Mariners at Phillies: Series Preview
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(1090 The Fan) — The Seattle Mariners (67-56) hit the City of Brotherly Love on a high, having won 10 of 12 including two of three against Wild Card rival Detroit on the first stop of the nine-game road trip.
The Philadelphia Phillies (54-70) are 16 back in the National League east and a dozen losses back of the San Francisco Giants in the Wild Card hunt.
The Phillies aren’t doing anything well these days; they’re No. 8 in runs scored, No. 12 in batting average and No. 13 in slugging. In August, it only gets worse and save for Chase Utley, the middle of the lineup is doing jack squat this month. Ryan Howard is a shell of a shell of his former self — see what I did there? — despite 18 home runs.
Marlon Byrd, Utley and Ben Revere are the lone consistent performers which forced the Phillies to turn to Grady Sizemore, who’s been up-and-down but has had his moments.
The club’s pitching hasn’t been any better, ranking No. 13 in ERA (3.99) and No. 11 in FIP (3.87). The Mariners will see Philly’s two best starters, however, making the series doubtful rather than a complete joke.
Pitching Matchups | Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan
Monday: Roenis Elias LHP vs. Jerome Williams, RHP
Elias returns from a short stay in Triple-A Tacoma — where he sliced and diced a poor Pacific Coast League lineup for five hitless, scoreless frames last Wednesday.
The left-hander needed just 62 pitches to dispose of the New Orleans Zephyrs and threw just 92 August 7 versus the White Sox, so his arm should be relatively fresh.
The rookie is facing the Phillies and each of their hitters for the first time, which usually favors the pitcher, but veterans such as Utley, Sizemore and Jimmy Rollins will be a challenge. Elias has been terrific versus left-handed batters, though, and all of the above, plus Howard, Revere and rookie third baseman Cody Asche, bat from the left side. Rollins is a switch hitter but has been markedly better from the left side — he’s been terrible as a right-handed batter in 2014 (.224/.302/.320).
Surprisingly, Citizens Bank Park heavily favors pitchers and Elias has been better away from Safeco Field, suggesting he’s unfazed by the opponents home crowd.
Elias Splits (big-leagues):
LHB: .214/.289/.379, 3 HR
RHB: .249/.323/.398, 12 HR
Home: 4.50 ERA, 7 HR, .240 BAA
Road: 3.73 ERA, 8 HR, .245 BAA
Scouting Jerome Williams
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 (89-92 mph): 50
Sinker (90-93): 40
Cutter (88-91): 55
Slider (80-83): 45
Curveball (76-78): 45
Changeup (84-86): 50
LHB: .331/.394/.511, 5 HR
RHB: .295/.338/.434, 3 HR
Home: 6.34 ERA, 6 HR, .308 BAA
Away: 6.53 ERA, 2 HR, .320 BAA
Williams vs. Mariners
Dustin Ackley: 5-26, 2B, 4 BB, 6 SO
Robinson Cano: 5-8, 2B, HR, BB, SO
Austin Jackson: 2-6, SO
Kendrys Morales: 3-9, 2B, 2 SO
Endy Chavez: 1-8, SO
Chris Denorfia: 0-1, SO
James Jones: 1-1
Brad Miller: 0-3
Logan Morrison: 1-1
Kyle Seager: 5-24, 2B, HR, 4 BB, 2 SO
Mike Zunino: 1-3
Williams has faced many of the Mariners over tge past few years, but almost exclusively in a relief role while with the Los Angeles Angels. The 32-year-old right-hander has to be happy Michael Saunders remains on the disabled list, both because Saunders has hit Williams (7-for-22, 2B) and because Williams has problems versus left-handed batters.
In 2014 he’s had problems with hitters from both sides of the plate and over the past two seasons has seen his ground ball rate drop from nearly 54 percent to 45 percent. His line drive rate is way up — 25.6 percent — which explains the ugly numbers.
Williams throws a lot of cutters and sinkers to go with his four-seam fastball, choosing the slider, curveball and changeup just 28 percent of the time combined. He will throw inside but it’s imperative he stays down or gets in on the hands or he’s ultra susceptible to the extra-base hit.
Tuesday: Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP vs. A.J. Burnett, RHP
Iwakuma is having another very good year although it’s a tick or two below his 2013 performance. The biggest difference is the lack of value in his sinker, a pitch he used versus any batter often early in counts to get ground balls. The pitch still is moving and it’s sinking late, but batters are laying off it more and Iwakuma is not locating the pitch as well in 2014.
His splitter and four-seamer have been terrific, however, and his seldom-used curveball is an underrated weapon versus left-handed batters.
LHB: .270/.281/.388, 7 HR
RHB: .196/.221/.304, 7 HR
Home: 2.66 ERA, 9 HR, .228 BAA
Road: 2.82 ERA, 5 HR, .249 BAA
Scouting A.J. Burnett
Fastball (91-95 mph): 55
Sinker (91-94): 50
Curveball (76-79): 60
Changeup (84-86: 40
Burnett vs. Mariners
Ackley: 0-5, BB, 3 SO
Cano: 5-23, 2B, BB, 4 SO
Chavez: 2-7, SO
Jackson: 2-5, HR, BB, 2 SO
Morales: 3-11, 5 SO
Morrison: 1-3, 2B
Seager: 1-5, 2B, 3 SO
LHB: .258/.372/.436, 8 HR
RHB: .259/.314/.379, 6 HR
Home: 3.36 ERA, 7 HR, .237 BAA
Road: 5.31 ERA, 7 HR, .278 BAA
Burnett has struggled since a strong April and has been battered something fierce in August — 10 earned runs in 13 2/3 innings. Burnett’s strike percentage is down in 2014 and he’s become somewhat predictable once he gets a batter to two strikes.
He throws a lot of curveballs — 46 percent — as he goes for the strikeout and nearly 50 percent of the time when ahead in the count. His four-seamer is no longer a swing-and-miss pitch and the 37-year-old throws a lot of sinkers to try and get early-count outs and to set up the plus breaking ball.
Burnett’s command is below average and he hasn’t started a game and avoided the walk since June 15 and has just two such outings all season.
Wednesday: James Paxton, LHP vs. Cole Hamels, LHP
Paxton has faced 21 left-handed batters this season. Eight of them have struck out, five have reached base safely and of the 100 pitches they have seen, Paxton has induced 27 swings and misses.
The rookie southpaw has stayed away from the base on balls enough that the three home runs he’s yielded haven’t hurt him much.
Paxton is sitting 94 mph with his four-seam fastball and he’s hit 95-plus regularly. His changeup has been useful and his curveball often a plus pitch but he’s pitching off his fastball very well — nearly 74 percent of pitches thrown have been four-seamers — with the breaking ball coming at about 17 percent of the time. He’s mixed in a few cutter-slider type pitches in the 87-89 mph range.
RHB: .214/.250/.417, 3 HR
Home: 3.18 ERA, 2 HR, .238 BAA
Road: 1.56 ERA, HR, .180 BAA
Scouting Cole Hamels
Four-seam Fastball (90-94 mph): 60
Cutter (87-90): 60
Curveball (77-79): 45
Changeup (64-67): 65
Hamels vs. Mariners
Ackley: 1-3, 3B, SO
Jackson: 1-4, 2B, 2 SO
Denorfia: 4-17, 2B, HR, BB, 4 SO
Morrison: 6-19, 2B, 3 BB, 2 SO
LHB: .220/.298/.284, HR
RHB: .232/.291/.352, 8 HR
Home: 3.28 ERA, 7 HR, .229 BAA
Road: 1.74 ERA, 2 HR, .230 BAA
Hamels may be having his best season despite just six wins in 22 starts — yep, wins is the stupidest statistics in determining how well a pitcher has performed … the STUPIDEST. Hamels’ 2.95 FIP ranks No. 6 in the NL this season, just behind Stephen Strasburg and Adam Wainwright and ahead of Zack Greinke and Madison Bumgarner.
The lefty is throwing tons of strikes, is commanding his fastball-curveball-changeup combo as well as ever and has stepped up his game in key situations. When batters sit on his fastball and changeup he’ll backdoor the curveball to lefties or use the cutter on the outer edge versus right-handed batters. He also can get in on right-handed batters with the cutter and will double-up on the pitch often.
Hamels doesn’t give up a lot of home runs and lefties have managed but five extra-base hits off him all year. Despite the changeup being his go-to pitch, the Mariners may stack right-handed batters in their lineup in this one.
Sandmeyer Says | Steve Sandmeyer, 1090 The Fan
It may not necessarily be a bad thing there are only 15 home games left on the Mariners schedule out of the remaining 39 games. The M’s continue to win on the road –- and score runs -– in addition to pitching lights out, in what could turn out to be a record-setting season on the mound. They may be short-handed without the DH in Philadelphia, but I like their chances in each game because of the pitching matchups.
I’m not sure quite what we’ll see out of Roenis Elias in the opener, but Jerome Williams, who opposes him, is having trouble getting big league hitters out. There will be ample opportunities for the M’s to score runs, DH or not. Game 2 features ‘Kuma, so you can pretty much be assured they’ll be in striking distance — if not have a lead — into the late stages in the middle game of the series. James Paxton gets the ball during the day (morning) game in Wednesday’s finale. I think he’s ready to go pitch for pitch against a fellow southpaw in Cole Hamels. I’m really looking forward to that matchup.
Pretty compelling how much the Mariners have gained on the American League West. They were 11 games back on August 2 — they’re only 5.5 games back two weeks later heading into this Philadelphia series. I’m not certain they’ll be able to overcome both the A’s and the Angels –- but anytime you’re within 5 1/2 games of the division lead in mid-August, it’s a nice carrot to dangle for sure.
Notebook | Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan
The Mariners have lined up their pitching rotation to keep Elias fresh, so the club’s top three will pitch in Boston before the club heads home. While the M’s are in Philly and Boston — two clubs they should beat four of six times minimum — their Wild Card rivals have it just as easy.
The Kansas City Royals finish a four-game set with the Twins Monday then head to Colorado and Texas with a day off Thursday. Before a weekend series versus the Twins, the Detroit Tigers visit Tampa, who hasn’t played very well since trading David Price to Motown.
The M’s division rivals are a different story this week. The Angels are in Boston for four games starting Monday night but then start a three-game set in Oakland Friday. Oakland hosts the Mets before the series versus the Halos.
The week’s schedule favors Seattle overall, though that will even out and then some in September. But the M’s need to beat the teams they should, and perhaps four of six isn’t good enough at this stage.
Key Stats | Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan
Since June 11, Robinson Cano has more extra-base hits (24) than strikeouts (23) and since July 1 the second baseman is batting .356/.444/.548 with 17 extra-base hits and just 12 strikeouts … Since August 2, DH Kendrys Morales is batting a respectable .264/.333/.415, including two doubles and two home runs … Removing a 1-for-12 series in Baltimore earlier this month, Kyle Seager’s road woes appear to be turning around. He collected four hits in 11 at-bats in Cleveland, went 4-for-9 in the final two games in Anaheim and went 4-for-11 in Detroit. Seager now is batting .219/.282/.348 on the road and .277/.345/.473 overall … The M’s offense has thrived since acquiring three players in July and are batting .263/.327/.402 in August and are plating five runs per game this month, No. 3 in the American League … Since posting a team ERA of 3.74 in April — No. 4 in the AL — and 3.56 in May — also No. 4 in the AL — the M’s have posted monthly ERAs of 2.53 and 2.57 and boast a 1.89 team ERA in August. For the more sabermetrically advanced, Seattle’s team FIP numbers for each month are as follows: 4.19, 3.89, 3.22 and 3.15, with August’s sitting at 2.79 entering the series in Philadelphia.
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