In their highly-anticipated return to play, the Houston Astros face off against the Seattle Mariners. Although they won’t be booed by thousands of in-stadium fans this year, tensions will undoubtedly remain high as the Astros play for the first time following the discovery of their sign-stealing scandal. While the Mariners aren’t expected to compete for a playoff berth in 2020, they are surely looking to help punish the Astros for their crimes.
SEA: RP Yoshihisa Hirano; OF Mitch Haniger HOU: DH Yordan Alvarez; SP Jose Urquidy; RP Cionel Perez; RP Joe Smith (Opt-out)
No Place Like Home
In 2019, the Astros were 60-21 (.741%) when at Minute Maid Park, the best home record in MLB. Meanwhile, the Mariners struggled on the road (33-48 .401%). The Astros’ success may have been boosted by stolen signs and garbage cans, but they should remain a strong home team in 2020.
The Mariners seem to be taking the ‘full-scale rebuild’ plan to heart. Outside of 9-year veteran Kyle Seager, the Mariners’ projected lineup shares 7.6 total years of MLB service time. In fact, four players (Shed Long, Kyle Lewis, Jake Fraley, Evan White) have less than a year of MLB experience.
These Astros may have been cheaters, but make no mistake: their squad is still elite on both sides of the ball. The 2019 powerhouse won’t allow a pushover to take their home opener. This Mariners squad may be good someday soon, but the success won’t start today.
At the same time, however, they won’t be perfect. Most notably, starter Justin Verlander is known to have slow starts. For his career, Verlander’s FIP has improved from 3.57 to 3.20 between the season’s 1st and 2nd half (4.20 to 2.04 in 2019). After an unorthodox stop-and-start to MLB’s preseason, we can’t expect a flawless opening performance. Meanwhile, the Astros should have no problems scoring against Marco Gonzales and the Mariners’ bullpen.
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