Starting tonight the Yankees get three more games at home against another light-hitting American League counterpart, only this time instead of the second-worst offensive attack in the AL they get to face the team not only featuring the most execrable offense in the Major Leagues in the form of the Seattle Mariners, but currently in the throes of one of the worst losing streaks of any team in recent years, having dropped fifteen straight contests. A year after posting one of the worst offensive seasons since the implementation of the designated hitter (.286 team wOBA, 78 wRC+), Seattle is, rather incredibly, managing to out-Mariner itself in ineptitude, posting a .279 team wOBA and 77 wRC+.
That the Mariners managed to hang in the race through the first few months of the season at all is of course yet another testament to their pitching staff, which, prior to this weekend’s completely unsurprising shellacking by the Red Sox — who have only lost three games all month! - was ranked second in the AL in ERA and first in FIP. And before we go chalking that up to the friendly pitching confines of Safeco, one must take note of the fact that Seattle has pitched to a 3.36 ERA/3.46 FIP at home and a 3.25 ERA/3.43 FIP on the road, and the latter marks are again second and first in the AL. So yeah, Seattle’s pitching has been all-around beastly, except of course when facing Boston, because apparently every opposing team in the league must gift-wrap 10 runs or more to the BoSox every single time they enter Fenway Park.
As you’ll recall, the Yankees lost a rather frustrating series against the M’s back in Seattle at the end of May — frustrating because the team was able to not only do some damage but take leads against both Michael Pineda and, shockingly, Felix Hernandez, but the Yankee bullpen and A.J. Burnett conspired to punt both games. The Yankees showed impressive patience with the fireballing Pineda, though they won’t see him this time around, but I wouldn’t expect the team to get anything off of Felix, who has, quite simply, dominated the Yankees more than any other pitcher these last few seasons.
Seattle’s rotation is of course led by the aforementioned King of the World, reigning AL Cy Young-award-winner and Owner and Sole Proprietor of the New York Yankees American League Baseball Franchise Felix Hernandez, who is once again having a season for the ages. Following Felix is onetime Yankee draftee Doug Fister, who’s followed last year’s strong campaign up with a career year. As of this writing Fister’s been the 12th-most valuable pitcher in the American League. Rookie sensation Pineda is also having himself quite a debut season, and lefty junkballer extraordinaire Jason Vargas has also put together a strong campaign. Even former AL East foe and oft-injured Erik Bedard had been in the midst of a fine season until recently re-injuring himself. Bedard’s name had been floated as a potential trade deadline acquisition for the Yankees, but he was bumped out of what was supposed to his return to the rotation this past weekend against the Sox, so who knows if any of the contenders will be willing to roll the dice on a Bedard trade.
For all the excellence of the starting rotation, Seattle’s bullpen has been somewhat middle-of-the-pack, although it’s also had to log the fewest innings (by far) of any relief corps in the AL. They don’t strike too many guys out (lowest K/9 in the Majors) but they also don’t walk anyone (second-fewest BB/9 in the AL). Closer Brandon League‘s been their most effective reliever, while former starter David Pauley has also performed quite well. Both pitchers make their living inducing groundballs. Chris Ray, Aaron Laffey, Jeff Gray and Jamey Wright round out the ‘pen, and they’ve all pitched around roughly league average.
On offense the Mariners are Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and that’s pretty much it. Adam Kennedy is bound to annoy his way into several annoying hits throughout this series, and even in a down season Ichiro’s probably good for causing a decent level of chaos against the Yanks, but outside of Ackley and Smoak the rest of the everyday lineup features just one hitter above even a 90 wRC+, and that’s Kennedy.
In tonight’s game, Freddy Garcia will tackle his mirror image, Jason Vargas. Both men employ the slow, slower and slowest approach, and while Vargas had success his first time out against the Yankees last season, he’s been roughed up pretty badly by the Bombers in two starts since. Garcia hasn’t seen the Mariners this season, but one would think the lightest-hitting team in the league wouldn’t pose much of a threat.
Tuesday’s contest will feature CC Sabathia against Doug Fister. Fister’s another in a seemingly endless line of junk-throwing righties, and he’s ridden his 90mph fastball to great success this season (13.3 runs above average). In addition to the fastball, Fister has three additional legit pitches, and he could be a tough match-up for the Yanks, who, through a scheduling quirk, haven’t seen him since late 2009. Sabathia owned the Mariners last time out and has given up just three earned runs in his last 29 innings against them, so he’s the Yankees’ version of Felix when it comes to facing Seattle.
And the Wednesday afternoon matinee showcases Phil Hughes against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, also known as the King, Felix Hernandez. There isn’t much I can tell you about Felix that you don’t already know, although it may surprise you to find out that Felix’s fastball has actually been worth -3.5 runs above average this season. However, that obviously hasn’t stopped him from being a beast, and his nasty changeup is currently tops in the American League. Hughes last saw Seattle on July 9, 2010, and threw seven innings of one-run ball. If Hughes is able to outduel Felix, there could be spontaneous parades thrown in Phil’s honor considering his mound counterpart and the need to get him to show that he can get back to being a quality starter.
With another set against a weak-hitting team at home, the Yankees at the very least have to take two of three from Seattle — especially after being embarrassed in Seattle back in May. I’d call a sweep, although between having to face the King in the Wednesday finale along with the fact that, as much as they may suck right now the Mariners are beyond due to pull out a win, what with the whole losers-of-15-straight thing, I would actually be pretty shocked if the Yankees were able to extend Seattle’s misery by three more games.
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TagsA.J. Burnett Alex Rodriguez Andy Pettitte Austin Romine Baltimore Orioles Bartolo Colon Boston Red Sox Brett Gardner Brian Cashman Bullpen CC Sabathia Chien-Ming Wang Cliff Lee Curtis Granderson David Robertson Dellin Betances Derek Jeter Francisco Cervelli Freddy Garcia Game Recap Hiroki Kuroda Ivan Nova Javier Vazquez Jesus Montero Joba Chamberlain Joe Girardi Johnny Damon Jorge Posada Manny Banuelos Mariano Rivera Mark Teixeira Melky Cabrera Michael Pineda New York New York Yankees Nick Johnson Nick Swisher Phil Hughes Prospects Rafael Soriano Red Sox Robinson Cano Russell Martin Tampa Bay Rays Yankees