argument to be made that the Guardians (if healthy) would be in a better position for success than the Mariners, even if we don't think so.
With the Mariners coming off their first playoff appearance in over 20 years, there are going to be worries of a down year, struggles, and not being able to reach the heights of last season. You won't hear that from many people here though. It doesn't seem crazy to predict that the Mariners should once again be right in the thick of things and contending for a playoff spot all season.
Cleveland is supposed to be good. So are the Mariners. On paper, it should be a great series. There was already a blow dealt to Clevelands staff that keeps it from being an incredible series, but we are all still in for a treat.
Mariners vs Guardians: Pitching Matchups
- Thursday, March 30th: Luis Castillo vs Shane Bieber
- Friday, March 31st: Robbie Ray vs Hunter Gaddis
- Saturday, April 1st: Logan Gilbert vs Aaron Civale
- Sunday, April 2nd: Marco Gonzales vs Cal Quantrill
We could be seeing a battle between the top two finishers in the Cy Young race in the opener. Luis Castillo was acquired by the Mariners to be their Ace and lead the way to the playoffs. Shane Bieber is a dominant force on the mound, and won the Cy Young back in 2020. With a 2.91 ERA and 10.9 K/9 from Bieber over the last four years, the Mariners are going to need to capitalize on any opportunity they see in the opener.
If you aren't familiar with the man Robbie Ray is going up against (Hunter Gaddis), don't fret. He is replacing Tristan McKenzie in the rotation. In the week leading up to the opener, McKenzie was shut down with a strained shoulder. McKenzie was a monster last season, and it's a great chance for the Mariners to jump on the Guardians in game 2.
Gilbert vs Civale is gonna be fun as well. He's struggled a bit to stay healthy but is still another younger than average arm that's strong for the Guardians. The finale will actually feature Marco, letting the Mariners go R-L-R-L-R in their rotation. Marco has seen struggles to begin the season before, and his location is going to be paramount to his success in April this year. If not, there are plenty of guys chomping at the bit for his spot in the rotation, including Chris Flexen out of the bullpen.
Mariners vs Guardians: Hitters to Watch
Normally, I go with more under the radar guys. The ones who could quietly make a difference in the outcome of a series. Since it's the start of the year, I'm going "chalk".
For the Guardians, you need to watch every single pitch when Jose Ramirez is up to the plate. He is one of the best hitters in baseball, has sneaky speed despite the baby face and size, taking off more like a scat-back in football as oppossed to a HR threat at third base (which he also is). The newcomer to watch is Josh Bell, who many Mariners fans wanted to see signed in Seattle to fill a bit of the 1B/DH role. A resurgent year in Washington faltered in San Diego, but Bell can rake when he's on, and is capable of a 300 average with some pop.
For the Mariners, it's Julio Rodriguez. Plain and simple. Julio started slow last year before going on a tear and hitting near 300 over the last 115 games of the year. A full season from Julio could see a rarely acheived line, with him pushing 300 BA, 35 HR, and 35 SB. I think the number two choice that fans want to keep an eye on will actually be standing next to him in the outfield... Jarred Kelenic. If Kelenic can hit 230-240 with pop against RHP, that's a massive addition to this lineup.
The Mariners also have some newcomers of their own. Teoscar Hernandez is underrated, in my opinion, and has been incredibly consistent at hitting the ball hard. A legit mix of mash and average is just what this lineup needed, and it could be a lot of fun to watch him constantly getting opportunities to drive in France, Julio, and the other newcomer to the Mariners in Kolten Wong. I'm a big fan, and even named my fantasy baseball team after him this year. Wong could see a big jump in SB if the legs are healthy, and looks to fill a big void that has been struggling for a while at second base for the M's.
Mariners vs Guardians: Final Thoughts
I don't think it's outlandish to say that the Mariners have an incredible pitching staff, and should outclass most teams they face as a whole. The Guardians do have an incredible bullpen, ranking in the top 3-6 in most counting stats last season. The M's better hope they have the lead come the end of the game, as Emmanuel Clase is one of the DIRTIEST pitchers in the game with his 101 MPH cutter.
The Mariners have plenty of bullpen weapons of their own, though. It does feel like whoever holds the lead going into the 7th or 8th inning in this series is going to end up winning the game. Between Munoz, Sewald, Karinchak, and Clase, there should be a lot of foolish-looking hitters to end these games. When all is said and done, I think the Guardians leave having lost the series, with the Mariners sporting a 3-1 record to open the year.