The Cleveland Guardians are on the road for Opening Day to take on the Mariners as two potential playoff contenders square off to begin the year. As the wait until first pitch continues to inch closer as each second passes by, the anticipation for a promising season only builds. The first slate of probable pitching matchups are set which only adds to the excitment.
Cleveland is handing the ball to Shane BIeber on Opening Day, also known as the least surprising development ever. Bieber is the ace of the staff and has done more than enough to earn the nod despite checking in at 18 on a recent list of top arms. The 2020 American League Cy Young winner has past success against the majority of the Mariners lineup, holding them to a .214/.233/.343 team slash in 70 at-bats.
The notable change from the expected pitching rotation is the addition of Hunter Gaddis. Gaddis slides into the spot previously occupied by Triston McKenzie. A strained right teres major muscle will keep McKenzie sidelined for up to eight weeks and will be an early test of their pitching depth. Gaddis' spot in the rotation is not necessarily set in stone and could be a hinge spot should the perfomance not be up to par.
Game 3 sees things get back into the normal rotation order as Aaron Civale gets the call. Civale is looking to rebound after a 2022 season which saw the right-hander struggle. The hope is that Civale is able to return to form and look like a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter. Unfortunately, Seattle's bats have done their fair share of damage against Civale. The 27-year-old right-hander has allowed five home runs, three doubles, and a team OPS of 1.120 in 41 previous at-bats. A change of fortunes would be welcome sight for Civale and Cleveland Saturday night.
Cal Quantrill takes the mound for the finale in Seattle as the first series of the season comes to a close. Quantrill has settled into a quality arm for the Guardians with a 3.11 ERA and 1.189 WHIP over his first 350.2 innings in a Cleveland uniform. More of the same will be needed Sunday afternoon as A.J. Pollock is 4-11 with a double and Julio Rodriguez is 2-2 with the only home run given up by Quantrill to a Mariners batter.
Cleveland will have their hands full from the jump as Seattle hands the ball to Luis Castillo for Game 1. Castillo is a very talented pitcher who has handled a good portion of the Guardians lineup, but there a couple bright spots. Jose Ramirez is 5-18 with three home runs and two triples while Amed Rosario is 7-18 with a triple and home run in previous matchups.
A familiar American League Central foe in Robbie Ray starts Game 2. Ray is more experienced and a completly different pitcher from his time in Detroit all the way back in 2014. It is a familar story for most of Cleveland's bats when it comes to previous meetings with Ray. Rosario is 5-10 with three doubles while it is former Mariner Mike Zunino supplying some power, with four home runs (five hits total) against Ray in 22 at-bats.
Seattle turns to Logan Gilbert for Game 3, and like some of Cleveland's arms, is looking to build upon a successful 2022 (13-6, 3.20 ERA, 1.180 WHIP, 8.4 K/9). Just a few notable numbers for Cleveland hitters in previous matchups with Gilbert: Ramirez and Zunino each have a home run, the only two for Guardians batters, while Rosario is 4-8 with the only Cleveland double.
The final game of the series will see Seattle handing the ball to Marco Gonzales. Gonzales has been incredibly steady throughout his time in Seattle with his ERA fluctuating between 3.10 and 4.13 during full seasons as a Mariner (Gonzales' 5.40 ERA in 2017 was over ten games after being acquired from St. Louis). As a team, Cleveland is 7-29 with three doubles against Gonzales and that includes a combined 0-11 from Andrés Giménez, Josh Naylor, and Myles Straw.
When comparing the matchups and which team seems to have an advantage, it seems pretty even, with the two teams trading the pitching advantage back and forth throughout the series. From a broad perspective it does look like Seattle may hold an overall advantage in its starting pitching. Cleveland having to swap out McKenzie for Gaddis, in addition to Civale seemingly throwing batting practice to Mariners batters, tips things in Seattle's favor for now. A couple of good/surprise outings from some non-Bieber arms could see the Guardians sitting pretty once the series concludes Sunday.