BY SPNW Staff 07:37AM 04/04/2013

#4: Brandon Maurer To Take Big Leap Vs. A’s

A 6-2 loser to Oakland Wednesday, the Mariners will turn to rookie Brandon Maurer in the fourth and final game of their series with Oakland Thursday at 12:35 p.m.

A.J. Griffin, 25, has made two career starts against Seattle and won both. He faces off against rookie Brandon Maurer in Thursday’s matinee. / Wiki Commons

GAME: Mariners (2-1, T1, AL West, 0.5 GA) at Athletics (1-2, T4, AL West, 1.0 GB). GAME #: 4. SERIES: 4th of 4 games. MEETING: 4th (Mariners lead 2-1). WHEN: Thursday, 12:37 p.m., O.com Coliseum. STREAKS: Mariners L 1; Athletics W 1. TV: Root Sports. RADIO: ESPN 710, Mariners Radio Network

Twenty-two-year-old Brandon Maurer has never made a start above the Class AA level, but makes the leap to the major leagues Thursday when the Mariners, who couldn’t overcome Joe Saunders’ poor pitching in a 6-2 loss to Oakland Wednesday, close out their four-game, season-opening series.

“I’m getting excited,” said Maurer, beneficiary of the support of 24 family members and friends who drove to Oakland from Newport Beach, CA., for the big event. “I think it’s helped to be here a couple of days to kind of get comfortable.”

Maurer, who came out of nowhere in spring training to earn a spot in the rotation, is following the same path paved last season by Oakland’s starter, A.J. Griffin. Griffin began the 2012 season in AA ball, made the jump to the majors and won his first six decisions en route to a 7-1 record and 3.06 ERA.

“From the moment he got here he was pitching in high-pressure games,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said of Griffin, who figured prominently in Oakland’s AL West title and postseason run. “He’s not afraid to pitch in those types of situations.”

For the series final, manager Eric Wedge is expected to give Jesus Montero a day off and use veteran Kelly Shoppach behind the plate. Shoppach is the lone Seattle position player not to have appeared in the first three games.

A closer look at Thursday’s probable pitchers:

THURSDAY’S PROBABLES

MARINERS: RHP Brandon Maurer (9-2, 3.20 ERA, 1.31 WHIP*)

Maurer becomes the first Seattle pitcher to make the jump from AA ball to the majors since Mike Hampton and John Cummings in 1993. Maurer earned his spot in the rotation with an outstanding spring, in which he went 3-1 with a 1.50 ERA in seven appearances, including four starts.

At AA Jackson last year, Maurer was the Southern League’s Most Outstanding Pitcher after going 9-2 with a 3.20 ERA (49 ER, 137.2 IP) in 24 starts. The Mariners also named Maurer the minor league system’s Most Improved Player.

Maurer led the Southern League with an .818 winning percentage and ranked fifth in ERA He tied for the Generals’ lead in wins (9), while leading the team in strikeouts (117) and innings pitched (137.1).

Over his final 14 starts, from June 1-Aug. 16, Maurer went 7-1 with a 2.50 ERA (24 ER, 86.1 IP) and recorded 10 quality starts.

Maurer graduated from Orange Lutheran (CA) High School in 2008, and was selected in the 23rd round of the June draft that year. Since then, he has pitched for the Mariners in the Arizona Rookie League,  Class A Clinton in the Midwest League (2010-11),  Class A High Desert (2011) in the California League and  AA Jackson.

*=Statistics at AA Jackson

ATHLETICS: RHP A.J. Griffin (7-1, 3.06 ERA, 1.13 WHIP)

The Athletics summoned Griffin last year when Brandon McCarthy went to the disabled list and he filled in adequately in 15 starts, the first eight of which were quality starts. But he regressed in the second half, posting a 7.27 ERA in his final four starts. He has an average fastball in the 88-89 mph range, but it was good enough to defeat the Mariners twice. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Griffin is a 25-year-old native of El Cajon, CA. whom the Athletics selected in the 13th round of the 2010 amateur draft.

  • LAST START: Oct. 3, 2012 vs. Texas, took a no-decision in Oakland’s 12-5 victory; 4 earned runs on 7 hits in 2.2 innings; no strikeouts, 2 walks, 0 home runs; 70 pitches, 44 for strikes.
  • LAST VS. MARINERS: Sept. 28, 2012, won 8-2; 1 earned run on 4 hits over 5.2 innings; 4 strikeouts, 2 walks, 1 home run; 96 pitches, 60 for strikes.
  • CAREER VS. MARINERS: 2-0, 1.64 ERA in 2 starts covering 11.0 innings; 11 strikeouts to 3 walks, 1 home run; 1.18 WHIP.
  • AT OAKLAND COLISEUM: 3-0, 3.21 ERA in 8 starts covering 42.0 innings; 26 strikeouts to 9 walks; 4 home runs to 169 batters faced; 1.02 WHIP.
  • LOVES TO FACE: Frank Gutierrez (0-for-3, .000), Dustin Ackley (1-for-6, .167), Michael Saunders (1-for-5, .200).
  • HATES TO FACE: Raul Ibanez (2-for-5, .400), Kyle Seager (2-for-6, .333), Kendrys Morales (1-for-3, .333).
  • CURRENT MARINERS VS. GRIFFIN: 9-for-40, .225 BA, 11 strikeouts, 1 walk, 0 home runs, .244 on-base percentage.

MARINERS STATS / NOTES

  • CURRENT ROAD TRIP: Four at Oakland, three at Chicago White Sox Friday-Sunday.
  • Franklin Gutierrez’s home run on the fourth pitch of Wednesday’s game was the second leadoff home run of his career.
  • Michael Morse has hit three home runs in his past two games. The Mariners have not had a player with 20 or more homers in a season since Russell Branyan hit 31 in 2009.
  • After limiting the Athletics to just six hits in the first two games of the season, the Mariners yielded 11 Wednesday, including seven for extra bases. Starter Joe Saunders allowed five of the seven, all doubles. Saunders finished spring training with an 11.57 ERA and now has a 9.00 ERA after pitching 4.0 innings against the A’s.
  • Justin Smoak went 0-for-4 Wednesday and is batting .100 after three games.
  • Morse’s game Tuesday the first time a Mariners player hit two homers in a game while playing two outfield positions, and the second time a Seattle player homered twice in a game while playing different positions. David Bell hit a pair Aug. 23, 2001 while playing first and third base.
  • The Mariners are in a stretch of 14 consecutive games. They won’t have their first day off until April 15.

UPCOMING PROBABLES

Date Day Opp. Probable Pitchers
4/5 Fri at CWS RHP Blake Beavan (11-11) vs. RHP Jose Quintana (6-6)
4/6 Sat at CWS RHP Felix Hernandez (1-0) vs. RHP Dylan Axelrod (2-2)
4/7 Sun at CWS RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (1-0) vs. LHP Chris Sale (1-0)

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