With spring training all but coming to an end, the Seattle Mariners can now start looking forward to opening day on April 1, when they will take on the Oakland Athletics at the O.co Coliseum to begin the 2013 campaign.
Spring Training has seen its fair share of surprises for the Mariners, including a team-record 54 home runs this spring through March 26, with the Mariners homering in 29 of their first 30 games. The surprises also included the development of the pitching rotation, with an impressive spring by rookie Brandon Maurer and the unexpected release of Jon Garland.
With that said, the Mariners face an interesting first month of the season in which they will face all four of their American League West division rivals, as well as the Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox.
Let's take a look at how the Mariners will fare week-by-week over the first month of the 2013 season.
April 1 @ Oakland - W
April 2 @ Oakland - W
April 3 @ Oakland - L
April 4 @ Oakland - L
April 5 @ Chicago White Sox - W
April 6 @ Chicago White Sox - W
April 7 @ Chicago White Sox - L
Record After Week 1: 4-3
The advantage of doing week-by-week predictions is it is safe to assume Felix Hernandez will start in at least one, if not two of those games. That's the easy part of predicting the first week. The difficult part is predicting the rest of a very unpredictable Mariners rotation.
After a tough spring, expect Joe Saunders to have a rough debut against a solid Oakland team that will be looking to rebound after back-to-back loses at the hands of King Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma. The Mariners will have the opportunity to win the series on April 4, but Blake Beavan has not fared well in Oakland over the last three years, going a combined 0-2 with a 6.52 ERA in his only two starts there.
With the help of rookie Brandon Maurer, the Mariners will right the ship after back-to-back losses to the defending AL West Champions and defeat the Chicago White Sox on April 5. They will follow that up with another win behind the arm of King Felix the next afternoon.
However, with the Mariners looking for the sweep, expect the White Sox to fight and claw to not get swept at home and defeat a tired Mariners team on Sunday afternoon. Despite not getting the sweep, the Mariners will head home after the first week with an above .500 record, and a successful start to the 2013 campaign.
April 8 vs. Houston - W
April 9 vs. Houston - L
April 10 vs. Houston - W
April 11 vs. Texas - W
April 12 vs. Texas - L
April 13 vs. Texas - L
April 14 vs. Texas - L
Record After Week 2: 7-7
Joe Saunders will finally get on the board with his first win as a Mariner in the home opener against Houston. The Mariners will treat the hometown faithful with a few long balls off the bats of Mike Morse and Kendrys Morales in the new "hitter-friendly" Safeco Field.
After the home-opening win, the Ms will go on to split the next two with Houston as Blake Beavan will pitch better than he did against Oakland, but will still be on the end of a tough luck loss to the scrappy Astros. Brandon Maurer will continue his impressive start to the 2013 season, pitching deep into the game and giving the Mariners the series win.
After the lowly Astros depart, the Mariners will welcome in a different, but still dangerous Texas Rangers team. Seattle will get on the board early in Game 1, and Felix will continue his impressive month of April by helping the Mariners hold on for a low-scoring series-opening win agains the Rangers.
However, after King Felix, the lack of depth will begin to show in the Mariners' rotation, as the still-dangerous lineup of the Texas Rangers will continue to torment the Mariners. Expect Adrian Beltre to make the Mariners wish they had moved in the fences while he was still there, as the Rangers go on to take the next three in Safeco, leaving them .500 almost halfway through the month of April.
April 15 - Off Day
April 16 vs. Detroit Tigers - L
April 17 vs. Detroit Tigers - W
April 18 vs. Detroit Tigers - W
April 19 @ Texas - L
April 20 @ Texas - L
April 21 @ Texas - W
Record After Week 3: 10-10
The good news for the Mariners in week three? They should avoid Justin Verlander in their series against the Tigers. The bad news for the Mariners? They still have to play the two of the five playoff teams from last season and travel to Texas, where the Mariners were 4-6 last season.
The Mariners will start the week off with a much-needed day off, after playing the first 14 days of the regular season, before taking on the Detroit Tigers. Brandon Maurer, who will be coming off a start against the Houston Astros, will quickly realize why the Tigers boast one of the best lineups in all of baseball. Expect the rookie to get roughed up for the first time as the Tigers will take Game 1 of the series.
However, the Mariners will show hope to the fanbase, as they will take the next two games in the series. King Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma will put together back-to-back quality starts. Expect Michael Saunders to play a big role in the series as well, as he batted .333 (6-18) last season against Detroit with three doubles and four RBI.
The Mariners will bring a winning record into Arlington, but leave town sitting at .500 after dropping two of three to the Rangers, who will continue to be a thorn in the side of the Mariners.
Joe Saunders will have another unsuccessful road start, and Blake Beavan's struggles will continue as he gets hit hard against a much more potent lineup than his first two opponents (Houston and Oakland). Brandon Maurer will pitch better than he did against Detroit, but the rookie will still take his fair share of lumps against the Rangers. Expect Maurer to get hit hard again, but for the Mariners to find a way to get out of Texas with at least one win.
April 22 @ Houston - W
April 23 @ Houston - W
April 24 @ Houston - L
April 25 vs. LA Angels - W
April 26 vs. LA Angels - L
April 27 vs. LA Angels - W
April 28 vs. LA Angels - W
April 29 vs. Baltimore Orioles - L
April 30 vs. Baltimore Orioles - W
Record After the Month of April: 16-13
Yes, I am well aware that this schedule features more than a week of games, but instead of focusing on the semantics, let's focus on how the Mariners will have a winning record after the month of April.
Let's start off by King Felix having two more starts on this slide, one of which is against Houston to open the week. Expect Felix and Iwakuma to start the Mariners off right at Minute Maid Park and come away with the first two games of the series. Although the Mariners would love to walk out of Houston with a sweep, the Astros will find a way to continue to terrorize Joe Saunders on the road. Saunders will lose his third road start of the season, leading to Mariners fans questioning the money the team gave him in the offseason.
As long as the schedule holds true, the Mariners should also avoid Jered Weaver much like they avoided Justin Verlander earlier in the month. Expect Beavan to turn in a solid outing against the Angels, as he is 2-1 with a 3.27 ERA in 41.1 innings pitched against the Angels over his career.
After the Angels even the series against rookie Brandon Maurer, King Felix will again pitch the Mariners to a victory, capping off one of the best months of his career. He'll also silence any worries about his elbow.
With the series on the line, Hisashi Iwakuma will continue his mastery of the Angels (4-0, 1.23 ERA) and propel the Mariners to the series victory.
With two games left in the month, the Mariners will lose their opener against the Baltimore Orioles, as Saunders will be tormented by the same team that he helped reached the postseason in 2012. But, behind another strong outing by Blake Beavan, the Mariners will finish the month with a 16-13 record, leaving them fully entrenched in the middle of the AL West race at the end of the first month of the season.