Seattle and Cleveland were expected to struggle in 2011. While the Mariners have done just that, the Indians have been a pleasant early surprise.
Looking to snap a four-game skid, Seattle heads into its home opener Friday night against Cleveland, which heads west after a stunning sweep of a team expected to be among the best in the majors this season.
Coming off their second 101-loss season in three years, the Mariners opened the new slate with two straight wins over Oakland. However, they failed to complete the sweep, and then dropped all three matchups against defending AL champion Texas.
With a 7-3 loss Wednesday, the Mariners have plated 10 runs during their skid. Seattle has only two home runs and a .233 team batting average so far.
Even Ichiro Suzuki is struggling. He's gone 0 for 6 over the last two games, dropping his average almost 100 points to .261.
New Mariners manager - and former Cleveland skipper - Eric Wedge said it's not time to panic.
"Everybody has to understand that we're going to continue to get better," he said. "The way our kids continue to compete, it will eventually show itself. I think our fans are going to appreciate that."
Seattle (2-4) will play 13 of its next 17 at Safeco Field, and first baseman Justin Smoak added the Mariners want to make a good impression there after going 35-46 in 2010.
"It's a new team, a new staff, a lot of new guys," he said. "We've got a different heartbeat as a team than we did last year."
Despite the excitement that normally surrounds opening day, there will also be a somewhat somber mood. The Mariners will honor Hall of Fame broadcaster Dave Niehaus, who died of a heart attack Nov. 10 at the age of 75.
Friday will mark the first time in franchise history that Niehaus isn't behind the microphone for a home opener after 34 seasons.
Wedge managed the Indians from 2003-09, leading them to the 2007 AL championship series against Boston. The Red Sox won that matchup in seven games, but had no answer for Cleveland this week.
The Indians capped a three-game sweep of the winless Red Sox with a 1-0 victory Thursday. Asdrubal Cabrera's suicide-squeeze bunt in the eighth inning lifted Cleveland (4-2) to its fourth straight win.
``We did beat a very good ballclub - regardless if they're struggling or not,' manager Manny Acta said. "It wasn't like they were sloppy and we got lucky. We played good baseball.'
Carlos Carrasco (0-1, 9.45 ERA) will make his second start for the Indians. The right-hander was tagged for seven runs and 10 hits over 6 2-3 innings Saturday in an 8-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
Carrasco has never faced the Mariners.
Seattle will go with Jason Vargas (0-0, 1.35), who failed to record a decision in his season debut despite a solid outing.
Facing Oakland on Saturday, the left-hander yielded a run and five hits over 6 2-3 innings, but needed the Mariners to push across three runs in the top of the ninth to come away with a 5-2 win.
Vargas is 1-1 with a 7.36 ERA in his career versus Cleveland.
The Indians and Mariners split four games last year in Seattle.
The Associated Press News Service
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