(1090 The Fan) — The Seattle Mariners (37-36) leave San Diego just a game over .500 after dropping both games to the Padres and plating but two runs total. They’ll look to get the bats going in sweltering Kansas City, but the bad news is the weather isn’t the only hot thing in the BBQ Capital of the World. The Royals have won 10 of their last 11 and the bats have been torrid.
Kansas City split a four-game set with the M’s at Safeco Field last month, but the Mariners will not see the same team. The Royals (39-33) gained eight games in the standings during their 10-game winning streak and lead the American League Central by a half game entering play Friday.
Pitching Matchups | Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan
Friday: Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP vs. James Shields, RHP
Iwakuma has owned the Royals in his short career in the states with the current KC lineup just 7-for-55 with but one extra-base hit, one walk and 16 strikeouts versus the 33-year-old right-hander. Only Eric Hosmer (3-for-6) and Alex Gordon (2-for-6) have had a clue.
Iwakuma will have to be sharp again, because he’s facing a tough customer on the other side.
Scouting James Shields
Grades reflect 20-80 scouting scale; 80 is outstanding, among league’s best, 50 is major-league average, 20 is poor, not in line with big-league standards.
Four-seam Fastball (90-94 mph) : 55
Two-seam Fastball (90-93) : 60
Cutter (86-89) : 55
Curveball (77-80) : 50
Changeup (83-86) : 55
Shields’ bread and butter has been his fastball command and out-pitch changeup, but he’s developed a cutter and a better curveball and has been mixing in those two pitches more often than a year ago as he hasn’t always had his good changeup in 2014, which explains left-handed batters having success against him this year (.284/.347/.431).
If he gets ahead early, however, he has weapons to get outs regularly and can get into cruise control if the Mariners do not make him work.
Shields vs. Mariners
Dustin Ackley: 2-11, 3 SO
Willie Bloomquist: 2-10
John Buck: 5-17, 2B, 2 HR, 4 SO
Robinson Cano: 32-81 (.395), 8-2B, 2-3B, 4 HR, 4 BB, 15 SO
Endy Chavez: 2-9
Jesus Montero: 0-6, 3 SO
Logan Morrison: 4-14, 2-2B, BB, 4 SO
Kyle Seager: 5-8, 2 HR, BB, 3 SO
LHB: .284/.347/.431, 5 HR
RHB: .257/.286/.433, 7 HR
Home: 3.24 ERA, .280 BAA, 1 HR
Away: 3.64 ERA, .266 BAA, 11 HR
Saturday: Chris Young, RHP vs. Jason Vargas, LHP
Young got back on track in his last start after two mediocre showings that ended after five innings. He walked just one batter in that start, but will be facing a Royals lineup that is more dangerous than the Padres.
The right-hander must avoid falling behind in the count, which forces him to throw more fastballs in the zone, his least effective pitch by a landslide.
Scouting Jason Vargas
Four-seam Fastball (86-88 mph): 45
Two-seam Fastball (86-88): 45
Cutter (83-86): 45
Curveball (73-76): 50
Changeup (78-82): 55
Vargas remains a command-and-feel left-hander that pitches toward his changeup, but he’s developed a useful cutter to use against right-handed batters and his two-seamer may be his best pitch right now.
That two-seamer is allowing him to get ahead and throw more changeups with two strikes, and has helped him leap to 6.4 strikeouts per nine innings.
The curveball still is effective and when he’s consistent with his release point he can skate through eight innings without tons of trouble. The southpaw shut out the M’s at Safeco May 4 on just three hits.
Vargas vs. Mariners
Ackley: 4-9, 2B
Bloomquist: 0-8, BB, SO
Buck: 1-3, 2B, SO
Cano: 10-23, 2-2B, BB, 2 SO
Miller: 2-5, SO
Montero: 0-5, BB, 3 SO
Stefen Romero: 0-3, 2 SO
Seager: 1-10, 3 SO
Mike Zunino: 1-5, SO
LHB: .264/.309/.385, HR
RHB: .248/.306/.397, 10 HR
Home: 4.56 ERA, .279 BAA, 8 HR
Road: 1.75 ERA, .217 BAA, 3 HR
Sunday: Roenis Elias, LHP vs. Yordano Ventura, RHP
Elias rebounded last time out, shutting down the Padres in a 6-1 M’s win to end the homestand. His success still rides on his control and command, perhaps more so than any other M’s pitcher this side of Young.
When he’s hitting his spots with the fastball, his curveball is devastating. If he can mix in the changeup effectively against the righties in the Royals’ lineup — Alcides Escobar, Salvador Perez, Lorenzo Cain, Billy Butler and Omar Infante — he’s got a shot to limit the damage to a red hot lineup.
Scouting Yordano Ventura
Four-seam Fastball (94-99 mph): 70
Two-seam Fastball (93-97): 70
Cutter (91-95): 55
Curveball (81-84) 55
Changeup (84-87): 50
Ventura can be unhittable, but his fastball command is inconsistent. So much that the club has worked with him on backing off so he can throw more strikes and locate better. That has robbed him of velocity but is helping him hit spots better, yet there still is some leveling off to do.
If Ventura gets ahead 0-1, however, forget it. After that count, opponents have managed a paltry .192/.245/.318 line. The M’s need to make sure they take advantage of Ventura trying get to 0-1.
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