(1090 The Fan) — A strong 8-1 homestand has the Seattle Mariners (65-55) rolling as they start a 9-game road trip in Detroit against the club that’s directly in front of them in the race for the No. 2 Wild Card spot in the American League. The Tigers possess solid starting pitching, even without Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez in their rotation, and boast one of the league’s best 1-2 punch in Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez.
The M’s have plated 59 runs in 12 games this month, fourth-most in the AL, with Chris Taylor (12-for-32, 3-2B), Robinson Cano (13-for-39, 3-2B, 3 HR) and Logan Morrison (12-for-38, 2-2B, HR) leading the way. Kendrys Morales had a big series versus the Toronto Blue Jays, including home runs in the final two games.
Friday: James Paxton, LHP vs. Rick Porcello, RHP
Paxton was solid versus the White Sox last time out and appears on track to resume the dominance he began last September and continued this past April before hitting the disabled list.
Paxton’s velocity is all the way back — 92-98 mph — and he’s keeping his curveball down and avoiding the middle of the plate. He’s cutting the fastball effectively and the changeup has been useful, if nothing else.
Essentially, Paxton is fastball-curveball until someone handles either pitch and both are plus offerings as the change and cutter make up less than nine percent of his pitches combined.
Paxton vs. Tigers
Miguel Cabrera: 1-2, BB
Torii Hunter: 1-3, HR, SO
Victor Martinez: 1-1, 2B, 2 BB
Paxton Splits (big-leagues):
RHB: .213/.250/.426, 3 HR
Home: 3.18 ERA, 2 HR, .238 BAA
Road: 1.59 ERA, HR, .158 BAA
Scouting Rick Porcello
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 (89-93 mph): 45
Two-seam Fastball (89-92): 70
Curveball (76-78): 50
Slider (84-86): 50
Changeup (81-863) : 45
LHB: .245/.299/.363, 4 HR
RHB: .256/.281/.402, 8 HR
Home: 3.75 ERA, 5 HR, .249 BAA
Away: 2.66 ERA, 7 HR, .251 BAA
Porcello vs. Mariners
Dustin Ackley: 2-6, SO
Robinson Cano: 7-18, 2-2B, 2 BB
Endy Chavez: 1-3, 2 SO
Kendrys Morales: 4-19, 2B, BB, 6 SO
Chris Denorfia: 1-3
Logan Morrison: 1-1
Kyle Seager: 0-2, BB
Mike Zunino: 0-3, 3 SO
Porcello has average stuff, perhaps slightly above-average, despite the look of a frontline arsenal that includes a big breaking curveball and solid-average velocity on both fastballs.
The changeup is below average and inconsistent and the slider is more of a show-me pitch more often that not. The right-hander’s breand and butter is a nasty two-seamer that induces ground balls and other kinds of weak contact. His ground ball rates are down in 2014 — 48.9 percent vs. 55 percent a year ago — and his strikeout ratio has sunk to 5.57 from 7.22 last season, but he’s avoiding the middle of the strike zone better than ever and avoids the base on balls.
Watch for Porcello to mix in the 12-6 curveball early in counts, particularly the second time through the lineup, or if the Mariners are aggressive early. He can throw the pitch for called strikes, spotting it on the outside corner versus lefties.
Saturday: Felix Hernandez, RHP vs. David Price, LHP
Hernandez is the AL’s best pitcher this season and owns the most valuable pitch in all of baseball according to FanGraphs’ pitch value formula by Baseball Info Solutions. The King’s changeup is flat out devastating but it’s set up by plus command and a sinking two-seamer at 90-93 mph, a four-seamer that sits 91-93 and touches 95, a curveball that ranks as one of the best in baseball and the occasional slider that ranks above average.
The Tigers current roster have done some damage against Felix over his career, but the same can be said for the Indians, Blue Jays and Angels and none of the three have touched him in 2014. When he’s right — and he has been for three straight months without a single hiccup — no lineup can chase him. We can say he’s due for said hiccup, but that’s been the case since, well, June, and it hasn;t happened even once.
The league is slugging .274 off Hernandez this season. Let me say that again — the league is slugging .274 off Hernandez and while that may not be entirely sustainable — his home run per fly ball ratio is ridiculous — most of it is and that statistic is a testament to how much movement he generates on every one of his pitches and how well he commands them all consistently.
LHB: .193/.237/.257, 5 HR
Home: 2.42 ERA, 6 HR, .191 BAA
Road: 4.33 ERA, 13 HR, .260 BAA
Hernandez vs. Tigers
Alex Avila: 3-11, 4 SO
Cabrera: 3-10-24, 2-2B, 3 BB, 4 SO
Ezequiel Carrera: 1-5, 2 BB, 3 SO
Rajai Davis: 4-14, 2B, BB, 5 SO
Hunter: 23-72 (.319), 3-2B, 4 BB, 20 SO
Ian Kinsler: 19-77, 3-2B, 4 HR, 11 BB, 11 SO
Martinez: 6-21, HR, 4 BB, SO
Andrew Romine: 0-2, 2 SO
Scouting David Price
Fastball (93-97 mph): 65
Two-seam Fastball (93-96): 65
Curveball (78-81): 50
Changeup (84-86: 50
Price vs. Mariners
Ackley: 2-5, 2B, BB, 3 SO
Cano: 18-64 (.281), 3-2B, 3B, HR, 3 BB, 7 SO
Jackson: 3-17 (.176)) 2B, 10 S)
Brad Miller: 1-10
Morales: 3-12, 3 SO
Zunino: 1-7, 2B
Morrison: 3-12, 3 SO
James Jones: 4-8, 2B, SO
Kyle Seager: 0-8, 2 SO
LHB: .254/.290/.399, 5 HR
RHB: .232/.262/.381, 18 HR
Home: 3.41 ERA, 11 HR, .251 BAA
Road: 2.99 ERA, 12 HR, .224 BAA
Price gets a lot of outs with his mid-90s fastball, including strikeouts at a high rate. His slider has turned into a cutter — harder with shorter break — but remains effective, and he’ll take some velo off his fastball and use it as a change-of-pace pitch.
Price pitches up in the zone by design but has impeccable command — think ‘Cliff Lee’ with elite velocity. The long ball has bitten Price 23 times this season, but he doesn’t walk batters — just 26 in 185 1/3 innings — and will make opponents swing the bat and usually against his explosive fastball.
Sunday: Chris Young, RHP vs. Robbie Ray, LHP
Young’s unique style of throwing downhill, using the entire strike zone and hovering the 86 mph fastball above the zone in key counts has baffled opponents in 2014.
Batters are hitting just .218/.283/.397 off Young, and while he’s served up 19 home runs, he’s avoided the three-run blast and kept the M’s in the game regularly.
LHB: .246/.319/.444, 11 HR
RHB: .181/.233/.335, 8 HR
Home: 2.35 ERA, 6 HR, .185 BAA
Road: 4.33 ERA, 13 HR, .260 BAA
Scouting Robbie Ray
Four-seam Fastball (90-92 mph): 50
Sinker (90-92): 60
Changeup (83-85): 55
This will be Ray’s fifth start and sixth appearance at the big-league level after the Tigers acquired him from the Washington Nationals in the Doug Fister trade. He’ll try to pound the strike zone with above-average velocity while working in a sinker. His best pitch is a 55-grade changeup with fade and good deception.
Ray can miss bats but his battle will be throwing quality strikes and avoiding deep counts because he will walk batters and tends to lose his mechanics at times. He’s athletic and has good, consistent arm speed speed going from 91 mph to an 83 mph changeup.
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