(1090 The Fan) — The Seattle Mariners welcome the Texas Rangers to Safeco Field looking to bounce back from being swept by the New York Yankees.

The M’s are 4-5 versus their division rivals this season and are 20-18 overall versus the American League West. Seattle has not scored runs at home, however, which has led to a disappointing 14-18 record at The Safe.

Still, the Mariners are 34-32 for the year, six games back of the division-leading Oakland Athletics and one game back in the loss column in the Wild Card race, behind the Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Angels.

Pitching Matchups | Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan
Friday: Felix Hernandez, RHP vs. Nick Tepesch, RHP
Hernandez has been absurd in his last five starts, yielding just six earned runs in 38 2/3 innings. He’s compiled a 46-5 strikeouts-to-walks ratio in that span and has had all of his pitches working and with command in each start.

The Rangers, or any other lineup, have no chance if Hernandez commands his entire arsenal — sinking two-seamer, four-seamer, curveball, slider, changeup — which takes pressure off a struggling Seattle offense that is averaging 3.3 runs per game at Safeco Field.

Tepesch has been serviceable and not much more, though he has been nearly a full run per nine innings better on the road than at hitter-friendly Globe Life Park. Left-handed batters have torched Tepesch to the tune of a .318/.403/.530 triple-slash, suggesting Lloyd McClendon may stack his lineup accordingly.

Robinson Cano (2-for-3, 2B, HR), Kyle Seager (5-for-10, 3-2B) and even the right-handed hitting Jesus Montero (3-for-4) has had success verus Tepesch.

Tepesch’s Pitches
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
Sinker (89-90) : 50
Slider (83-85) : 55
Curveball (76-78) : 40
Changeup (83-85) : 35
Control: 45
Command: 45

Saturday: Erasmo Ramirez, RHP vs. Joe Saunders, LHP
Ramirez had control problems last time out — five walks — but did strike out five and held the Tampa Bay Rays scoreless on four hits over 4 2/3 innings. Barring a last-minute change, he’ll start in Game 2 of the series versus the Rangers

I noted here that Ramirez’s arm slot has dropped a bit, which could lead to command issues, a lack of downward action on his slider and the flattening out of his changeup.

His release point was even lower in Tampa so it does not appear the Mariners feel this is problem — or they have no clue it’s occurred. Choose your own adventure.

Saunders is a command-and-feel lefty who has had a lot of success at Safeco Field — earning him the nickname Safeco Joe. He’s a fly ball machine, does not miss bats the way he did three years ago and isn’t throwing as many strikes in his four starts this season.

Saunders is allowing an overall line of .326/.402/.442 and lefties are batting .346 off him. He uses the changeup a lot — 20 percent a year ago, 15 percent in 2014 — and is using the two-seamer a lot more than in year’s past.

Saunders’ pitches
Four-seam Fastball (88-91 mph) : 45
Two-seam Fastball (88-91) : 45
Slider (82-84) : 40
Curveball (74-76) : 50
Changeup (81-83) : 45
Control: 45
Command: 45

Sunday: Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP vs. Nick Martinez, RHP
Iwakuma continues his pound-the-zone-with-nothing-straight approach and he was strong last time out versus the Yankees, despite getting the loss.

He has had problems with Adrian Beltre (10-for-25, 2B, 3 HR) but he’s handled the Rangers otherwise. Texas is a little more right-handed now with Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland out with injuries, so look for the right-handed Iwakuma to go back to his slider a little more than he sis versus the Yankees, particularly with two strikes.

Martinez, 23, is a four-pitch right-hander with a minor league track record of throwing strikes and missing enough bats to cover up his tendency to catch larger portions of the plate and induce fly balls.

He’s made seven starts for the big club this year with mixed results. He’s issues three or more walks in six starts, including in each of his last two. He was roughed up by the Cleveland Indians June 9 and the home run ball has bitten him eight times in 46 2/3 innings.

Martinez’s Pitches
Four-seam Fastball (89-92 mph): 45
Two-seam Fastball (89-91): 50
Cutter (87-89): 45
Slider (83-86): 40
Curveball (75-77): 45
Changeup (81-84): 40
Control: 50
Command: 45

Sandmeyer Says | Steve Sandmeyer, 1090 The Fan
Mediocre baseball teams have seasons like these. They go on losing streaks, pull themselves back to relevance with a nice stretch of games, then turn around get swept at home. It happens (to mediocre baseball teams). It’s a concept Mariners fans better warm up to pretty soon or they’ll likely end up pulling their hair out trying to figure these guys out. A good rule of thumb –- and a fitting one based on the current talent on the current roster: It’s never quite as bad as it seems, and it’s never quite as good as it seems.”

I’m curious how guys like Logan Morrison will do in the absence of Justin Smoak –- and how that might impact things once Smoak (and Michael Saunders for that matter) comes back from the disabled list. Clearly, Smoak wasn’t giving the team anything before he was hurt –- but Saunders was hitting pretty well until he tweaked his shoulder. Don’t look now, but Brad Miller is starting to hit – going 12 of his last 41 for a .293 average with 6 runs, a double, a triple, a home run and 5 RBI over his last 13 games.

Kyle Seager will rake –- because that’s what he does against Texas – with a .573 career slugging percentage against the Ran-gers. Jesus Montero will be in the lineup against our old buddy Safeco Joe (Saunders) on Saturday night. If the Mariners can somehow keep winning games in which Erasmo Ramirez starts (which is miraculous), the remaining games in the home stand are ripe for the picking; a series against Texas with both Felix and Kuma pitching the bookend games – then two against a light hitting San Diego team. Plenty of chances to salvage things after being swept by the Yankees.

Key Notes | Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan
Felix Hernandez has a 0.15 ERA with the bases empty this season — that’s one earned runs in what equates to 59 innings of work. That’s what happens when you don’t give up the home run ball … Opposing batters are hitting just .129 when King Felix is ahead in the count … Left-hander Joe Beimel has not allowed a run in his past 12 appearances spanning 10 1/3 innings. Fellow lefty Charlie Furbush is up to 10 1/3 innings with just one earned run allowed. He’s struck out 12 during that span with just two bases on balls … Cano continues to rake, home, away, day, night, versus lefties, versus righties, you name it. The star second baseman is batting .370 since May 5 and enters play Friday as the American League’s top hitter at .333. He also is the owner of a .387 OBP for the year and is slugging just under .500 since the second week of May.

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