Series Preview: Anaheim Angels

The Seattle Mariners open their 2004 season by taking on the divisional favorite Anaheim Angels at SAFECO Field. Jason A. Churchill takes a closer look at the series pitching matchups, the hitters they will try to avoid, and the recent history between the two foes. Baseball season is here. Sodo Mojo is back.

Seattle Mariners (93-69, 2nd in AL West)
Anaheim Angels (77-85, 3rd in AL West)

Pitching Probables:

Tuesday, April 6th, 2:05 p.m.
Jamie Moyer (21-7, 3.27 ERA) vs. Bartolo Colon (15-13, 3.87 ERA)

Wednesday, April 7th, 7:05 p.m.
Joel Pineiro (16-11, 3.78 ERA) vs. Jarrod Washburn (10-15, 4.43 ERA)

Thursday, April 8th, 1:35 p.m.
Freddy Garcia (12-14, 3.51 ERA) vs. Kelvim Escobar (13-9, 4.29 ERA)

What to Watch for:
The Seattle Mariners open their 2004 campaign against the American League West favorites after a winter filled with changes for both squads. The M's will start their first season without a gold glover in center field since 1988, the year before Ken Griffey, jr. broke camp with the club. Mike Cameron signed with the New York Mets and Randy Winn, last year's left fielder, will take over. After sacrificing some defense in a few key areas, the M's hope that their new look offensive arsenal is enough to avoid the second half doom that has hit them square in the face the past two seasons. Scott Spiezio will be the everyday 3B, barring bad news from a third opinion from an area back specialist, bringing a clutch bat to a lineup in dire need of such talent. Rich Aurilia takes over at SS and looks to provide more offense than the previous group at the position. Raul Ibanez rounds out the changes and offers some left-handed power to an otherwise right-handed dominated lineup.

The pitching staff went unchanged with the exception of the closer swap when Kazuhiro Sasaki decided to go back to Japan to finish his career. The Mariners replaced their all-time saves leader with Eddie Guardado, who is coming off of two consecutive 40-save seasons in Minnesota. The entire five-man rotation returns as do setup men Shigetoshi Hasegawa and Rafael Soriano.

All the Anaheim Angels did this past winter was sign the best offensive free agent on the market just weeks after signing the best free agent pitcher. Right fielder Vladimir Guerrero and right-hander Bartolo Colon headline a roster that includes several holdovers from the 2002 World Series Championship team. Garret Anderson, Troy Glaus, Darin Erstad and Tim Salmon return to form a balanced lineup that also will contain free agent signee Jose Guillen. The bullpen remains virtually the same with Troy Percival closing out games behind setup men Brendan Donnelly, Ben Weber, and Francisco Rodriguez. Right-hander Scot Sheilds returns as the swing-man out of the pen. The addition of Colon and former Blue Jay righty Kelvim Escobar add much needed depth to a starting rotation that posted a 4.90 ERA last season. Left-hander Jarrod Lashburn, and right-handers John Lackey, Ramon Ortiz, and former Mariner Aaron Sele will round out the rotation.

Tuesday's starter Jamie Moyer is 15-10 with a 4.46 ERA vs. Anaheim in his 17-year career but is 8-3 since 2001. Anaheim's Tuesday starter Bartolo Colon is 5-6 in his career against the M's, sporting the same 4.46 ERA. Mariner DH Edgar Martinez has torched the Angels for a .300 career average with 23 homers and 92 RBI. All-Star 2B Bret Boone has a career .307 average against the Halos with 13 home runs, but is just 6 for 32 with a single round-tripper when facing the starters for games one and three. Boone lights up Washburn like a Hawaiian Christmas tree, belting four homers in 34 at-bats. Ichiro Suzuki is 18 for 68 (.265) against the Angels three starters in the series. Garret Anderson has had great success against Jamie Moyer going 19 for 56 with four home runs. The Mariners won 11 of 19 matchups with Anaheim in 2003 but hit just .240 as a team in those 19 games. Good thing the M's pitching staff held Angel hitters to a .229 average while allowing just 61 earned runs.

The Unexplainable Stat:
Mariner utility-man Willie Bloomquist has a career .279 average in 229 at-bats, and hit just .250 in 2003. But the three-year veteran carries a career .419 average against Anaheim and is 8 for 15 (.533) vs. Anaheim southpaw Jarrod Washburn.

Jason resides in Tacoma, Wash., where his father is his best friend and his nephew continues to develop the fastball-splitter combo that he hopes to have mastered by age 3. Jason enjoys the failures of the New York Yankees and despises the slider speed bat. Feedback is always welcome

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