The Seattle Mariners will be one of the last teams in the majors to play a home opener Friday – not that there will be any fans in attendance – as they host the AL West rival Oakland A’s.
Oakland Athletics vs. Seattle Mariners
Friday, July 31, 2020 – 9:40 p.m. ET – at T-Mobile Park (ESPN+)
We have made two MLB picks in Major League Baseball’s restart and are 1-0 thus far, winning on the Oakland A’s on Opening Day beating the Los Angeles Angels. Alas, Tuesday’s Yankees-Phillies matchup was postponed due to coronavirus complications. And that pretty much summarizes what to expect this season: The unexpected. The Phillies haven’t played since Sunday due to the virus and won’t again until next week.
The Seattle Mariners will finally play their home opener at T-Mobile Park on Friday night when they host the A’s. Seattle is the only AL West team yet to play at home and it shows in the team’s record and run differential. Even though there won’t be any fans at the park, the M’s will still put on all the traditional Opening Day pregame ceremonies. Washington Governor Jay Inslee will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Seattle had won the season series six years running vs. Oakland but lost it last year 10-9. The Mariners were 5-4 at home, winning by an average score of 3.4-3.3. At SBR’s best sportsbooks, the under is 4-0 in the past four meetings.
Athletics Probable Pitcher: Sean Manaea
Oakland has one advantage here in that it was off Thursday and thus should have the full bullpen available, while Seattle had to finish its series in Anaheim. Friday will be Oakland’s first road game of 2020. The A’s were a very good 45-36 away from home last year.
They have been very fortunate so far in terms of injuries/COVID-19 with just one player on the injured list: Highly-touted pitching prospect AJ Puk, who has a shoulder problem and might not be seen this year. It’s the first time Oakland has had fewer than two players on the injured list since the end of the 2006 season.
Designated hitter Khris Davis perhaps will look to shake out of his slump after both Wednesday and Thursday off. The former home-run champion is an ugly 0-for-15 this season with seven strikeouts.
The A’s are scheduled to go with lefty Sean Manaea (0-1, 7.71). He was excellent in 2018 with a 3.59 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 27 starts but was limited to just 29.2 innings last year following surgery to repair a torn labrum. He returned late in the regular season and got the start in the Wild-Card game vs. Tampa Bay and took the loss, allowing four runs (three homers) over two innings.
Manaea’s 2020 debut was a mixed bag last Saturday vs. the Angels. He made it through the lineup the first time through without allowing a run but then things came off the rails and he took the loss, giving up four runs (no walks at least) over 4.2 innings.
The southpaw has pitched 68.1 career innings vs. Seattle and is 6-4 with a 3.69 ERA and 1.09 WHIP with 51 strikeouts. Manaea has faced the Mariners more than any team. Kyle Seager is 6-for-27 off him with a homer and nine strikeouts.
Oakland is 11-4 in its past 15 on MLB picks following an off day.
Mariners Probable Pitcher: Taijuan Walker
The Mariners were not expected to be very good this season and they aren’t – but it’s a very young team. Dee Gordon and Marco Gonzales are the only players on the Seattle active roster from the 2019 Opening Day lineup.
The M’s are without arguably their best offensive player in outfielder Mitch Haniger. He had core surgery and a back procedure this offseason and is on the 45-day injured list. In 2018, Haniger was an All-Star in batting .285 with 26 homers and 93 RBIs but was limited to 63 games last year with a ruptured testicle (yikes!) and back issues and hit .220 with 15 homers and 32 RBIs. Decent chance he doesn’t play at all in 2020.
Seager’s next homer would be No. 200 career, which would make him the fourth player in club history to hit 200 career home runs as a Mariner, joining Ken Griffey Jr. (417), Edgar Martinez (309) and Jay Buhner (307). Seager already is No. 4 in club history in RBIs. The third baseman is off to a solid start this year. Catcher Austin Nola is in question for this game after missing the past two with a sore knee. An MRI revealed no structural damage.
It’s Taijuan Walker (0-1, 13.50) on the mound for Seattle, and he once was one of the most touted prospects in the majors but is clearly never going to live up to that hype at this point considering the right-hander is 27. He pitched for Seattle from 2013-16 and had his moments but then was traded to Arizona before the 2017 season. Walker was quite good that year, but then Tommy John surgery limited him to a combined four starts between 2018-19. He re-signed with the Mariners as a free agent this offseason.
Walker gave up five runs and seven hits in 3 1/3 innings in his 2020 season debut in Houston last Saturday with just one strikeout. His fastball was around 92-94 mph. Walker is 1-2 with a 4.54 ERA in 35.2 career innings vs. Oakland, allowing 36 hits with 28 strikeouts. A’s star Marcus Semien is 2-for-11 career vs. Walker with no homers or RBIs. Mark Canha is 3-for-3 with a homer.
Seattle has lost its past five series openers and six in a row overall vs. lefties – making this an easy call.