NL West Battle in Seattle

Felix Hernandez may not have been the opening-day starter for the Seattle Mariners, but that doesn't mean he won't pitch like a staff ace.

The Mariners hope the young right-hander will lead them to a second consecutive victory to open the season as they continue their home set with the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Seattle -187 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 8.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 74% of bets for this game have been placed on Seattle –187 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

Owner of one of the best young arms in the majors, Hernandez, who turns 22 a week from Wednesday, went 14-7 with a 3.92 ERA in 30 starts during 2007 - his second full season. However, Hernandez has now been relegated to the No. 2 spot in the rotation after the Mariners (1-0) acquired new ace Erik Bedard in a February trade with Baltimore.

Bedard allowed a run and three hits while striking out five and walking four in five innings of Seattle's 5-2 win over the Rangers (0-1) on Monday.

Though his first start is coming in the second game of the season rather than the first, Hernandez, who went 2-0 with a 1.84 ERA in two outings against the Rangers in 2007 to improve his career mark to 4-4 with a 4.57 ERA in 10 starts versus Texas, doesn't appear to be changing his approach.

"I'm ready for business," Hernandez told the Mariners' official Web site. "Every time I take the mound is good fortune for me."

The Mariners were able to provide enough offense to win Monday, although they scored all their runs in the sixth and seventh innings after Bedard had left the game.

Jose Lopez and Adrian Beltre each went 2-for-4 and combined to drive in three runs, while closer J.J. Putz struck out two in a scoreless ninth inning to earn the save.

Meanwhile, it was a frustrating beginning for a Texas club which averaged five runs per game in 2007, and is accustomed to producing more offense.

"There will be many more nights when we'll score more than two runs," manager Ron Washington told the Rangers' official Web site.

As the Rangers seek to avoid their second consecutive 0-2 start, they'll send to the mound a pitcher seeking to avoid a second straight poor season. After posting 15 wins in his first season with Texas, Vicente Padilla faltered in 2007, going 6-10 with a 5.76 ERA and missing part of the summer with a triceps strain.

The right-hander has also struggled against the Mariners in his career, going 2-5 with a 6.26 ERA in nine appearances - seven starts.

Beltre has four homers and 13 RBIs in 25 career at-bats versus Padilla.

Seattle is trying to open the season 2-0 for the second year in a row.

by: Dave Michaels - thespread.com – Email Us

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