(1090 The Fan) — Baseball is a funny game. A team can get swept by one of the worst teams in baseball on the road after dominating the same team at home just hours prior, lose the faith of much of an already-abbreviated fan base, then sweep the hottest team in baseball on the road by beating their ace and getting frontline performances from two back-end arms.
That’s what happened the Seattle Mariners (40-36) over the past five days, but the club is back at Safeco Field where they look to continue a three-game winning streak overall as well as at home.
The Boston Red Sox (35-41) are perhaps the most baffling and disappointing team in baseball this season. The defending World Series champs aren’t doing much of anything well these days. They’re No. 13 in the American League in batting average and runs scored per game, and while the pitching has been solid all-around, the starters haven’t done the job.
Pitching Matchups | Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan
Monday: Felix Hernandez, RHP vs. John Lackey, RHP
Hernandez has had an unbelievable June, posting a 1.23 ERA, 0.73 FIP, 11.97 K/9 and 0.92 BB/9 in four starts. He’s induced 64.5 percent ground balls and has tallied a 1.7 fWAR. That’s just in June alone. The King’s 1.7 fWAR in June would rank No. 27 in all of baseball — for the entire season. Think about that. Now try not to laugh at how absurd that is.
The M’s ace is not a welcomed sight for the Red Sox, either. Not only has he dominated Boston in his career, he’s been awfully tough on the majority of the current Sox roster.
Hernandez vs. Red Sox
David Ross: 0-4, SO
A.J. Pierzynski: 9-40 (.225), 3-2B, HR, 2 BB, 9 SO
Dustin Pedroia: 10-37 (.270), 2B, HR, 4 BB, 6 SO
David Ortiz: 10-31 (.323), 2B, HR, 6 BB, 7 SO
Daniel Nava: 3-14, 2B, 0 BB, 3 SO
Mike Napoli: 6-36 (.167), 2-2B, HR, 6 BB, 14 SO
Brock Holt: 1-5, BB
Jonny Gomes: 3-14, 2 BB, 6 SO
LHB: .229/.268/.292, HR
RHB: .196/.232/.279, 2 HR
Home: 2.44 ERA, HR, .201 BAA
Road: 2.04 ERA, 2 HR, .225 BAA
Scouting John Lackey
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 (90-94 mph) : 50
Two-seam Fastball (90-93) : 55
Slider (83-86) : 55
Curveball (77-80): 45
Changeup (84-86) : 40
Lackey, 35, is one of the more underrated starters in baseball and he’s actually throwing harder than he has in nearly 10 years, averaging 92 on the gun when he goes to the four-seam fastball.
He’s still very much about his entire repertoire, setting up the curveball and slider with a two-seamer and finding ways to use the changeup in fastball counts. Lackey will attack both sides of the plate and while he does look to stay down in the zone, he will challenge hitters up and out of the zone.
He pitches inside effectively and keeps the ball in the ballpark.
Lackey vs. Mariners
Dustin Ackley: 4-9, BB, SO
Willie Bloomquist: 5-15, SO
John Bucks: 3-9, 2B, HR, 3 SO
Robinson Cano: 17-55 (.309), 8-2B, 3 BB, 6 SO
Endy Chavez: 8-13, 2B, 2 SO
Brad Miller: 1-3, BB
Jesus Montero: 1-1, 2B, BB
Kyle Seager: 2-5, 2B
LHB: .242/.273/.381, 5 HR
RHB: .263/.298/.371, 3 HR
Home: 2.77 ERA, 2 HR, .251 BAA
Road: 3.24 ERA, 6 HR, .252 BAA
Tuesday: Erasmo Ramirez, RHP vs. Jake Peavy, RHP
Ramirez has found his raw stuff the past three starts; the bite has been back on his slider, his changeup is sinking like an eight-ball in Lake Erie and it’s fading away from left-handed batters.
He’s throwing enough strikes but he’s issued 11 bases on balls to counter the 12 strikeouts. The key, however, is batters haven’t been able to square him up as much as earlier in the season.
To get through the Red Sox lineup three-plus times, Ramirez is going to need to avoid the big mistake and cut down on the walks as he did in San Diego. His two-seamer is key to getting ahead and perhaps missing some bats with his slider to neutralize the Sox’s right-handed bats.
If he’s got the good changeup again, Ramirez should give the Mariners a chance to win, despite the disadvantage at starting pitcher.
Ramirez vs. Red Sox
Carp: 0-0, BB
Stephen Drew: 0-3, BB, 3 SO
Gomes: 1-3, 2 SO
Napoli: 0-0, BB
Ortiz: 0-2, 2 BB, SO
Pedroia: 1-4, 2 SO
Pierzynski: 1-5, 2B
LHB: .269/.365/.417, 4 HR
RHB: .263/.330/.513, 5 HR
Home: 3.38 ERA, 3 HR, .200 BAA
Road: 5.23 ERA, 6 HR, .293 BAA
Scouting Jake Peavy
Four-seam Fastball (88-82 mph): 50
Two-seam Fastball (88-92): 40
Cutter (85-87): 50
Slider (81-84): 45
Curveball (78-81): 45
Changeup (81-84): 45
Peavy is but a shell of his old self when he was winning a Cy Young in San Diego and posting above league-average numbers across the board until injuries took his velocity, some arm speed and bite on his breaking ball.
In 2014, Peavy has struggled to keep the ball in the yard and throw strikes consistently. He’s gone into the seventh inning or later in four of his last five starts but has allowed nearly a base runner and a half per inning and his pitch counts can get high early.
Peavy vs. Mariners
Ackley: 4-8, 2-2B, 2 BB, 2 SO
Bloomquist: 0-3, SO
Buck: 3-9, 2 HR, BB, SO
Cano: 5-12, 2-2B, HR, 2 SO
Chavez: 5-14, 2B, 3B, 2 SO
Montero: 1-6, 2B, SO
Seager: 3-11, 2B, HR, SO
LHB: .249/.335/.443, 9 HR
RHB: .295/.342/.477, 5 HR
Home: 3.91 ERA, 7 HR, .269 BAA
Road: 5.23 ERA, 7 HR, .274 BAA
Wednesday: Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP vs. TBA
Iwakuma struggled late in his start at Kansas City and Boston has touched him up for seven earned runs on 16 hits in 8 2/3 innings over two starts.
At home, Iwakuma can pitch up in the zone a little more, use the curveball with more confidence and he’s probably going to need his entire tool box, including his typical command, to hold the Sox at bay.
Iwakuma vs. Red Sox
Jackie Bradley, Jr.: 0-2, SO
Carp: 0-3, SO
Drew: 2-4, BB
Holt: 1-4, 2B
Napoli: 1-4, HR, BB, SO
Nava: 0-2, SO
Ortiz: 2-5, 2B. HR. 2 SO
Pedroia: 2-5, HR
Pierzynski: 4-12, SO
As of the weekend, the Red Sox had yet to decide on their starter for the series finale, but it appears right-hander Clay Buchholz is set to come off the 15-day disabled list to get the ball.
Sandmeyer Says | Steve Sandmeyer, 1090 The Fan
The Mariners up-and-down season continued with a sweep at Kansas City, who just happened to be the hottest team in baseball heading into last weekend. After the games in San Diego, it’s safe to say nobody saw that coming. But these are the 2014 Mariners, and if we’ve learned anything at all it’s to expect the unexpected. As for the Boston set, it’s always a plus to have both Felix and ‘Kuma start in the same series against this caliber of team. Sure, the Red Sox are underachieving to this point, but it’s only a matter of time before they start moving up the AL East standings.
Fernando Rodney went from iffy closer to All-Star candidate in a span of about a month and a half. He is 10 for his last 10 save opportunities and is holding opponents to a .168 average (8 for 48). He has also walked just two batters during that span. It’s a good thing when “The Fernando Rodney Experience” involves routine saves with the side being retired in order. The dude is easy to poke fun at — but he has simply been automatic over the past six weeks. Credit to him.
The last time the Mariners reached 40 wins in a season this early was 2007. But that doesn’t mean much when you consider the team was 43-43 after 86 games in 2011 — before losing a franchise record 17 games in a row. I’m not predicting a similar outcome for this year’s team — rather pointing out we’re not even halfway through this season. It’s nice to be four games over .500 — but it means absolutely nothing right now. The AL West appears to have a couple of power brokers in Oakland and a steadily rising Los Angeles Angels squad. Some of the other teams in the American League are awakening in both the Central and East divisions as well. This thing has barely begun to take shape.
Happy Felix Day. Go M’s.
Key Notes | Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan
Perhaps the most important recent trend for the Seattle Mariners is the turnaround of shortstop Brad Miller. Miller is batting .323 in June with five extra-base hits and six walks, and enters play Monday looking to set a new career high hitting streak, currently at seven games. Miller also cleaned up his defense, committing just one error since May 17 and making several above-average plays laterally … The M’s relief corps is among the very best in the game, leading the AL in ERA (2.74, which would be a team record) and in a three-way tie for the lead in FIP (3.31) with division-leading Oakland and the incoming Red Sox … The M’s team wOBA (weighted on-base average) is .305 in June, up from .292 in May and .291 in March/April. Weighted On-Base Average measures the ability of a player to produce value to his team with the bat. As a team, the 14-point uptick over the first few months of the season is quite large. Still, .305 is near the bottom of the league, strongly suggesting the club needs help.
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