SEATTLE MARINERS BABY STEPS:
The 2010 Mariners had one weapon, pitcher Felix Hernandez (aka King Felix) who barely brought relief every fifth day behind a dead offense. Considering King Felix took home the 2010 CY Young Award, pitched 250 innings in total, with a 2.27 ERA and only finished with a 13-12 record explains just how bad things were going in Seattle.
This season the Mariners offense, while not comparable to the Yankees line-up, has slightly improved and I guess they have Cliff Lee to thank for that.
When the Mariners traded Lee to the Texas Rangers, they acquired rookie first baseman Justin Smoak. After a mediocre 2010, the 24-year-old Smoak seems to be developing posting a .263 batting average, with six home-runs and 24 RBIs.
The Mariners have such quality pitching they can get away with less stellar bats and still be a decent team, but they are still a bat or two away from being a playoff team. Even with Smoak providing some life to the line-up, he is still a season or two away from making a real impact.
Seattle still gives up a ton of runs, as the offense has the third lowest batting average in baseball with a .232; have the fifth lowest RBIs total with 170; are tied with Oakland for last place with just 27 home-runs on the season.
Still, for a team that finished with the worst record in baseball, 61-101 to be a game away from sitting at .500 is a marked improvement. The Mariners are not the same blasé opponents because if the pitching can shut down an opposing line-up, and if their little step forward offensively can score a few runs they can beat you.
MICHAEL PINEDA VS. AJ BURNETT:
Michael Pineda is a 22-year-old, right-handed rookie who is as tall as CC Sabathia and has been outstanding in his debut season.
The youngster has a 6-2 over nine starts; he is posting a 2.16 ERA, allowing 41 hits, 15 earned runs, three home-runs, walking 14 batters and fanning 61, in just over 58 innings pitched.
Pineda has pitched six innings minimum in all nine starts. Pineda’s last two starts were his most impressive, as he pitched seven solid, giving up no earned runs, allowing just one walk and striking out 16 batters. Mind you it was against the Twins, and Padres, who are two of the worst performing teams in baseball but Pineda won both the outings, and that is what counts.
Overall, Pineda is turning into a future ace very quickly and the Mariners would not be hanging on in the AL West without his young arm.
The Seattle Times reported that the Mariners do have Pineda on an innings limit, which most think is somewhere between 160-170 but skipper Eric Wedge stated that the number will not change pending on how the team is doing.
It is no secret that I have been watching this kid from the beginning, as in a recent post about Pineda as a trade option brought on a lot of angry comments from Seattle fans. I still think it would work for both teams, but that is for another day.
The Yankees will counter with AJ Burnett, who has been good this season.
Burnett’s mental game has vastly improved, as he doesn’t implode after giving a hit or a home-run like in the past because he seems to have more control.
Burnett is 5-3, with a 4.02 ERA so far in 2011.
Assessing Burnett it is pretty easy, he is a veteran that knows what he needs to do and with as weak an offense as the Mariners have; he should not have a problem holding them.
The Yankees will look for him to go deep into the game. This is something he has been doing this season, as he has gone minimum six innings over his last 10 starts.
Comparing the two teams line-ups is purposeless, with the Bombers leading baseball in home-runs with 75 and RBIs with 244 and the Mariners posting the lowest in home-runs with 27 and fifth worst in RBIs with 170.
The Mariners only scored five runs in their last two games and their decent walk rate has tumbled as well, which is not good heading into any series.
In this game, the Yankees have not seen Pineda ever, which could work very much so in the Mariners favor, as the hardest hitting team is known to get stunned by new arms in the past.
Burnett should have no problem keeping the Mariners bats at bay, even if he is not at his best and the Yankees line-up would only need to produce minimal run support.
This game should be interesting and really is one the Yankees need to win before they face King Felix on Saturday, who is a tough and pitching very well.
My prediction is the opposite of ESPN’s who claims the Mariners “are solid favorites to beat the New York Yankees”. Pineda’s two May losses were against the Orioles and the Rangers, the two games he gave up three home-runs in to all lefty batters.
My bet is the Yankees beat the Mariners 5-1.
- Weekend preview: Power pitching vs. power hitting in Seattle (aol.sportingnews.com)
- Chuck Stark: Thanks to starters, it hasn’t been a bad start for M’s, huh? (kitsapsun.com)
- Felix Hernandez pleased with Mariners (aol.sportingnews.com)
- Mariners should consider moving Brendan Ryan up into the No. 2 spot (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- You: Felix Hernandez Trade Speculation: Enough with the Nonsense! (bleacherreport.com)
- Pineda pitches, kicks M’s to 5-2 win over Twins (kitsapsun.com)
- Game 49 (dmcnic.wordpress.com)