Mariners

Mariners at Yankees: Series Preview

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Felix Hernandez (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Felix Hernandez (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

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(1090 The Fan) – While the talking heads on TV are feasting on the Mariners’ upcoming series against the Yankees–solely for Robinson Cano’s return to New York–we can think of a couple different stories surrounding the club at this point in time that are far more enlightening.

  1. Has Kyle Seager completely countered slump he began the season with? His performance since April 21 has been freakish, going 9-for-22 with five home runs (which include two multi-home run games). The third baseman was honored with being named American League Co-Player of the Week Monday.
  2. Is Roenis Elias better than we had anticipated? Yes, the sample size is small, but when it comes to facing left-handed batters, the southpaw has been a force. In the 25 left-handed batters who’ve faced Elias this season, only four have managed a hit (.190).

Pitching Preview

Chris Young (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Chris Young (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Tuesday: C. Young (0-0, 3.50 ERA) vs. C. Sabathia (3-2, 4.78)
Young has done an admirable job mixing up his three pitches and keeping the Mariners in the game in his three starts thus far, but he’s going to need to stay down in the zone better if he’s to survive road matchups against dangerous lineups such as the one the Yankees draw up regularly. The veteran’s control has not been strong, issuing more than five bases on balls per nine innings, and he’s gotten away with leaving some fastballs up in the zone. That luck isn’t likely to continue, particularly considering he’s sitting 85-86 mph with the pitch. Expect to see more first-pitch breaking balls from Young, and more changeups against the Yankees, who employ a number of dangerous left-handed hitters, including Jacoby Ellsbury, switch hitter Mark Teixiera and Brian McCann.

Young has had problems against Alfonso Soriano, who is 4-for-17 with two home runs, a double and a triple off the right-hander, as well as former Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki, who is 8-for-21 versus Young with two home runs and a 5-0 BB/K ratio.

Sabathia’s learning to pitch without the plus velocity he enjoyed earlier in his career, sitting 87-90 mph this season, down from 91.3 in 2013 and 92.4 in 2012. Sabathia’s secondary stuff remains effective and he continues to command all of his pitches well, throwing downhill and hiding the ball from the batter with his front shoulder.

The home run ball has been a concern for the southpaw, allowing six in his first 32 frames in 2014, but he’s owned Michael Saunders (1-for-15, 7K) and Kyle Seager (1-for-8, 4K). Look for Willie Bloomquist to find his way into the lineup for Seattle as he’s 10-for-28 against Sabathia lifetime. Cole Gillespie and Stefen Romero, both right-handed batters, may fare well against the velocity-challenged version of Sabathia and there’s a good chance one or both are in the lineup Turesday.

Roenis Elias (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Roenis Elias (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Wednesday: R. Elias (1-2, 3.54 ERA) vs. D. Phelps (0-0, 3.86 ERA)
Elias was solid in his last outing despite lasting just 5 2/3 innings. His breaking ball, a two-plane curveball at 78-81 mph, was sharp and he mixed in a two-seamer with cutting action against right-handed batters, a pitch he’s getting more comfortable with based on increased usage.

Elias’ four-seam fastball is sitting 91-92 — 91.6 to be exact, according to PITCHf/x, which ranks him No. 10 in baseball among all left-handed starters. He’s commanding it well enough to work the curveball off it, though he’s ultimately going to need more from his changeup to go through the lineup three-plus times.

Phelps, who split time between a bullpen role and rotation work the past two seasons, makes his first start of the year Wednesday. Avoiding the walk is crucial to Phelps’ success, but he can miss bats with a fastball-curveball-slider arsenal. If he gets ahead it’s nearly lights out as batters managed a meek .213/.232/.269 triple-slash when Phelps is ahead in the count. When he falls behind, that jumps to .318/.486/.495.

He’ll sit 89-91 mph with the fastball in a starter’s role, using three different varieties — four-seam, two-seam and cutter — setting up an above-average 79-81 mph curveball. The M’s haven’t faced Phelps much, leaving little data from which to pull anything meaningful there.

Felix Hernandez (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Felix Hernandez (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Thursday: F. Hernandez (3-1, 2.40 ERA) vs. H. Kuroda (2-2, 5.28 ERA)
Felix is Felix, despite failing to hold a 3-0 lead Saturday versus Texas, and historically The King has dominated the Yankees. There are individual exceptions, however, including Mark Teixeira, who boasts a .297/.370/.594 triple-slash against Hernandez entering Sunday’s game. Infielder and newcomer Brian Roberts also has had success against the M’s ace, as has Jacoby Ellsbury (.320/.370/.600) and Brett Gardner (.375/.423/.458). Derek Jeter (.238/.327/.310), Alfonso Soriano (1-for-6) have been tamed.

Hernandez did not have his good changeup Saturday, instead using his slider more often, but expect him to motivated and ready to roll in the Bronx, where he’s 5-2 in his career with a 2.00 ERA and 56-23 K/BB ratio in 58 1/3 innings.

Kuroda has been inconsistent since the second half of last season and was lit up by the Los Angeles Angels last time out. His ground ball rates have sunk since the end of 2012 — to 46 percent this year after a career rate of about 50 percent throughout his career in the states up until that point. That suggests he’s had to go away from his splitter. True?

False. Kuroda, now 39, still is sitting 89-92 with his four-seam fastball, but hasn’t been able to get ahead in counts with it and may be overthrowing his splitter in lieu of the get-ahead fastball. The veteran has thrown just 16 percent sliders, down from 27 percent entering 2014. The result is a more-predictable Kuroda, owner of a 5.74 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) and 5.4 BB/9 mark.

— Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan

Sandmeyer Says

It turns out that baseball, like any other sport, is one that plays on emotion. Clearly, both Kyle Seager and the Mariners were equally energized by his game- winning home run to end the losing streak last Wednesday. It carried into the weekend for Seager, and as a result he won American League Co-Player of the Week. The team ended up winning three of its last four on the homestand after losing eight in a row.

Not the best pitching matchups you’ll see in New York, but at least the Mariners will miss Masahiro Tanaka, and the Yankees will not miss Felix Hernandez, who gets the start Thursday. Getting innings out of your starters is always a key, but maybe more so for this road trip than any other — when you consider the Mariners will play 10 games over the next 9 days, spanning New York, Houston, and Oakland — no days off, and culminating with a potentially back-breaking doubleheader the last day of the trip (May &) in Oakland — thanks to a game day operations crew that I wouldn’t trust to open a box of cereal properly (see “tarp-gate” back on April 4)”

Yes, I am keenly aware the previous statement is the clubhouse leader for “run-on sentence of the year” so far…

Key Notes

There are a number of former Seattle Mariners on the New York Yankees roster, and vice versa, starting with Robinson Cano, of course. Left-hander Matt Thornton, right-handers Michael Pineda and Shawn Kelley and outfielder Ichiro Suzuki are active for this series. Along with free=agent acquisition Cano, Abraham Almonte, a former Yankees farmhand who was acquired in exchange for Kelley, right-hander Danny Farquhar, who came to Seattle in the trade for Ichiro Suzuki, will be in town for the stanza … Mariners 3B Kyle Seager enters play Tuesday on tear with eight hits in 15 at-bats, including five home runs. During that span, Seager has driven in 11 runs and his slugging percentage has jumped from .219 to .468. Cano looks to extend his hitting streak to eight games. During his current 7-game streak, the second baseman is 11-for-26 … The Yankees are pounding left-handed pitching thus far in 2014, batting .297/.359/.454 against them. Conversely, the Mariners are batting just .242/.304/.356 against southpaws, although that’s better than the .214/.273/.371 clip they have produced against righties.

The Mariners may get right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma back as early as Friday, sources tell 1090 The Fan, but the Yankees will be without Ivan Nova for the rest of the season. The right-hander is set to undergo Tommy John surgery and will miss the rest of 2014 … Pineda will miss the series as he serves the middle part of his 10-day suspension for having pine tar on his neck … The Mariners bullpen has struggled to some extent, including closer Fernando Rodney, but the weekend’s events suggest things are turning around. Justin Smoak saved Rodney Friday night and Rodney was sharp in Sunday’s win. More importantly, however, Tom Wilhelmsen has not been used in the eighth-inning setup role in more than week. That gig has been handed to Danny Farquhar, at least based on recent usage.

— Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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