SB Nation Blog
The opponent in one sentence
The Mariners came into the season with relatively high expectations but have turned in one of the most disappointing starts to the year largely thanks to one of the worst pitching staffs in the league.
Down. The Mariners did win their series finale against the Nationals on Thursday, but prior to that they were losers of five straight. They also only scored one run in each of those five games. As we saw in the series against the Rangers, trends aren’t always super meaningful but hopefully the Red Sox can continue this trend for Seattle.
5/26: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Yovani Gallardo, 7:10 PM ET
As has been mentioned here and elsewhere approximately 6,000,000 times this season, Rodriguez is experiencing a breakout in 2017. Yes, it started late last season but there’s something different about him this year. He took another step forward his last time out, finding the efficiency that has eluded him for much of his major-league career. He threw only 98 pitches in eight innings of work while managing to strike out eight Athletics. If he can continue to be that efficient, he may be even better than he’s looked to start the season.
Gallardo was once one of the more underrated pitchers in the game when he was with the Brewers, but he’s lost that title over the last few years. Now in his first season with Seattle, he’s still the same, mediocre arm. He doesn’t get very many strikeouts, he can lose his control at time and he has some problems with the long ball. Put it all together and it’s led to a 5.84 ERA with peripherals that don’t paint a much prettier picture. His last start was particularly painful as he allowed ten runs in 3 2⁄3 innings of work against the White Sox. Gallardo will feature a low-to-mid-90s fastball, a high-80s slider and a low-80s curveball.
5/27: TBD vs. TBD, 4:05 PM ET
What a pitching matchup in this one! Although the starters are not yet official, we seem to have a good idea of who will start for both sides. For the Red Sox, it would be a major upset to see anyone besides Brian Johnson on the mound. It will be the lefty’s second major-league start of the season and his first at Fenway since 2015. He doesn’t have huge upside and all things considered the team is better off when he’s in Triple-A, but he’s shown an ability to at least keep the team in the game.
For the Mariners, the likely starter is Casey Lawrence. At least, that is who is going to get the start according to ESPN’s schedule. If you’ve never heard of the righty, you’re not alone. Lawrence made his major-league debut with the Blue Jays earlier this year before being claimed off waivers by the Mariners a couple weeks ago. He has an 8.10 ERA in 16 2⁄3 innings this year while allowing more walks than strikeouts. He’s primarily a sinker/changeup guy and doesn’t induce a ton of whiffs with either offering.
5/28: Rick Porcello vs. Christian Bergman, 1:35 PM ET
Porcello just can’t seem to find a groove in the Red Sox rotation this season, toeing the line around average all year long. His last time out, against Texas, Porcello did manage to throw 6 2⁄3 innings but he allowed five runs (four earned) on eleven hits and only struck out four. He’s only allowed a walk in one of his five May starts, but thanks to poor defense, bad luck and hard contact he’s had trouble limiting opponents’ hits. The thing to watch for this time out will be his command around the edges of the zone.
Bergman has only made three starts for the Mariners this season, plus one relief appearance, but the former Rockie hasn’t been effective. Due to a lack of strikeout stuff, only average control and a major home run problem, he’s pitched to a 6.30 ERA with a 6.05 FIP and an 8.08 DRA to start his season in the majors. Based on his major-league track record, it’s hard to expect much improvement. Bergman relies on a low-90s fastball, a mid-80s cutter and a low-80s changeup.
While the pitching staff is nothing to be afraid of, particularly this weekend, this a lineup that still has the potential to do serious damage. The group is led by Nelson Cruz. You may remember when he was in Baltimore a few years ago, putting together a breakout season. Many thought he was due for heavy regression after that, but he’s continued to be one of the best hitters in the game. Hitting from the right side, Cruz will hit for big power and can also hit for average and draw some walks.
Along with Cruz, the Mariners finish off their one-two punch in the middle of the lineup with Robinson Cano. The former Yankee has continued to be one of the steadiest hitters in the game after leaving New York for Seattle. He’s spent a little time of the disabled list in 2017, but when on the field there’s no weak spot in his offense game.
Coming into the season, Kyle Seager was one of the most underrated hitters in the game. He was starting to finally get some love last year, so of course he’s now gotten off to a rough start. The third baseman is mostly just lacking his typical power, but all indications point to the dingers returning at some point in 2017.
Ben Gamel is a former Yankees prospect who was sent to Seattle in a minor trade last August and had very little track record coming into the season. Despite that, he’s come out of nowhere to be a legitimate top-of-the-order hitter this year. We’re still dealing with a small sample (113 plate appearances) and his .406 batting average on balls in play is unsustainable, but he’s shown strong bat-to-ball skills and can draw tons of walks.
The Mariners bet big on Jean Segura’s 2016 breakout by trading Taijuan Walker for the shortstop this past offseason. So far, it’s paid off. Segura doesn’t draw many walks but is still a good fit atop a lineup thanks to his speed, contact skills and ability to hit line drives. And when he gets on base, he can wreak havoc on his opponent.
Danny Valencia can go through hot streaks, but is mostly an average-ish hitter who can play either corner infield spot and is a good fit in the bottom-third of a lineup.
Mike Zunino is still trying to make good on his potential. The catcher has huge raw power, particularly for his position, but his contact skills are so raw that he hasn’t been able to make good on them.
Right now, the back of the Mariners bullpen is a little bit in flux, with a group of five fighting for position. James Pazos has had the best season. The former Yankees farmhand, a lefty, has seen a huge uptick in strikeouts this year to go with an uptick in ground balls. That’s a perfect combination for a reliever.
Tony Zych once looked like one of the most exciting young relievers in all of baseball, he’s struggled with health for most of his young career. He hasn’t looked the same in 2017, seeing a huge decrease in strikeouts and a huge increase in fly balls. For what it’s worth, however, he is still inducing plenty of whiffs.
Steve Cishek was once the closer in Seattle but lost it last year to a young phenom we’ll get to in a minute. Cishek has spent most of this season on the disabled and has just three lackluster performances since returning.
Nick Vincent is the boring, safe option of the group. He’s perfectly fine across the board, with his one weakness being that he allows a lot of fly balls.
Edwin Diaz is the most talented member of this group and started the year as the clear closer. He’s struggled to a surprising extent so far this year, but the talent is clearly still there. Whether or not he’s handling the ninth inning by the time this series starts, he’s still the reliever that should be the most feared in this bullpen.
Along with Pazos, the Mariners also feature Marc Rzepczynski from the left side. The ground ball pitcher has been quietly effective over the last two seasons.
Felix Hernandez, arguably the face of the Mariners franchise, has been on the disabled list since the end of April with a shoulder injury. He’s probably at least a few weeks away from his return.
Hisashi Iwakuma came into the season as Seattle’s number two starter behind Hernandez, but has been on the disabled list for a couple weeks with shoulder problems of his own. He’s likely on a similar timeline to Hernandez.
The Mariners rotation injuries don’t start there. No one in their preseason rotation had more upside than James Paxton, and he showed plenty of flashes this season. He’s been on the DL since the start of May, and while he won’t pitch in this series he’s hoping to be back before the end of the month.
The last rotation injury for Seattle is to former Rays southpaw Drew Smyly. The erratic pitcher looked to be a good fit for the Mariners roster, but he hasn’t pitched this season. He’s probably at least a month away from returning.
On offense, Mitch Haniger was one of their top hitters at the start of the season. The outfielder was placed on the DL with an oblique injury at the end of April and should be ready to start a rehab assignment next week.
Shawn O’Malley is a Quad-A player who hasn’t played this season due to a shoulder injury.
Shae Simmons once looked like one of the best young relievers in the game with Atlanta, but hasn’t been able to stay on the field since. He hasn’t pitched this season, but should be ready to start a rehab assignment soon.
Evan Marshall is a few years removed from being a truly effective reliever, and he was placed on the 60-day disabled list earlier this month with a severe hamstring strain.
Evan Scribner is another mid-level reliever who was placed on the 60-day disabled list this month.
Ryan Weber hopped into the rotation amidst all of the team’s other injuries and landed on the disabled list three innings into his first start. The Mariners rotation is cursed.
Friday isn’t going to be the most pleasant night at Fenway. There is expected to be rain throughout the day, but it should clear up right before game time. Still, it’ll be cloudy and in the mid-50’s.
Saturday should clear up a little and temperatures should rise by about ten degrees, but there will still be plenty of clouds. The same can be said for Sunday. They should easily play all three games this weekend, but no one will be describing perfect baseball weather.