BY SPNW Staff 06:42AM 05/07/2013

#34: Back End Of Rotation Sabotages Mariners

The back end of the Mariners rotation has become a major (negative) issue as the club nears the quarter pole of the 2013 season. Seattle plays Pittsburgh Tuesday afternoon.

The Mariners open a two-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNP Ballpark Tuesday. It’s Seattle’s first visit to Steel Town since 2004. / Wiki Commons

GAME: Mariners (15-18, 3rd, AL West, -5.5 GB) at Pirates (17-14, 2nd, NL Central, -3.0 GB). GAME #: 34. SERIES: 1st of 2 games. MEETING: 1st (Mariners won last series played, 2-1, in 2007). WHEN: 4:05 p.m., PNC Park. STREAKS: Mariners L 1; Pirates L 2. TV: Root Sports. RADIO: ESPN 710, Mariners Radio Network

The Mariners had a good road trip going until they threw Joe Saunders (5.0 IP, 7 ER) out there Sunday to face what had been an inept-hitting Toronto. In fact, the Mariners might have a very nice season going if they didn’t have back-of-the-rotation starters that collectively lose twice as often as they win and generally look lame in the process.

Saunders just can’t get it done on the road, where, after Sunday’s clinker, he’s 0-4, 12.54, 2.51 WHIP in four starts. At Safeco Field, “Safeco Joe” is 2-0, 0.81. 0.76. Saunders calls the road-home discrepancy “a fluke.” But more than a month into the season, it looks more like a trend.

Brandon Maurer, the 22-year-old in his first major league season after making the jump from AA (Jackson), has two wins at Safeco Field, but is 0-2, 5.68 on the road and 2-4, 6.07 overall.

Aaron Harang had a quality start in his Seattle debut April 16, but tanked in his next two before coming back to record his only victory, an 8-3 decision over Baltimore in which he allowed two earned runs in 6.0 innings. But overall, Harang is 1-3, 8.68.

That means Saunders, Maurer and Harang are a combined 5-11, 6.67, an unacceptable contrast to the 7-3, 1.61 ERA compiled by No. 1 Felix Hernandez and No. 2 Hisashi Iwakuma. The Mariners are only three games under .500 and a half dozen out of the division lead. They’d be a contender with just a so-so back-end rotation.

Harang, who goes Tuesday at Pittsburgh, has just one road start and a Jeff Weaverish-15.43 ERA to show for it. He’ll oppose James McDonald, who hasn’t seen the Mariners since 2009 when he pitched for the Dodgers — more than 300 Seattle losses ago.

McDonald, in danger of losing his spot in Pittsburgh’s rotation, will enter Tuesday with a 5.76 ERA and 12 walks in his past three outings. A closer look:


MARINERS: RHP Aaron Harang (1-3, 8.68 ERA, 1.60 WHIP)

The 34-year Harang, a San Diego native in his 12th major league season and first with the Mariners, will make his fifth start and first against the Pirates. Harang sustained three consecutive bludgeonings to launch his Seattle career, but responded with a nice home effort against Baltimore in his last start. So far, he’s been much better at home than on the road. At Safeco, he’s 1-2, 6.43. On the road, he’s 0-1, 15.43.

  • LAST START: May 1, defeated Baltimore 8-3 at Safeco Field; 2 earned runs on 4 hits in 6.0 innings; 5 strikeouts, 1 walk, 0 home runs, 96 pitches, 60 for strikes.
  • LAST VS. PIRATES: Aug. 13, 2012, pitching for the Dodgers, won 5-4; 4 strikeouts, 3 walks, 0 home runs, 99 pitches, 62 for strikes.
  • CAREER VS. PIRATES: 15-6, 4.24 ERA in 25 starts covering 159.1 innings; 138 strikeouts, 31 walks, 20 home runs, 1.23 WHIP.
  • AT PNC PARK: 9-3, 4.34 ERA in 12 starts covering 76.1 innings; 61 strikeouts, 16 walks, 6 home runs, 1.29 WHIP.
  • LOVES TO FACE: Brandon Inge (0-for-6, .000), Pedro Alvarez (1-for-8, .125), Andrew McCutchen (2-for-11, .182).
  • HATES TO FACE: Garrett Jones (6-for-10, .600), Russell Martin (6-for-13, .462), Clint Barnes (4-for-11, .364).
  • CURRENT PIRATES VS. HARANG: 29-for-89, .326 BA, 9 strikeouts, 14 walks, 2 home runs, .417 on-base percentage.

PIRATES: RHP James McDonald (2-2, 5.76 ERA, 1.65 WHIP)

The 28-year-old McDonald, a Long Beach, CA., native in his sixth major league season and fourth with the Pirates, will make his seventh start and first against the Mariners. McDonald, selected by the Dodgers in the 11th round of the 2002 amateur draft, alternated wins and losses in his first four starts and is coming off consecutive no-decisions. In those two, he allowed a combined 10 earned runs on 13 hits.

  • LAST START: April 30, took a no-decision in a 12-8 loss to Milwaukee; 7 earned runs on 8 hits in 5.0 innings; 3 strikeouts, 5 walks, 0 home runs, 102 pitches, 53 for strikes.
  • LAST VS. MARINERS: June 27, 2009, pitching for the Dodgers, took a no-decision in a 5-1 loss; 0 runs on 3 hits in 2.0 innings; 1 strikeouts, 0 walks, 37 pitches, 26 for strikes.
  • CAREER VS. MARINERS: 0-0, 0.00 ERA in one relief appearance covering 2.0 innings; 1 strikeout, 0 walks, 0 home runs, 1.50 WHIP.
  • AT PNC PARK: 16-7, 2.98 ERA in 42 games, including 39 starts, covering 238.1 innings; 197 strikeouts, 97 walks, 20 home runs, 1.18 WHIP.
  • LOVES/HATES TO FACE: Current Mariners have taken just 16 at-bats against McDonald. Jason Bay is 2-for-6 against him, the only Seattle player with more than one hit.
  • CURRENT MARINERS VS. MCDONALD: 4-for-16, .250 BA, 3 strikeouts, 2 walks, 0 home runs, .316 on-base percentage.


  • CURRENT ROAD TRIP: Three at Toronto (Friday-Sunday), two at Pittsburgh (Tuesday-Wednesday). Following a day off Thursday, the Marinersl play a three-game series vs. Oakland Friday-Sunday.
  • The Mariners have played just one series at PPN Park in Pittsburgh, that in 2004.
  • The Mariners have five leadoff home runs this season, three by Franklin Gutierrez and two by Michael Saunders. The five ties the club mark set in 2002 and matched in 2005 and 2012.
  • Justin Smoak has hit successfully in four of his past five games, batting .375 over that stretch.
  • Jesus Montero hit a relatively robust .206 in April compared to the .182 he’s hitting in May. Overall, Montero is batting .203 with a .250 on-base percentage and .324 slugging mark. His OPS: .574 (Ichiro’s OPS is .691).
  • The Mariners play a lot of close ones: 13 of the first 33 games have been decided by two or fewer runs.
  • In the Mariners’ 15 victories, they are batting .316 (37-for-117) with runners in scoring position. In 18 losses, the Mariners are batting .116 (14-for-120) with RISP. The Mariners have no hits with RISP nine times in 32 games.


Date Day Opp. Probable Pitchers
5/7 Tue at Pitt RHP Aaron Harang (1-3) vs. RHP James McDonald (2-2)
5/8 Wed at Pitt RHP Felix Hernandez (3-2) vs. RHP A.J. Burnett (2-2)



  • Tian Biao

    Yep, its pretty much Felix and Iwakuma and then cross your fingers. but let’s think about the bright side: those three back end guys are still better than Beavan and Noesi. On second thought, let’s not think about it.

  • jafabian

    I expect Harang to get better. He was rushed by the club when Beaven imploded and they had him putting in 6+ innings right off the bat. Have to admit I’m looking at the farms and wondering who’s ready to be called up.

  • Leon Russell

    “The Mariners had a nice road trip going until they threw Joe Saunders (5.0 IP, 7 ER) out there Sunday ”
    They had played TWO GAMES. lol Two games is “a nice road trip going”?
    The M’s should never lose with Felix or Iwakuma on the mound.
    On the other hand, has any Mariners starting pitcher missed a start this season? They have been very lucky in that regard. If Felix or Iwakuma miss a significant number of starts, the M’s are in big trouble. And, it’s almost certain that neither of those two aces will wind up the season with an ERA under 2.00 as they both have now.