(1090 The Fan) — On the heels of a two-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves, the Seattle Mariners (59-54) begin a four-game series with the Chicago White Sox (55-60).
The Sox have struggled since the break, particularly in the pitching department, and the staff has served up 13 home runs in August alone.
The M’s will miss Chris Sale in this series — a welcomed bonus — but Chicago will not see M’s ace Felix Hernandez, either.
Pitching Matchups | Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan
Thursday: Roenis Elias, LHP vs. Scott Carroll, RHP
Elias has tallied just 24 1/3 innings over his past five starts but has been effective in his last three despite lasting fewer than six innings in each.
The rookie has totaled 129 innings thus far and has done so in nearly three fewer weeks than he reached 130 frames last season at Double-A Jackson. Elias also threw 12 2/3 innings in the Venezuelan Winter League, but that was after four full months off and preceded another two full months off before starting to throw regularly again in Arizona.
Whether or not Elias is tiring is unclear; he hasn’t lost his velocity and he doesn’t appear to be losing command any more often or earlier in his starts than much of the season. He may just have 40 innings or so left in the arm for the season, but they have be enough to pitch on rotation for the final seven weeks. It’s key, however, that he gets into or beyond the sixth inning as much as possible, as to not wear out the bullpen.
Elias vs. White Sox
Jose Abreu: 1-3, HR, SO
Gordon Beckham: 0-2, SO
Adam Eaton: 1-2, 2B, BB
Tyler Flowers 0-1
Conor Gillaspie: 0-2, 2 SO
Paul Konerko: 0-3, 2 SO
Alexei Ramirez: 1-3
Moises Sierra: 1-2
Dayan Viciedo: 3-3, HR
Elias Splits (big-leagues):
LHB: .208/.286/.366, 3 HR
RHB: .258/.329/.405, 11 HR
Home: 4.61 ERA, 6 HR, .250 BAA
Road: 3.73 ERA, 8 HR, .245 BAA
Scouting Scott Carroll
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 (88-91 mph): 45
Two-seam Fastball (88-91): 45
Slider (80-82): 45
Curveball (75-77): 55
Changeup (82-84) : 50
LHB: .301/.373/.466, 5 HR
RHB: .269/.329/.358, 2 HR
Home: 5.71 ERA, 5 HR, .341 BAA
Away: 3.15 ERA, 2 HR, .239 BAA
Carroll has yet to face the Mariners and has faced just two batters on the M’s roster, each once — Kendrys Morales (0-1) and Chris Denorfia (0-1, BB).
The 29-year-old right-hander is a pitch-to-contact arm sitting 88-91 mph with his fastball, of which the two-seam variety shows sink and some arm side run that helps induce weak contact and good rate of ground balls. Carroll also uses his average changeup to keep the ball out of the air, but his breaking balls are each below average and as a result does not miss many bats.
Friday: Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP vs. Jose Quintana, LHP
Iwakuma went 7 2/3 innings last time out in Baltimore, allowing an earned run on five hits. He walked two and fanned seven and threw 109 pitches. He’s pitching on regular rest in this one.
The right-hander’s sinker and splitter have been devastating versus right-handed batters and his slider also very effective. Left-handed batters have pounded Iwakuma’s sinker and slider, however. He’s going more four-seamer of late, a pitch the White Sox can hit if left up and over the plate.
Still, the 33-year-old stays away from the walk, gets a decent number of ground ball outs — nearly 50 percent — and limits the damage when he does surrender a hit. He’s the classic No. 2 starter.
LHB: .280/.289/.411, 7 HR
RHB: .196/.222/.298, 6 HR
Home: 3.04 ERA, 8 HR, .233 BAA
Road: 2.82 ERA, 5 HR, .249 BAA
Scouting Jose Quintana
Four-seam Fastball (90-94 mph): 65
Two-seam Fastball (90-94): 55
Slider (86-89): 50
Curveball (79-81): 55
Changeup (80-83: 45
Quintana vs. Mariners
Dustin Ackley: .222/.271/.358, 9 HR
Robinson Cano: .228/.271/.333, 7 HR
Austin Jackson: 1.48 ERA, 8 HR, .191 BAA
Brad Miller: 3.91 ERA, 8 HR, .257 VAA
Kendrys Morales: 1-6, 2 SO
Logan Morrison: 2-3
Kyle Seager: 1-7, HR, BB, 2 SO
Mike Zunino: 0-3, SO
LHB: .243/.299/.343, 2 HR
RHB: .249/.302/.335, 4 HR
Home: 2.97 ERA, HR, .247 BAA
Road: 3.09 ERA, 5 HR, .248 BAA
Quintana is one of the more underrated lefties in baseball and brings five quality offerings to the mound, led by a four-seamer with late life and a plus curveball. His slider has good tilt and induces swings and misses, particularly versus left-handed batters. His changeup is fringe-average at best but good enough to use versus right-handed batters to keep them off the fastball-curveball combo.
He throws strikes consistently but has a tendency to lose his release point for a few batters per outing. He dominated the Mariners in Chicago July 5, fanning 10 and yielding just four hits and a walk in seven shutout frames.
Saturday: James Paxton, LHP vs. Hector Noesi, RHP
Paxton’s first start off the disabled list went about as most expected; a bit short, flashing his plus stuff but also some issues finding the strike zone consistently.
This time around Paxton should be able to get to the 95-100 pitch mark after getting to 83 in Baltimore, but he’s yet to face the right-handed heavy White Sox in his career.
The left-hander’s plus curveball and 92-95 mph fastball are big-time weapons but it’s his cutter-slider and changeup that can separate him from the pack. It may play into Paxton’s hands that the White Sox are free swingers that do not draw a lot of walks — 318 for the year, No. 10 in the AL — and strike out more than any team outside the Astros.
RHB: .161/.223/.339, 5 HR
Home: 2.00 ERA, 3 HR, .182 BAA
Road: 2.01 ERA, 2 HR, .167 BAA
Scouting Hector Noesi
Four-seam Fastball (91-94 mph): 55
Two-seam Fastball (91-94): 55
Slider (86-89): 45
Curveball (78-80): 40
Changeup (85-87): 55
Noesi vs. Mariners
Ackley: 4-6, 2B
Endy Chavez: 0-5, SO
Denorfia: 1-3, SO
Cano: 0-8, BB, SO
Jackson: 1-7, 2 BB, SO
Miller: 3-5, 2B, SO
Morales: 3-7, 2 HR, 2 BB
Seager: 0-4, BB, SO
LHB: .228/.297/.398, 11 HR
RHB: .322/.382/.483, 6 HR
Home: 4.66 ERA, 10 HR, .269 BAA
Road: 5.36 ERA, 7 HR, .274 BAA
The last time Noesi started a game and did not serve up a home run was July 6 versus the Mariners. Since then he’s surrendered up six in five outings, but still has been more than he was in his stay in a Mariners uniform.
White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper is the best in the game and he’s got Noesi throwing more two-seamers, has reintroduced his curveball and Noesi’s slider while still below average and more like a cutter, is markedly better, too.
Alas, Noesi remains a below-average starter who struggles versus right-handed batters and is prone to the long ball.
Sunday: TBA vs. John Danks, LHP
The Mariners moved around their rotation, leaving Sunday open for either Erasmo Ramirez, Taijuan Walker or a bullpen game. Ramirez has been throwing more strikes of late down in Triple-A Tacoma, issuing just five walks in his last six starts. He’s also yielded but one home run despite pitching in Reno and Albuquerque.
Walker continues to struggle and show inconsistencies and had his worst start as a professional last time out, lasting just 2 1/3 innings and allowing eight earned runs on eight hits.
Tom Wilhelmsen is the club’s bullpen starter and he went 2 1/3 innings Friday and another inning Wednesday versus Atlanta. He threw just 31 pitches in those two appearances combined, suggesting he’s either well rested or not ramped up and ready to cover 3-4 frames Sunday.
Going with a bullpen day does not seem the wise move at this stage in the schedule, despite having Thursday off in each of the next three weeks and four of the next five.
Scouting John Danks
Four-seam Fastball (88-90 mph): 40
Two-seam Fastball (88-90): 40
Cutter (83-85): 45
Curveball (79-81): 55
Changeup (80-83: 55
Danks vs. Mariners
Ackley: 0-8, SO
Cano: 6-13, 2-2B, HR, BB, 3 SO
Jackson: 18-45 (.400), 2-2B, 3 HR, 5 BB, 7 SO
Morales: 3-15, 2-2B, SO
Seager: 1-7, HR, BB, 2 SO
Zunino: 0-3, SO
LHB: .258/.319/.417, 3 HR
RHB: .280/.354/.496, 20 HR
Home: 4.46 ERA, 12 HR, .257 BAA
Road: 5.38 ERA, 11 HR, .292 BAA
Danks is in his first full year since shoulder surgery similar the one M’s prospect Danny Hultzen underwent last winter. The lefty’s velocity is down a tick, even versus a year ago and his control and command remains well below average after Danks spent the first five years of his big-league career with above-average grades in both areas.
Danks has had a tough year, giving up 23 long balls and a .477 opponents slugging percentage, but he’s made every start and has shown flashes of his old form.
Danks’ most important pitch right now is his two-seam and four-seam fastballs, since they represent his best bet to get ahead in the count. His changeup remains a solid offering as does his curveball. When he’s right, Danks’ cutter is a critical pitch.
Sandmeyer Says | Steve Sandmeyer, 1090 The Fan
The White Sox can hit, but they can’t pitch to save their lives. Hopefully, the Mariners will end the trend of struggling against subpar pitching, because they’ll see plenty of it during this four game series.
While he’s not back to the form we saw in early April, I still expect James Paxton to ramp up. He looked (understandably) rusty in his road start at Baltimore. I’m curious and excited to see how he might improve upon that outing on Saturday.
Shortstop Chris Taylor has gotten at least one hit in all eight of his starts so far. Not bad for a “glove first” prospect that started the season buried in the organizational depth chart behind Brad Miller and the recently traded Nick Franklin. Defensively, his diving stop and throw late in the Felix start on Monday was an indication of his ability in the field.
The Mariners might get yet another boost soon. Michael Saunders will embark on a rehab assignment and will hopefully be joining the big club within a week or two. When he does return, the outfield will look dramatically different than it did just two weeks ago — in a very good way.
(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.)