The Cleveland Guardians begin the 2023 season with a four-game road series against the Seattle Mariners. Last year, the Mariners ended a 20-year playoff drought by earning a Wild Card spot following 90 regular season wins. Seattle ended up losing in the ALDS to the Houston Astros three games to zero, but the 2022 season proved that the Mariners have quite a bit to be excited about. A four-game series between two surprising teams from 2022 will create excitement to kick off the season.
Guardians Vs Mariners Series Deep Dive
Game One – March 30th – 10:10 PM ET
Announced Starters: Shane Bieber vs. Luis Castillo
Game one of the series looks to be a pitching duel between two of the best in the American League. Bieber has only pitched against four active Mariners on the roster. Bieber has succeeded against Eugenio Suarez, Teoscar Hernandez, and AJ Pollock, keeping all three under .200 BA. Hernandez has only two hits off of Bieber in sixteen plate appearances, though both were doubles. J.P. Crawford has had great numbers against Bieber to a .714 BA by hitting safely in five of seven attempts. Pollock and Suarez have hit home runs off of Bieber, with Pollock’s only hit off Bieber being a three-run home run.
Bieber has pitched better on the road than at home except for the COVID-shortened season. In 2022, Bieber’s road ERA was 2.65 compared to 3.22 at home. Seattle will need to be patient at the plate and get ahead in the count to try and muster offense against Bieber. In 2022, Bieber performed exceptionally well with runners in scoring positioning, limiting damage to a .227 BA.
Last year, Bieber pitched well in Seattle with a stat line of 7IP, 5H, 2R, ER, and 9K.
Guardians Have Had Success Against Castillo
Meanwhile, Luis Castillo enters his first entire season in the American League after spending 5+ years with the Cincinnati Reds. In 2022, Castillo pitched five games at Safeco Field and was lights out for the home crowd. Castillo’s combined home stats for Seattle were 31.2 IP, 1.42 ERA, and 42K. Luis pitched against the Guardians on two instances in 2022. Castillo had two quality starts lasting six innings each time in the combined starts and allowed only one earned run.
Despite the impressive numbers, several Guardians have hit well off of Castillo. Amed Rosario has a career batting average of .389, including a triple and home run off Castillo. Steven Kwan has three hits in six at-bats against Castillo. Jose Ramirez’s career average against Castillo is .278, and he has hit three home runs and two triples off Castillo. The top of the Guardians lineup will be essential to get anything against Castillo early in the game. In what will likely be a low-scoring game, the top of the Guardians order needs to find success against Castillo early in the game.
Game Two – March 31st – 10:10 PM ET
Projected Starters: Triston McKenzie vs. Robbie Ray
Update on Triston McKenzie:
He was removed from the game with right arm tightness. All precautionary.
— Mandy Bell (@MandyBell02) March 26, 2023
McKenzie may not be starting game two after leaving his final spring training start after one inning due to right arm tightness. All reports as of Sunday night have stated the departure as a precaution. Last year, McKenzie pitched against the Mariners at Safeco and suffered a loss. McKenzie pitched well aside from the first inning, which saw all the damage in the form of former Mariner Mitch Haniger’s three-run home run.
Should McKenzie miss time, Cody Morris could be an option to replace McKenzie in the interim. In September 2022, Morris was part of the September call-ups and finished with a stat line of 23 2/3IP, 21H, and 23K to go along with a 2.28 ERA over the last month of the season. Morris also appeared in the postseason, pitching two innings against the New York Yankees and didn’t allow a hit while striking out three. Morris has been dealing with shoulder issues and didn’t appear in a spring training game. Cody could be an option if McKenzie is out for an extended period.
Options In Triple-A To Replace McKenzie, If Needed For Guardians Vs Mariners Series
Another option for the Guardians could be Xzavion Curry. Guardians manager Terry Francona liked what he saw from Curry and expects Curry to help the team early in the season if needed. While it’s unlikely, keep an eye on Guardians prospect Joey Cantillo. Cantillo finished last year with a 1.93ERA and 87 strikeouts in only 60 2/3IP. Hopefully, the exit was only a precautionary measure for McKenzie and the Guardians.
Robbie Ray enters his second season with the Mariners looking to improve after a mixed-bag 2022 season. Ray pitched against the Guardians twice last year and was successful. Ray earned two wins over the Guardians, throwing thirteen innings and not allowing a run in two starts. Amed Rosario had the most success against Ray last year, hitting five times in ten at-bats safely. Josh Bell has a .286 BA against Ray, including a home run. In addition, newly acquired Mike Zunino has taken Ray deep on four occasions.
Game Three: April 1st – 9:40 PM ET
Projected Starters: Aaron Civale vs. Logan Gilbert
Civale struggled on the road in 2022 compared to pitching at home. Civale had a 5.88 ERA on the road compared to a 3.80 at home. However, Civale pitched reasonably well against the Mariners in his lone start against them in 2022. Civale lasted 6 1/3IP and gave up four earned runs, but that came in the seventh innings when Ty France hit a three-run home run. Civale struggles after the first time in the order where teams in 2022 were limited to a .220 BA. Teams have progressively hit Civale harder after the first time through the lineups. This may be a game where Civale going five solid innings is considered a victory.
Gilbert enters his third season with the Mariners and looks to continue to solidify himself as a quality starter for the Mariners. Logan started 32 games and finished with 13 wins and a 3.20 ERA. Ahmed Rosario has had success against Gilbert hitting safely four times in eight at-bats. Jose Ramirez and Mike Zunino have home runs against Gilbert, as well. However, the Guardians will likely have to display a strong offensive showing with Civale on the mound to win.
Game Four: April 2nd – 4:10 PM ET
Projected Starters: Cal Quantrill vs. Marco Gonzales
While Quantrill had an incredible season pitching at home by going 9-0, Quantrill pitched effectively on the road in 2022, finishing with a 3.53 ERA while going 6-6 in decisions. Cal will need to stay ahead of the Mariners’ hitters. When Cal falls behind in the count, the opposition hits .333 or better. If the Guardians can get ahead in the game early, they could be in good shape. Cal tends to struggle the second time through the order, .310 BA, but if Cal gets through that portion, he makes any adjustments needed, finishes strong the third time through the order, and limits the average to .244. Julio Rodriguez and AJ Pollock have had the most success against Quantrill. Pollack’s success came from his years with the Chicago White Sox. Pollack has a .386 BA against Quantrill, and Rodriguez has hit safely in both appearances.
The Guardians haven’t seen much of Marco Gonzales. Jose Ramirez has hit safely in three out of the six appearances against Gonzales, but aside from that, there’s not much to go off of. Marco doesn’t display overwhelming stuff, with his fastball only reaching 88MPH. Instead, Gonzales relies on movement with his curveball and cutter. Expect Josh Naylor to sit for the game after struggling last year against lefties to the tune of a .173 BA.
Overall Outlook For Series
Amed Rosario could be in line for a hot start to the season, considering his success against the top of the Mariners rotation. If the top of the order for the Guardians can get off to a strong start, there’s no reason not to expect a minimum split of the series, even if McKenzie has to miss his first scheduled start. Last year, Guardians hitters started hot, with Ramirez, Gimenez, and Kwan hitting .340 or better in April. Rosario had a slow start in 2022, but the matchup in the first series could lead to a stronger start than a .211 BA last year.
Josh Bell will look to continue a trend of hot hitting in the first half of the season and prove early that his acquisition was a good decision for the Guardians. The Guardians will rely on Bell as much-needed power to the lineup and a lineup protector to Ramirez. However, if Bell struggles early, teams will be inclined to pitch around Ramirez, a consistently tough-out for the Guardians.
Guardians travel to Oakland for a three-game series before going home to Cleveland for their home opener on April 7th against the Seattle Mariners.
Main photo credits:
Brad Penner-USA Today Sports
Shane Bieber, Luis Castillo, Eugenio Suarez, Teoscar Hernandez, AJ Pollock, J.P. Crawford, Amed Rosario, Steven Kwan, Jose Ramirez, Triston McKenzie, Robbie Ray, Mitch Haniger, Cody Morris, Xzavion Curry, Joey Cantillo, Josh Bell, Mike Zunino, Aaron Civale, Logan Gilbert, Ty France, Cal Quantrill, Marco Gonzales, Julio Rodriguez, Josh Naylor