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Red Sox at Mariners Series Preview

A look ahead to the week’s series in Seattle.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation Blog

Lookout Landing

The opponent in one sentence

The Mariners are below .500 despite a solid offense despite a starting rotation that has put them out of games early on far too often.

Record

49-51

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 2, Mariners 1

Trend

Down, slightly. The Mariners have been struggling over the last week or so having lost four of their last six games. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, that stretch includes losing three of four to the Yankees in their last series. Boston obviously hopes they can continue that trend through this week, at least. It’s worth noting that Seattle did win their first four games coming out of the All-Star break.

Pitching Matchups

7/24: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. James Paxton, 10:10 PM ET

Rodriguez made his return from the disabled list last week against the Blue Jays and was...fine. It wasn’t the best version of Rodriguez we’ve seen this year, but the young lefty still had his strikeout stuff and limited his command issues enough to only allow three runs in 5 13 innings of work. Of course, before his injury he was on the verge of breaking out in Boston’s rotation. Inconsistency is still to be expected from Rodriguez at times, but I fully expect him to improve upon his last outing this time around in Seattle. It’s worth noting that he tossed six shutout innings against the Mariners earlier this year.

While the Mariners rotation as a whole hasn’t been great, Paxton might be one of the most underrated starters in all of baseball. The former top prospect finally started to break out towards the end of last year and he’s carried that success over into 2017. Through his first 16 starts of the year, the southpaw has a 3.50 ERA to go with a 2.55 FIP and a 2.90 DRA. Although he’s prone to lapses of control, he’s striking out over ten batters per nine innings and does a great job of keeping the ball in the yard. He’s been particularly great in July, too, as he has a 2.05 ERA for the month with 28 strikeouts and six walks in 26 13 innings of work. Paxton leans mostly on a high-90s fastball and an impressive curveball.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

7/25: Drew Pomeranz vs. Felix Hernandez, 10:10 PM ET

Pomeranz has been phenomenal more often than not this season and I think it’s fair to call him the second most trusted starter in the Red Sox rotation at this point. The one fear around the lefty is how he will throw as the season goes on and he has more innings on his arm. He was effective his last time out, allowing just one unearned run in 6 23 innings, though he did walk more batters than he struck out. In his previous outing Pomeranz allowed four runs in six innings, but his performance was better than his line would indicate. For now, there’s no reason to be down on Pomeranz until he consistently shows a reason to be.

At this point in his career, Hernandez’ name value outweighs the type of performance he’ll give on the mound. Don’t get me wrong. He’s still a good pitcher, it’s just that he’s no longer the star he once was. Through eleven starts in 2017, the 31-year-old has pitched to a 3.88 ERA with a 4.85 FIP and a 3.32 DRA. In other words, how you view Hernandez depends largely on how you evaluate pitchers. Hernandez has been on a bit of a roll lately, pitching to a 1.00 ERA over his last three starts with 22 strikeouts and five walks in 18 innings of work. These days, Hernandez mixes up a fastball and a sinker -- both in the low-90s — to go with a changeup and a curveball.

7/26: Chris Sale vs. Andrew Moore, 3:40 PM ET

Wednesday is Sale Day, the best day of the week. It’s sort of a bummer that Sale is throwing in a day game, but at least it’s a little bit later than your typical day game. The absurdly good pitcher is coming off a game in which he recorded his 200th strikeout of the season, which is totally stupid considering it’s only July. I enjoy watching Chris Sale pitch, to be honest.

Moore is a right-handed rookie with five starts under his belt, and they haven’t gone super well. Although he’s been able to last at least six innings in four of his five outings, the 23-year-old has pitched to a 5.70 ERA, a 6.55 FIP and an 8.58 DRA in his 30 innings of work. Moore is going to allow a ton of balls in play, striking out fewer than four batters per nine innings and walking fewer than one. His extreme flyball style has worked against him this year, though, as he’s already allowed nine home runs on the season. Moore throws a low-90s fastball to go with a changeup, a slider and a curveball.

Old Friends

None. Stupid Mariners

Notable Hitters

Robinson Cano is still the best player on this Mariners team despite a bit of a down year at the plate. Don’t mistake that for it being a bad year, though, as the All-Star second baseman has still produced a ton of power and some of the best plate discipline of his career. Where Cano is faltering is in terms of batting average on balls in play, and it’s probably safe to expect he’s better than his .267 BABIP would suggest.

Nelson Cruz forms one of the scariest middle-of-the-lineup tandems in all of baseball with Cano. Although Cruz doesn’t provide the defensive value that Cano does, he’s the best hitter on the team by a longshot. Cruz is liable to go deep any time he sees a pitch, so get ready for tension every time he comes to the plate this week.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Seager has struggled a bit this year after performing like one of the best third basemen in baseball over the previous few seasons. Oddly enough, given the boom around the league, a dropoff in power has been Seager’s biggest issue. It is worth noting that his power has increased considerably since the start of June, though.

Jean Segura is quietly one of the better shortstops in the league. He won’t walk much and doesn’t hit for a ton of power, but he makes plenty of contact and most of it is good. Plus, when Segura gets on the bases he can cause big problems with his legs.

Ben Gamel has been a breakout player this year though it doesn’t seem super sustainable since most of his success has come on the back of a .414 BABIP.

Mitch Haniger’s overall numbers this year are strong, but the rookie hasn’t been the same since his return from the disabled list in June. July, in particular, has been ugly for the outfielder.

Danny Valencia provides average contributions in all offensive areas from the right side of the plate.

Mike Zunino is a boom-or-bust catcher who is likely to either strike out or go deep in just about every at bat.

Bullpen Snapshot

Edwin Diaz was one of the very best relievers in the game in 2016, which was also his rookie year. That led to massive expectations for the Mariners closer coming into this year, but he hasn’t quite been the same. The elite strikeout stuff is still there, but he’s had too many lapses of control to be near the top of the reliever conversation. He’s still scary to face at the end of games, but he’s not invincible in 2017.

David Phelps was connected to the Red Sox a few weeks ago but was dealt to the Mariners just last week. He’s settled in as their eighth inning guy and struck out two in his first outing with Seattle.

Nick Vincent was Seattle’s primary setup man prior to their trade for Phelps, and he’s been solid this year. Although I don’t like flyball tendencies for relievers as much as I do for relievers, it’s worked out for him this year. As long as he keeps the ball in the yard he should continue to be successful.

James Pazos is the primary lefty in the Mariners bullpen and while the former Yankee prospect has some lapses in command he also has the kind of strikeout/groundball combination that can be deadly in a relief role.

Injuries

Hisashi Iwakuma has long been one of Seattle’s better starters, but he’s only been able to make six starts for the Mariners this year. He’s been out with shoulder trouble for most of the year, and while he’s back to throwing it’s still unclear when he’ll return.

Drew Smyly was supposed to play a big role for the Mariners this year after coming over from Tampa in the offseason. Instead, he’s yet to make a start for them this year and underwent Tommy Surgery earlier this summer.

Shae Simmons was once one of the more promising young relievers in the game. His career has been derailed by injury, but he could be ready to get back to the majors at some point soon

Evan Scribner has missed most of this season with an elbow injury and they still aren’t sure when he’ll be able to return to Seattle’s bullpen

Evan Marshall has been out of Seattle’s bullpen since May with a hamstring injury. It’s unclear when he’ll return.

Ryan Weber made one start for the major-league team before going down with a biceps injury and there’s still no timetable for his return.

Shawn O’Malley has been out all year with a shoulder injury, but the outfielder is finally working his way back now.

Weather Forecast

The Mariners have a retractable roof out in Seattle, so the weather isn’t a huge concern for this week’s series. With that being said, it looks like the roof will be open for the whole series as it should be clear and in the 60s and 70s for the week. That sounds amazing.