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Oakland A's at Seattle Mariners series preview: Robinson Cano good again?

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The Athletics face the Mariners for three games to kick off Oakland's AL West schedule.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Out of their first three games, the Seattle Mariners already have two where they've scored at least nine runs, a feat that did not happen last year until Game 32 on May 12. Heck, they didn't have two games where they scored six runs until Game 12 last year.

So how are the Mariners leading baseball at the start of April 8 in wRC+ with a .282/.378/.583 batting line with nine home runs in three games? Five players are tied with one home run, and Robinson Cano has four.

So yeah, Robinson Cano seems locked in. The other five with a home run aren't doing so bad, and neither is Chris Iannetta:

G PA HR AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Seth Smith 3 8 1 .600 .750 1.200 .729 421
Chris Iannetta 3 7 0 .750 .857 .750 .676 382
Robinson Cano 3 14 4 .308 .357 1.231 .623 342
Leonys Martin 3 11 1 .400 .455 .900 .551 289
Nelson Cruz 3 14 1 .273 .429 .636 .445 211
Kyle Seager 3 14 1 .273 .429 .636 .443 209
Luis Sardinas 2 7 1 .286 .286 .714 .412 187

Having a catcher that's a hitter at all would be a huge plus for the Mariners after Mike Zunino has given them a career 1,055 plate appearances with a 71 wRC+, prompting his demotion to Triple-A. Chris Iannetta is 3-for-4 with two walks and a hit-by-pitch and he's coming off a down offensive year, but he's a career .232/.352/.406 hitter (104 wRC+).

Off to a slow start, the rest of the Mariners:

G PA HR AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Nori Aoki 3 10 0 .300 .300 .300 .263 77
Franklin Gutierrez 2 6 0 .000 .333 .000 .235 56
Ketel Marte 3 13 0 .231 .231 .231 .203 32
Adam Lind 2 9 0 .111 .111 .111 .098 -46
Steve Clevenger 1 3 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 -100
Dae-Ho Lee 2 3 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 -100

Pitching matchups and broadcast schedule

Time (PT) TV Oakland Seattle
Fri. 7:10 PM CSNCA LHP Eric Surkamp (1st start) RHP Taijuan Walker (1st start)
Sat. 6:10 PM CSNCA LHP Rich Hill (0-1, 6.75) RHP Nate Karns (1st start)
Sun. 1:10 PM CSNCA RHP Chris Bassitt (0-0, 6.75) RHP Felix Hernandez (0-1, 1.50)

Taijuan Walker had an inconsistent year that included a very poor April. You can get a sense of the sort of pitcher Walker could be from Tony Blengino, a former Mariners special assistant to the general manager who was ousted from Jack Zduriencik's front office in 2013, in a detailed article he wrote for FanGraphs, which he concluded:

Walker must consolidate the improvements he's made in 2015 with regard to both control and command, while continuing to at least modestly diversify his repertoire. Still, the potential for greatness remains very real for the young hurler who has a real chance to supplant Felix Hernandez as the Mariners' ace over the next couple of seasons.

Nate Karns is a new addition for the Mariners who the Steamer/ZiPS Depth Charts project for an innings-eating sort of year with a 4.21 ERA coming off his 3.67 ERA in 147 innings for the Rays in 2015. Karns showed an improved curveball, going by the FanGraphs pitch values, to go along with his so-so fastball/changeup.

Finally, Felix Hernandez is still Felix Hernandez. He threw six innings of one-hit ball on Opening Day in Texas, and the Mariners bullpen conceded no further hits, but the Mariners still lost 3-2 thanks to an error-filled fifth inning.

Mariners lineup additions and subtractions

When I wrote the Mariners up in my division preview, I said that I wasn't sure whether the Mariners really improved that much offensively. New names in the lineup are Chris Iannetta, Leonys Martin, Nori Aoki, Adam Lind, Steve Clevenger, and Dae-Ho Lee. Gone are Logan Morrison, Brad Miller, Austin Jackson, Mark Trumbo, and Dustin Ackley, while Jesus Sucre is out for the year with a fractured fibula.

Bullpen

The Mariners underwent a full overhaul of their bullpen in the offseason, though they're without Ryan Cook, Charlie Furbush, and Evan Scribner. None of them were expected to be at the top of the bullpen depth chart though they may have roles to play later this season.

Steve Cishek takes over as closer, and the Mariners added Joaquin Benoit, Joel Peralta, and Nick Vincent.

The Mariners have the advantage of yesterday's off day to rest their bullpen, but the A's don't have anyone that's sitting on two consecutive days. Oakland did lean on Liam Hendriks on Thursday to mop up after he let the game get away, so he might be avoided unless the A's are out of pitchers tonight:

A's bullpen Recent usage (pitch count from www.rosterresource.com)
Player Hand 7-Apr 6-Apr 5-Apr 4-Apr
Sean Doolittle L 12 8
Ryan Madson R 25 8
John Axford R 17 30
Liam Hendriks R 35 30
Marc Rzepczynski L 6 2
Ryan Dull R 13 3 24
Fernando Rodriguez R 23 23
Mariners bullpen Recent usage (pitch count from www.rosterresource.com)
Player Hand 7-Apr 6-Apr 5-Apr 4-Apr
Steve Cishek R
O
F
F

D
A
Y
10
Joaquin Benoit R 29
Vidal Nuno R
Tony Zych L 33
Joel Peralta R 20
Nick Vincent L 10 18
Mike Montgomery R 27

Other notes