The Seattle Mariners are off to a good start on a season filled with high expectations.
Coming off their fourth straight season-opening victory, the visiting Mariners continue their series with the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night.One of the surprise teams in the majors last year, Seattle won 85 games after recording 101 losses in 2008. In a bid to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2001, the Mariners acquired stars Chone Figgins and Cliff Lee, plus veteran outfielder Milton Bradley and first baseman Casey Kotchman. Those moves helped turn Seattle into a serious contender for the AL West title."Obviously, there is a buzz about this team," general manager Jack Zduriencik said. "You know, it is exciting. But at this moment in time, we haven't proven a thing."The Mariners proved they could win a close game on the road after Kotchman's two-run single off 2009 AL rookie of the year Andrew Bailey led to a 5-3 win over the A's on Monday. Kotchman, who hit .268 between Atlanta and Boston last season, drove in four runs."We're just happy to be out here and put a (win) up on opening day," Kotchman said.Figgins didn't get a hit, but walked twice, stole two bases and scored a pair of runs in his debut for Seattle after spending his previous eight seasons with the rival Los Angeles Angels."That's what I do. I hustle," Figgins said. "That's the plan, if we can get on and keep running, and create havoc."The Mariners scored three times in the first three innings off Oakland starter Ben Sheets. They hope for similar early success against scheduled starter Dallas Braden.The A's opening-day starter a year ago, Braden went 8-9 with a 3.89 ERA in 22 starts before an infection in his foot cut short his season. Though the infection has likely left his left foot permanently numb, Braden will not be kept off the mound."As long as I have a uniform on, I'm going to be out there competing," he told the Athletics' official Web site. "I'm going to give 100 percent and do everything in my power to help this ballclub."You can kick me when I'm down, and it won't matter. Anything short of amputation, I'm fine."The left-hander is 1-1 with a 6.46 ERA in three starts against the Mariners, who counter with veteran Ian Snell.Following a rough start that resulted in a minor-league stint with Pittsburgh last season, Snell went 5-2 with a 4.20 ERA for Seattle after being acquired in July.Though Snell might have salvaged his career with the Mariners, the right-hander is still looking to improve."I have been working on a lot of stuff and am still working on stuff," Snell told the Mariners' official Web site. "I am not quite where I should be, but I am almost there."In his only career appearances against Oakland last season, Snell went 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA.Rajai Davis is 2 for 2 all-time against Snell, and had a pair of hits with an RBI on Monday for the A's. Cliff Pennington also had two hits with an RBI for Oakland, which committed four errors.These teams meet seven times in the first 10 games of the season.