There is plenty of anticipation and excitement for the start of the 2019 Major League Baseball season with much of the offseason focus surrounding the available free agents, many of whom have finally been signed.
Yet perhaps lost in all of this is that the 2019 MLB season will actually have started by the time this issue of Gaming Today hits the sports books.
Oakland and Seattle are opening their seasons with a pair of games in Japan and played early Wednesday morning in Tokyo. Seattle has many followers in Japan largely as a result of Ichiro Suzuki having had a long and likely Hall of Fame career in the majors as a member of the Mariners that followed a similarly long career in Japan.
Ichiro is at the end of his long playing career and has signed on once again with the Mariners and there is speculation he will officially retire following this two-game series that wraps up Thursday. It has already been announced that he will start in at least the opening game of the two-game series and clearly will be THE fan favorite.
Oakland won 97 games last season and was perhaps the biggest surprise in baseball, making it to the AL Wild Card game and lost to the New York Yankees. Expectations are considerably more modest for this season as their Season Wins Total calls for a slightly better than a .500 season at 83.5 wins.
Seattle very quietly had a successful season as well in 2018, winning 89 games, its most since winning 93 games in 2003. Yet as much as the expectations for Oakland project a decline from 97 to 83 or 84 wins, the decline expected from the Mariners is equally as dramatic. Their SWT is just 72.5.
Thus the season will open with two games between a pair of teams not expected to contend for even a Wild Card. Still, it’s baseball and it’s good to have it back. Both teams have announced their starting pitchers. Oakland started veteran Mike Fiers in the first game and another veteran, Marco Estrada,will pitch on Thursday.
Seattle countered with Marco Gonzales in the opener and will give the ball to Yusei Kikuchi in the second contest. Kikuchi comes to the Mariners after several seasons as a top pitcher in Japan, giving Seattle a pair of ‘local’ products to perform in front of their ‘hometown’ fans.
And therein lies the approach to betting this unique pair of games. With the Mariners announcing that Ichiro will start Game One and Kikuchi will be the starting pitcher in Game Two, Seattle should enjoy the intangible edges that may not be reflected in the betting line.
Oakland does have the better overall roster and likely will have the better overall season that the linesmakers expect. But given the circumstances, the preference would be to back the Mariners if they are made the underdog or are favored by no more than -120 in either game. The games are also more likely to stay under the total as the travel and the practice time missed may work more against the hitters than the pitchers.
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