Tonight at 7:10 the Athletics will be taking on division rival Mariners on MLB Network. Often overlooked for the spotlight, it is typically a rare treat to see the A’s on a nationwide stage. In fact, this is the first year that the team is actually going to broadcast every single regular season game, let alone play before larger ESPN or MLB Network audiences. One would like to think that the A’s would rise to the occasion when finally getting the viewership they deserve, but instead, usually Brett Anderson falls on his face, or the A’s get shut out, or they have nearly annual playoff heartbreakers. At least, annual playoff heartbreakers are better than sporadic playoff heartbreakers, if happiness wasn’t an option and I was forced to choose.
Owned in large part by Nintendo of America, the Mariners have long been the Goombas of the American League West, always around but never really much of a threat. Recently though, expectations have been rising sky-high after having long been Earthbound. On the pitching side, the Mariners have a Mega Man in Felix Hernandez and a young fireballer with higher potential than Kid Icarus in Taijuan Walker. Offensively, the Mariners have a couple of Super Smash Bros in Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano, as well as another strong offensive Link in Kyle Seager. Much of the remaining offensive cast is looking to raise itself up around those three, but that illusive boost may unfortunately (for them) be in another castle.
Pitching today for the A’s will be Jesse Hahn. The success of the Athletics’ pitching staff will likely succeed or fail by Jesse Hahn’s ability to stay healthy and live up to his lofty expectations. While his extensive and scary injury history is reason to be pessimistic about his health this year, there have been some positive signs that he may be moving beyond those issues. First and foremost, as Nico reported, Hahn’s fastball has touched 96 MPH, which is as sure as sign as anything that he has his health in the here and now. Hahn has had a long time to rest his arm and build its strength back up, and is likely more capable of pitching around 170 or more innings than at any other point in his career (noting that 170 innings is his MLB career total innings pitched up to this point). Finally, Hahn has ditched his slider, likely the main culprit in his previous arm injuries. As someone who shamelessly loves a good slider above any other pitch, part of me initially worried that Hahn would lose effectiveness without that pitch, but raving reviews about Hahn’s curveball have assuaged those concerns.
Pitching today for the Mariners will be Nate Karns, previously with the Rays. Karns is a strikeout-first type of pitcher armed with a four-seam fastball, a sinker, and a changeup. The righty has a reputation for having good stuff, the strikeout numbers certainly don’t lie, but has also been hampered by control issues and has a hard time pitching too deeply into games due to a too-high walk rate. It is for this reason that Karns is engaged in Mortal Kombat with James Paxton for the 5th spot in the Mariners rotation. James Paxton may be a little more familiar to A’s fans due to his role on the Mariners last season, and Paxton is looking to build on his mixed-bag of a season and try to live up to his own lofty expectations, though was hit hard by the A’s earlier this spring.
Starting Lineup for the A’s:1- Semien (SS) 2- Coghlan (3B) 3- Davis (LF) 4- Canha (CF) 5- Butler (1B) 6- Lambo (DH) 7- Phegley (C) 8- Smolinski (RF) 9- Sogard (2B)
Starting Lineup for the Mariners: 1- Aoki (LF) 2- Marte (SS) 3- Seager (3B) 4- Lind (1B) 5- Iannetta (C) 6- Smith (RF) 7- Clevenger (DH) 8- Sardinas (2B) 9- Martin (CF)
Don’t worry if you aren’t able to watch the game today, the A’s and Mariners will only be facing each other 20 times this season, and e v e r y g a m e i s e x h i l i r a t i n g.
Today in Peoria, it is on like Donkey Kong.