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The Seattle Mariners appeared to be heading for another easy win following first inning blasts from Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Morse, but Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Tommy Milone stopped the bleeding and then some, limiting the offense to just two Jesus Montero singles, a Jason Bay walk, and a Brendan Ryan infield hit.
Manager Eric Wedge stacked his lineup with right-handed hitters against the southpaw, replacing Michael Saunders with Bay and Dustin Ackley with Robert Andino. While Bay could have some use against many lefties, the move drew light criticism pre-game given that Milone carries a reverse platoon split thanks to his excellent changeup, one of the best in the game last season based on FanGraphs pitch values.
Joe Saunders didn't make his two runs of support last long, coughing up the lead by the third inning and getting run out of the game by the fifth. Saunders was not sharp, missing his spots badly, throwing more balls than strikes, and giving up lots of hard contact. He and Montero weren't on the same page, needing four or five meetings on the mound (in which Saunders did most of the talking) to try and get things straightened out.
Saunders said he was having trouble gripping the baseball, a claim made believable by Charlie Furbush's wild ride in relief. We'll give Saunders the benefit of the doubt on this one and hope he can dial it in his next time out.
A's cruised to a 6-2 victory.
- When Franklin Gutierrez first arrived in Seattle, many were surprised by his power. When he got ahold of a pitch he had the ability to hit it a long way. That power disappeared for the most part in 2010 as stomach issues zapped his strength, and various health problems have kept him from staying on the field, but Wednesday's leadoff blast reminded us of Guti's offensive capabilities. At 418 feet, it was his longest home run since August 2010.
- When Michael Morse hit his first inning home run, I giggled. The trade is behind us. Now we can just sit back and enjoy Sea Beast. Morse swings with such intent that it's amazing he's able to make as much contact as he does (and he doesn't make much).
- One of Kyle Seager's few shortcomings last season was his struggles against left-handed pitching. He produced a .287 wOBA versus southpaws compared to .340 against righties. In 2013, Wedge appears to be challenging him to buck the trend, hitting him in the middle of the order on Opening Day against Brett Anderson and second Wednesday against Milone. The early returns aren't good: 1 for 8, 3 strikeouts, weak contact. He went 5-for-5 in his start against righty Jarrod Parker.
- The Mariners aren't carrying a true long reliever, but Kameron Loe stepped into the role tonight. He threw three innings on 46 pitches. He looked sharp through his first two innings before giving up back-to-back home runs to start the third. 46 pitches was his highest pitch count in a Major League game since 2008. How are the Mariners going to deal with the occasional stinker from Joe Saunders, Brandon Maurer and Blake Beavan?