After a long, grueling offseason, the 2019 Major League Baseball season is finally ready to kick off. The Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics already started their seasons, but it’s almost time for the rest of the league to start theirs. The Boston Red Sox will start their quest to defend their World Series title on the west coast against the Seattle Mariners. Seattle finished the 2018 season with an 89-73 record but bear little resemblance to last year’s club.
Series Preview: Boston Red Sox at Seattle Mariners
Nobody really knows what the Seattle Mariners are trying to do. Early in the off-season, Seattle traded away second baseman Robinson Cano and two young pitchers in Edwin Diaz and James Paxton. At first glance, this seemed to indicate that Seattle was going to spend the 2019 season tanking for a better draft pick. However, Seattle also added slugger Edwin Encarnacion to their roster, implying that they’re going to try to compete in 2019. The overall result will likely be another 80-win team and a third-place finish.
Despite entering his age-36 season, Encarnacion is still a strong, competent hitter. While he’s not the player he once was, the former Toronto Blue Jay and Cleveland Indian is still an above-average hitter. In 2018 with the Indians, Encarnacion recorded a .246/.336/.474 slash line with an accompanying 115 wRC+. At this point in his career, he’ll primarily serve as Seattle’s designated hitter.
In terms of young talent on the Mariners roster, 28-year old Mitch Haniger is probably the best on the team. Haniger has spent two full seasons with Seattle, slowly establishing himself as a borderline All-Star at the position. The outfielder played in 157 games last season, recording a .285/.366/.493 slash line with an accompanying 138 wRC+. He was good against the Red Sox last year, recording a .292/.433/.375 slash line and a 139 wRC+ in seven plate appearances.
Game One: Sale vs Gonzales
After pitching in their two-game series last week, Marco Gonzales is expected to take the mound in Game One. Gonzales is entering his second full season in the majors and showed a lot as a rookie to get Mariners fans excited. Making 29 starts, Gonzales recorded a 4.00 ERA and a 3.43 FIP while posting a 7.83 K/9 and just a 1.73 BB/9. It stands to reason he’ll only get better with time and should emerge as a solid mid-rotation arm in 2019.
Of course, he’s not nearly as good as Chris Sale. Fresh off a massive contract extension, Sale should take the mound and plow down the Mariners unremarkable lineup. Sale has a career 2.31 ERA and a 2.85 FIP in the month of April, and should continue his success into 2019. The Red Sox should comfortably win this one.
Game Two: Eovaldi vs Kikuchi
The Seattle Mariners may not have any true aces on the staff, but they a decent amount of depth. One of their most interesting starting pitchers is left-handed Yusei Kikuchi. Kikuchi spent the past eight seasons pitching in the Japanese League, compiling a 2.81 ERA in 1,035.1 innings pitched. Kikuchi made his major league debut in Oakland, and looked about as good as Seattle could hope. While he only pitched 4.2 innings, Kikuchi managed to allow just one earned run and one walk while striking out three. With lefty specialist Steve Pearce battling injury, this may be a difficult matchup for the Red Sox.
Fortunately, the Red Sox are sending out postseason hero Nathan Eovaldi. Eovaldi signed back with the Red Sox on a big contract and should continue his success from a season ago. Ever since incorporating a cutter into his repertoire, Eovaldi has been a completely different pitcher with top-rotation potential. He’ll never be Chris Sale, but don’t be surprised if he’s Boston’s best pitcher in 2019. Once again, it’s hard to imagine the Red Sox losing this one.
Game Three: Rodriguez vs Leake
Mike Leake is the definition of a mediocre journeyman. The righty made 31 starts last season for the Seattle Mariners, compiling a 4.36 ERA and a 4.14 FIP while striking out a paltry 5.77 batters per nine innings. He kept his walk rate down, but Leake started to lose something on his fastball last year. The Red Sox are getting against righties than they are against lefties, so they should have no trouble putting up runs in this matchup.
In an interesting turn of events, the Red Sox will send out Eduardo Rodriguez to start the third game of the season. Rodriguez has been a major league regular since 2015 and is simultaneously one of the most exciting and frustrating players to watch. On the one hand, his stuff is second-to-none and he’s downright unhittable when he’s on his game. On the other hand, Rodriguez struggles to go deep into games, builds up his pitch count, and is maddeningly inconsistent. The Red Sox should win this one, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Seattle pull off the upset.
Game Four: Porcello vs LeBlanc
Wade LeBlanc might just be the most boring pitcher in baseball. LeBlanc boasts a three-pitch mix of a fastball, cutter, and curveball. His fastball and cutter sit in the mid-80’s while his changeup sits in the high-70’s. His mediocre pitch tool led to a mediocre 2018, as the lefty finished last year with a 3.72 ERA and a 4.28 FIP.
By this point, everyone knows exactly what Rick Porcello will give you on any given day. Most likely, Porcello will go six to seven innings while allowing two to four runs. This should be enough to win, as Porcello is better than LeBlanc and the Red Sox roster is significantly better than the Mariners roster. Look for the Red Sox to take three of four to kick off their 2018 season.