(1090 The Fan) — The Seattle Mariners (49-43) have the tough task of getting back on track against baseball’s best team, the 58-34 Oakland Athletics.

The club has lined up their best three starters to face the A’s, starting with a gem Friday night.

Pitching Matchups | Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan
Friday: Felix Hernandez, RHP vs. Jeff Samardzija, RHP
Hernandez has been the game’s best pitcher in 2014 and there are endless reasons why. It all starts with his command, however, and it foes further than the fastball.

The King is generating ground balls at a career-best rate of 54 percent with not only his sinker (43.9 %), but his slider (74.2), curveball (61.3) and changeup (71.3). And speaking of that changeup, opponents are batting .097 with a .129 slugging percentage when Felix hurls the 88-90 mph split-like pitch. When offered at, Felix’s changeup is inducing a swing-and-miss rate of nearly 47 percent.

Yeah, that’s good.

Hernandez vs. Athletics
Alberto Callaspo: 14-47 (.298), 2B, HR, 3 BB, 6 SO
Yoenis Cespedes: 6-30 (.20), 2B, 10 SO
Coco Crisp: 15-63 (.238), 2B, 3B, 4 BB, 13 SO
Josh Donaldson: 4-23 (.174), 2B, 2 BB, 8 SO
Craig Gentry: 1-5, 2B, SO
John Jaso: 4-14, 2B, BB, 2 SO
Jed Lowrie: 6-28 (.214), 2B, 7 SO
Brandon Moss: 9-29 (.310), 2B, 3B, HR, 10 SO
Derek Norris: 0-5, BB, 3 SO
Eric Sogard: 5-23 (.217), 2 BB, SO
Stephen Vogt: 0-2

Hernandez Splits:
LHB: .206/.249/.265, HR
RHB: .194/.225/.291, 3 HR
Home: 2.16 ERA, 2 HR, .187 BAA
Road: 2.07 ERA, 2 HR, .213 BAA

Scouting Jeff Samardzija
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 (93-97 mph): 60
Two-seam Fastball (93-96): 60
Cutter (91-94): 55
Slider (84-86): 60
Splitter (84-87): 55
Control: 55
Command: 55

Samardzija vs. Mariners
Dustin Ackley: 1-3
Willie Bloomquist: 3-6, SO
Robinson Cano: 1-1, 2B
Endy Chavez: 0-3, 3 BB
Corey Hart: 3-13, 2B, BB, 3 SO
Brad Miller: 0-4, SO
Logan Morrison: 3-9, HR, 4 BB, SO
Kyle Seager: 0-3, 2 SO
Mike Zunino: 1-3, 2B
Justin Smoak: 1-3, HR

Samardzija Splits
LHB: .253/.319/.397, 5 HR
RHB: .231/.284/.325, 2 HR
Home: 2.14 ERA, 4 HR, .212 BAA
Away: 3.59 ERA, 3 HR, .279 BAA

Samardzija is one of the better right-handers in baseball and is having his best season at age 29. The former Notre Dame wide receiver is throwing more two-seamers this season and continues to mix the cutter and changeup into fastball counts.

Samardzija Has two strikeout offerings; one, a mid-80s split-changeup and the other a mid-80s slider that is key to his dominance versus right-handed batters but he’ll backdoor it against lefties.

His four-seamer can reach 97-98 mph with late life up in the zone, and he’ll climb the ladder with it effectively.

Saturday: Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP vs. Jesse Chavez, RHP
Iwakuma rebounded from a couple of poor outings to toss two quality games, including last time out versus the Twins. The A’s present a much stronger lineup, however, but at the same time Iwakuma has tamed that group, particularly at Safeco Field.

Iwakuma vs. Athletics
Callaspo: 2-15, BB, 2 SO
Cespedes: 8-18, 4-2B, 3 HR, 5 SO
Crisp: 3-16, 2B, 2 HR
Donaldson: 2-17, 2B, 5 SO
Gentry: 3-6, SO
Jaso: 2-6, 3 BB, 2 SO
Lowrie: 3-12, 2B, 3B, HR, 2 SO
Moss: 2-15, HR, 2 RBI, 6 SO
Sogard: 4-10, 2-2B, BB
Vogt: 0-2, SO

Iwakuma Splits
LHB: .306/.314/.435, 5 HR
RHB: .198/.225/.315, 5 HR
Home: 2.93 ERA, 6 HR, .242 BAA
Road: 3.31 ERA, 4 HR, .272 BAA

Scouting Jesse Chavez
Four-seam Fastball (89-92 mph): 55
Two-seam Fastball (89-91): 55
Cutter (87-90): 55
Curveball (74-76): 40
Changeup (83-85: 55
Control: 60
Command: 55

Chavez vs. Mariners
Ackley: 3-6, B, SO
Cano 3-8, BB, 2 SO
Seager: 0-5, 3 BB, 2 SO
Chavez: 1-2, 2B
Hart: 2-10, 3 SO
Jones: 2-3
Miller: 1-6
Smoak: 2-9, 2B, BB, 2 SO
Zunino: 1-4, 2B

Chavez Splits
LHB: .258/.325/.344, 5 HR
RHB: .233/.286/.355, 4 HR
Home: 2.13 ERA, 3 HR, .219 BAA
Road: 3.86 ERA, 6 HR, .271 BAA

Chavez beat Seattle in April with six strong innings but the M’s beat the converted reliever May 6 with Justin Smoak collecting two hits and a key run-scoring double early.

Chavez has the good changeup, but it’s been inconsistent at times and in those instances he struggles some versus left-handed batters. Look for Lloyd McClendon to construct his lineup accordingly.

Sunday: Chris Young, RHP vs. Sonny Gray, RHP
Young continues to defy all logic, including BABIP, pitching well yet again last time out versus the Minnesota Twins. In his past two outings, Young has struck out 14 over 14 frames and yielded just eight hits.

The concern is that Young is a severe fly ball pitcher — 43 against just seven ground balls over his past three starts — and at some point the home run rate likely will increase and some of them will come with runners on base.

Missing bats can be the equalizer, and he’s done that well of late.

Young vs. Athletics
Callaspo: 0-4, BB
Cespedes: 0-3, BB, SO
Crisp: 2-12, 3 SO
Donaldson: 1-6, SO
Gentry: 0-2
Jaso: 1-5, BB
Lowrie: 1-3
Moss: 2-6, HR, BB, SO
Sogard: 0-4

Young Splits
LHB: .222/.300/.398, 8 HR
RHB: .189/.249/.354, 7 HR
Home: 2.24 ERA, 5 HR, .185 BAA
Road: 4.04 ERA, 10 HR, .233 BAA

Scouting Sonny Gray
Four-seam Fastball (92-96 mph): 55
Two-seam Fastball (91-94): 60
Slider (84-87): 50
Curveball (79-82) 55
Changeup (85-87): 55
Control: 50
Command: 50

Gray vs. Mariners
Ackley: 2-8, 2B, 2 SO
Cano: 2-6, 2B, SO
Miller: 4-12, 2 SO
Seager: 1-10, 2 BB, 2 SO
Zunino: 1-4, SO
Morrison: 1-6, SO

Gray Splits
LHB: .213/.289/.299, 4 HR
RHB: .250/.310/.348, 3 HR
Home: 3.01 ERA, 4 HR, .255 BAA
Road: 2.91 ERA, 3 HR, .186 BAA

Gray had a tough month of June but has his fastball command back this month and when he avoids the base on balls he’s about as good a right-hander in the American League right now.

Gray wants to get ahead with his fastball but can throw his curveball and changeup for strikes. He’s anything but predictable and will attack all quadrants of the zone and tease right-handed batters with sliders away.

Sandmeyer Says | Steve Sandmeyer, 1090 The Fan
The up-and-down nature of the Mariner offense has led to the up-and-down fan reaction toward the team in general, which is vastly entertaining. If you’re bored, go on Twitter or into any given fan blog game thread during an M’s game. Quality entertainment.

Let’s clear up a few things. Number one, Felix will be making his third straight start with an extra day of rest. Moving him back was not an alarming move. He is on pace for 260 innings this season. The team wants to give him extra days when they can. Their rationale for moving him back was sound. It also sets him up for a throw day Tuesday (All-Star Game) then standard rest before the Angels series next weekend in Anaheim. It did not jeopardize the team in any way.

Secondly, the decision to send Taijuan Walker down was also savvy, considering it will allow him to be on his regular throwing schedule to and through the All-Star Break. Finally, by moving Kuma to Walker’s spot, it allows Chris Young to pitch Sunday, and avoid what would have been potentially 12 days in between starts for the tall right-hander.

Listen, I’m as big of a critic of the Mariners as anyone but blasting Lloyd McClenson or the team for making sound decisions in advance of the break is just plain ignorant.

Blasting the offense for lack of punch and/or quality ABs? Fire away.

Every hitter on that team should watch video of Robinson Cano’s at bat in the seventh inning last night. He falls behind 0-2, fouls off couple of pitches, battles the count even at 2-2, fouls off another couple of pitches, then hits a bullet off Dozier’s glove for an infield single. Cano’s ability to protect the strike zone, fight off pitches, not get defensive with two strikes, and still look for pitches to handle is a thing of beauty.

Key Stats| Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan
Cano is on another tear in July, batting .389/.463/.500 with as many walks as strikeouts in nine games this month… One hitter whose numbers do not tell the story of his performance is Morrison, whose line drive rate is over 25 percent since he returned from the disabled list a month ago… As good as it appears Jones has been batting at the top of the order, there’s still very little on-base percentage included despite a solid batting average. The top two batters in the order have produced a .286 on-base percentage this season, and it hasn’t improved much with Jones and Chavez being inserted into the lineup… Saturday’s starter, Iwakuma, has not walked a batter in his past two starts and he boasts a 43-4 K/BB ratio since June 1.

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