(1090 The Fan) — The Seattle Mariners (35-34) salvaged the series finale versus the Texas Rangers and open up a quick two-gamer with the San Diego Padres before heading south to face the Friars on the road and then to Kansas City to face the red hot Royals.

The M’s have yet to show some consistent offensive production at home, though Kyle Seager remains one of the exceptions highlighted by his four-hit, three-RBI day Sunday afternoon. The club has plated just 16 runs on the homestand (six games) and are averaging 3.34 runs per game at Safeco Field compared to 4.7 per contest on the road.

The Padres (29-40) could be the remedy but their Game 1 starter has been terrific this season and their bullpen is one of the best in baseball. San Diego brings the National League’s worst offense to the Emerald City, however, and enter play Monday batting .215/.276/.342 in 69 games.

The M’s lineup looks like a star-laden group compared to what the Padres are running out there regularly, especially with the struggles of Chase Headley (.206/.294/.350), Jedd Gyorko (.162/.213/270) and Yonder Alonso (.213/.254/.347) three of their better bats as recent as a year ago.

Seth Smith (.287/.397/.505) and Cameron Maybin (.283/.325/.416) have been the only consistent hitters for San Diego this season. Gyorko is on the 15-day disabled list and will not play in the series.

Pitching Matchups | Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan
Monday: Chris Young, RHP vs. Tyson Ross, RHP
Chris Young’s magic has run out but he’s still battling and giving the Mariners a chance to win every start. When he throws strikes he’s a solid No. 5 starter and when he has his command and his better slider he’ll miss just enough bats to counter his fly ball tendencies and overall lack of velocity.

This will be the first time Young has faced his former team and current Padres batters have logged just nine plate appearances against him lifetime.

Scouting Tyson Ross
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 (91-95 mph) : 55
Two-seam Fastball (91-93) : 50
Slider (84-87) : 60
Cutter (92-94) : 50
Changeup (84-86) : 40
Control: 45
Command: 45

Ross has been the Padres best starter this season, compiling 88 innings of well above-average work, including a 8.59 K/9 and a 3.19 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) mark.

The 27-year-old is a tough customer when he keeps the ball down and spots his two-seamer off the middle of the plate, or out of the strike zone. He tends to pitch up in the zone, partly by design but also due to his upright delivery. He lands on a stiff front leg and often cuts himself off from finishing pitches.

When that occurs, Ross leaves pitches up and his slider stays in the zone. When he has his release point, however, the two-seamer is a weapon and he induces ground balls at a high rate — 61.1 percent — throwing from a high arm slot — think ‘Joel Pineiro.’

His strikeout pitch is a two-plane slider that he buries down and in on left-handed batters. He’s learned to play that slider off the two-seamer to right-handed batters, very much the way M’s right-hander Danny Farquhar is doing this season.

Ross will walk batters — 3.38 per nine, one of the worst marks among NL starters — but he does a good job of keeping the ball in the ballpark.

Ross has had a much tougher time versus right-handed batters this season — .272/.328/.444 — than lefties — .195/.286/.239 — which doesn’t bode well for the M’s lefty-heavy lineup, so perhaps Lloyd McClendon will counter his lineup to that and not simply based on handedness.

Tuesday: Roenis Elias, LHP vs. Eric Stults, LHP
Elias’ worst start as a big leaguer came last time out versus the Yankees when he allowed six earned runs in 3 1/3 innings. He walked three and served up a long ball, both problems which have been trending for the lefty in games he struggles some.

The stuff is still above-average, but for Elias to put it to work he has to stay down more consistently and avoid the middle of the plate to right-handed batters. It’s imperative he gets ahead and doesn’t create too many hitter’s counts so he can go to the curveball and not have to try to throw it for a strike.

Lucky for the M’s and their rookie, the Padres, who are offensively challenged as it is, are especially handcuffed versus southpaws, managing a paltry .203/.279/.319 against them this season.

Scouting Eric Stults
Four-seam Fastball (86-89 mph): 45
Two-seam Fastball (83-86): 40
Slider (78-81): 40
Curveball (66-69): 40
Changeup (78-81): 50
Control: 60
Command: 45

Stults still is learning to pitch with below-average velocity. He came into the league sitting 89-91 mph and now is living 86-89, which changes the way he sets up and uses his secondary pitches.

He pounds the strike zone early in counts to get ahead, doesn’t walk batters– 1.8 per nine innings — and he likes to use the slow curveball in fastball counts because he can throw it for strikes with regularity.

Stults isn’t going to pile up the strikeouts and he has had issues keeping the ball down and in the yard this season — 13 home runs allowed.

He’s faced the Mariners just a few times in his career with current M’s batters 5-for-17 off him.

Sandmeyer Says | Steve Sandmeyer, 1090 The Fan
We’ve been saying all year long that the Mariner roller-coaster won’t slow down any time soon. Going a season-high five games over .500 followed by a five game losing streak is simply the latest story of a baseball team hovering around mediocrity. Get used to it. There will be a ton of these ebb and flows the rest of the season involving a team that can pitch, but can’t hit.

The M’s have a good week in front of them in terms of their schedule. A quick two-gamer at home against San Diego — then a road pair against he Padres in San Diego — followed by a three-game series at Kansas City. These teams are by no means world beaters. Again, in the up-and-down theme of this season, I wouldn’t be surprised if the M’s went on a fairly decent run — wining two or three against the Padres and maybe a couple against Kansas City this weekend.

With the Padres in town tonight, my thoughts are with Tony Gwynn’s family after hearing about his passing — specifically Mariners Director of Player Development Chris Gwynn. As a boy, the first hitter I ever watched closely was Tony Gwynn as he went through his paces in Cactus League play. I am 41 now. He is still the greatest hitter I’ve ever seen. I did not have the privilege to cover him professionally, but ask anyone who did, and they will tell you he was even a better person than baseball player — which says it all.

Key Notes | Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan
While the M’s continue to struggle offensively at home it’s not because of Seager, who is 6-for-8 in his last two games to continue his onslaught at Safeco Field … The M’s have a threesome of hitters performing well in June. Robinson Cano is batting .327/.421/.449 for the month, Seager is up to .281/.317/.474 and John Buck is 7-for-18 (.389/.389/.556) with a home run … M’s relievers lead the American League in WA (0.8)R, HR/9 (0.24), Left On Base percentage (88.2), ERA (1.19) and walks per nine innings (2.15) and rank No. 2 in FIP (2.29) No. 4 in strikeouts per nine (9.08) … The M’s boast three starters that ranking in the top 13 in the AL in batting average against. Felix Hernandez ranks No. 5 (.219), Young ranks No. 7 (.222) and Elias ranks No. 13 with a .239 opponents batting average.

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