Preview: Seattle Mariners (16-19) vs. Oakland Athletics (18-18)

Jason O. Watson

Gameday: In A Battle of Suzuki's, The A's And Mariners Shoot Blanks

When Root Sports relieved Fox Sports Northwest in March of 2011, the new network's preview snippets for upcoming Mariner games initially featured an amusing combination of antagonistic and puerile commentary. Instead of the rudimentary "tune in to watch the Mariners face the A's" announcements that have become the staple in baseball preview protocol, Root Sports' smug, deep voiced narrator would chide something like "Don't mess with Texas? Well we didn't get the message. Mariners battle the Rangers at 4:30 on Root Sports." His brazen rhetoric was arguably the highlight of a lousy start to the season, and his swagger deservedly earned him the moniker of 'Cocky Root Sports Guy.'

Cocky Root Sports Guy wasn't long for this world, but in his time, he had some gems:

"More plays like this and the Tribe will have a trip to Safeco they won't soon forget."

"We gotta take this magic on the road and give KC a royal thrashing."

None, though, topped his preview of the third game of the season. Showing highlights of Ichiro and Kurt Suzuki, our aforementioned blind and recklessly overconfident Mariner enthusiast dismissively hissed, "in the battle of Suzuki's, we've got Ichiro and they have... Kurt," in a tone suggesting that Kurt was a pony. Cocky Root Sports Guy was fabulous, and I feel a twinge of remorse every time Root plays a more sanitized voiceover.

Thinking about Cocky Root Sports Guy also made me realize that neither of the Suzuki's will be in the ballpark tonight. Moreover, neither will D.J. Mitchell, Danny Farquhar, or David Freitas. Not only will we not see any Suzuki's, but we don't even get to watch anybody's second battle in their stead. Disappointing.

Turning our attention to baseball, the Suzuki-less A's ride in on a four game losing streak, leaving them just a game and a half ahead of Seattle for second place in the division. Oakland will still be licking their wounds from a frustrating game in Cleveland, a contest that saw their assemblage of major league baseball players strike out ten times against Scott Kazmir. Apparently, there was also a little snafu in their game on Wednesday. Suffice to say, it was not a pleasant trip to Cleveland, though it looks like Brett Anderson left in a decent mood:

Take what you can get, I guess.

Tonight, the awesome Hisashi Iwakuma takes the ball against Dan Straily. Oakland's right-hander is an inspiration to all minor leaguers meandering below the radar of Keith Law's top 100 prospects list. Widely considered a fringe arm or an NP before 2012, Straily launched himself onto the prospect map with a sterling campaign. He dominated Double-A hitters in 14 starts, striking out over 11 batters per nine innings before earning a call up to Triple-A Sacramento. He dominated harder in the PCL and even made it up to Oakland for a few starts late in the summer. It was a meteoric rise for Straily, an ascension somewhat reminiscent of Doug Fister back in 2009.

The 24-year-old works with a low-90's fastball, a plus changeup, and a competent slider and curve. While he has weapons for both righties and lefties, his pitches lack the oomph and movement typically found in elite starters, particularly given his average control. As such, Straily is probably more of a mid-rotation piece or back-end starter than any kind of star long term. But, as Fister -- and to an extent, Straily himself -- proved, you don't really know what someone's ceiling is until everything plays itself out.

In the spirit of Mike Blowers, I'm feeling a dinger coming from Kendrys Morales tonight. Straily has been homer prone throughout his career and he's had his share of struggles against lefties. I promise not to do this kind of prediction thing ever again, because who really cares, but I'm calling it tonight.

Pitching matchup: Dan Straily (5.94/2.91/3.09) vs. Hisashi Iwakuma (1.61/3.15/3.32)
Time: 7:10
Location: Safeco Field
Television: ROOT Sports

Public service announcement for 18-23 year olds who aren't on campuses awash with Mariners employees: tonight's game features a college night promotion. That means cheap drinks, inexpensive-ish food, and a pretty good deal on tickets. If this is anything like the last college night, there should be a good crowd, and it's always fun to attend games in an energized environment. Hope to see you there.

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