The Mariners — who host the Yankees for a three-gamer starting tonight — are a surprising 3-3 on the season against the Yankees, thanks in part to two come-from-behind wins at the end of May in games that the Yankees took unexpected leads against both Michael Pineda and Felix Hernandez. The M’s were 26-26 and just 1.5 games out of first after wrapping up that series with the Yankees, but, to the complete surprise of no one, their season went downhill a little over a month later. July 6th marked the start of a 17-game losing streak that didn’t come to an end until Felix Hernandez predictably beat the Yankees in the Bronx on July 27, and the Mariners currently once again find themselves in their customary cellar-dwelling position, playing out the string.
For the second straight year the Mariners boast the worst offense in the American League, with a .285 wOBA and 80 wRC+, though they’ve been slightly less bad of late. Rookie Dustin Ackley has been their best player this season (133 wRC+), with assistance from the unfortunately named Mike Carp (124 wRC+),while rookies Kyle Seager (92 wRC+) and Trayvon Robinson (99 wRC+) have acquitted themselves reasonably well.
Pitching-wise the Mariners’ starters are once again in the top five in the AL, with a 3.87 ERA and 3.75 FIP. The bullpen’s been a bit less effective, with a 3.87 ERA that’s good for 9th in the AL and 4.07 FIP (8th). The M’s’ relief corps is led by closer Brandon League, having a career year, while former Red Sox starter David Pauley seems to have found his niche in relief.
Probable Pitching Match-Ups
In tonight’s “Why even bother playing?” opener (starting at 10:10pm Eastern), Phil Hughes gets to match-up against Felix Hernandez again. As I noted in the aftermath of Felix facing and beating the Yankees yet again in that July 27 game, throwing Felix Hernandez against the New York Yankees has become the surest thing in all of baseball. Dating back to the beginning of 2010, Felix has thrown 40 innings of six-run ball (1.35 ERA) against the Yankees, including 24 innings of one-run ball (0.38 ERA!) at Yankee Stadium. In fact, the run the Yankees scored against Felix today was the first run they plated against Hernandez at Yankee Stadium since May 2008! The Yankees haven’t won a game started by Felix since May 3, 2008, a game in which the Yankees somehow hit Felix up for 6 runs in 5 2/3 innings. Of course, this year’s team has had a fair amount of success finally breaking through against hurlers who have notoriously been stingy against them, so maybe this is the day the Yankees finally beat Felix? Hey, what are you doing? Get that straitjacket away from me!
The Tuesday night (also at 10:10pm Eastern) contest, A.J. Burnett faces Charlie Furbush. Furbush is a lefthanded mostly junkballing rookie (though his four-seamer averages 91mph) who nevertheless managed to completely shut Boston down a month ago (7 IP, 1 ER) — the only reason I’m calling this particular game out is because I happened to be randomly watching it, and it was a thing of beauty. Furbush also throws a mid-70s curve, low-80s slider and high-80s two-seamer. The 2011 Yankees have pretty much completely gotten over the “can’t-hit-rookies/guys-they’ve-never-seen” bugaboo, so I wouldn’t expect too much trouble from a hurler who has a 5.40 ERA/4.71 FIP over the last 30 days, but now just because I said that watch them be stymied. Also, A.J. Burnett, who has easily usurped the Run Fairy (™ RLYW) crown from Felix Heredia, is on the mound, which means the Mariners — powerhouse offense that they are — will probably score eleventy billion runs.
And the Wednesday night finale (the third straight 10:10pm start, which means there will be a lot of sleepy Yankee fans in New York this week), features Ivan Nova against Jason Vargas. You of course know Jason Vargas as a true lefthanded slop-thrower extraordinaire, who throws an 87mph fastball and two-seamer, and 84mph cutter, an 80mph changeup, and the occasional low-70-s curve and low-80s slider. After a surprisingly effective 2010, Vargas had turned in a 2011 campaign much more befitting his talent level. He stymied the Yankees the first time he saw them in July 2010, but they’ve gone to town on him ever since, rocking the southpaw for 21 runs (17 earned) in 13.1 innings over three starts.
The Yankees will lose to Felix as usual, and then win the Furbush and Vargas games in spite of A.J. Burnett.
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