After losing 4-3 Tuesday in the Bronx, the Mariners reach the quarter pole of the season Wednesday with 18-21 record and not much of an offensive uptick over 2012.
GAME: Mariners (18-21, 3rd, AL West, -7.0 GB) at Yankees (25-14, 1st, AL East, +2.0 GA). GAME #: 40. SERIES: 2nd of 3 games. MEETING: 2nd (Yankees lead 1-0). WHEN: Wednesday, 4:05 p.m., Yankee Stadium. STREAKS: Mariners L 1; Yankees W 2. TV: Root Sports. RADIO: ESPN 710, Mariners Radio Network
The Mariners reach the quarter pole of the 2013 season Wednesday with the second of three against New York at Yankee Stadium. Every year the 40-game mark is used as an opportunity to assess progress or assign blame, and for the Mariners this is how it shakes out:
Their primary objective last offseason was to juice up an offense that has been lame for years and, in 2012, ranked 14th in batting average (.234), on-base percentage (.296) and slugging (.369).
To address such anemia, the Mariners pursued Josh Hamilton, who wound up signing with the Angels. With Hamilton gone, the Mariners traded No. 2 starter Jason Vargas to the Angels for Kendrys Morales, acquired Michael Morse in a trade from Washington and supplemented those moves by adding free agents Raul Ibanez, Jayson Bay, Endy Chavez and backup catcher Kelly Shoppach.
The Mariners also counted on improvement from Jesus Montero and a better 2013 out of Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak, who surged in September. They hoped Franklin Gutierrez would stay healthy but, of course, he hasn’t.
Morales, a .273 hitter with 22 home runs for the Angels last season, is batting .261 with four HRs, which projects to 16. Morse is on track for 36 home runs, which would be a career high. Ibanez, Bay, Chavez and Shoppach have given the Mariners about what everybody expected.
But Montero’s average is down by 60 points (from .260 to .200) and his OPS is .591 after a .685 mark last year. Ackley has improved his average just five points, from a bleak .226 to a lame .231, and has just one home run vs. 12 last season. Smoak has one home run vs. 19 a year ago, when he was considered a big disappointment, except for his final month.
The Mariners ranked 14th in runs last year (619) and they are 14th again (138). Team-wide, their batting average is up just two points, from .234 to .236. The Mariners are marginally better in OBP (.307 to .296) and OPS (.380 to .369). Those percentage-point improvements really amount to nil: The Mariners are still 14th in batting, 12th in OBP and 14th in slugging.
At 40 games in 2012, the Mariners stood 16-24 fourth place in the AL West, 8.5 games out of first. Entering Wednesday, they are 18-21 and 7.0 games out. They might be further out if the Angels hadn’t surprisingly collapsed.
The Mariners don’t have a whole lot to show for their offensive improvements. The wonder is where they would be without the front end of their rotation, Felix Hernandez, who took a hard-luck no-decision Tuesday night, and Hisashi Iwakuma.
Iwakuma is an All-Star candidate. He’s 4-1, 1.74 and fanned 33 batters in his last four games, the best four-game total of his career. Over his past five, Hernandez has whiffed 36.
Iwakuma lost his only start at Yankee Stadium (last year) and will oppose RHP Phil Hughes, who seems to have righted himself after a bumpy start:
MARINERS: RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (4-1, 1.74 ERA, 0.73 WHIP)
The 32-year-old Iwakuma, a Tokyo native in his second major league season, both with Seattle, will make his ninth start and first against the Yankees. Iwakuma, the major league leader in WHIP (0.73), is coming off consecutive victories and has allowed two or fewer earned runs in six consecutive starts. In his last four, Iwakuma has fanned 33 batters, the highest four-game total of his career (27 was previous high).
YANKEES: RHP Phil Hughes (2-2, 4.43 ERA, 1.37 WHIP)
The 26-year-old Hughes, a Mission Veijo, CA., native in his seventh major league season, all with the Yankees, will make his eighth start and first against the Mariners. Hughes got off to a rocky start, losing his first two decisions and taking no-decisions in his next three. But he’s won his last two with a combined 12 strikeouts to four walks.
MARINERS STATS / NOTES
|5/15||Wed||at NYY||RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (4-1) vs. RHP Phil Hughes (2-2)|
|5/16||Thr||at NYY||RHP Aaron Harang (1-4) vs. LHP Andy Pettitte (4-2)|
|5/17||Fri||at Clev||RHP RHP Brandon Maurer (2-5) vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (3-2)|
|5/18||Sat||at Clev||LHP Joe Saunders (3-4) vs. RHP Zach McAllister (3-3)|
|5/19||Sun||at Clev||RHP Felix Hernandez (5-2) vs. RHP Justin Masterson (6-2)|
|5/20||Mon||at Clev||RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (4-1) vs. LHP Scott Kazmir (2-1)|