BY SPNW Staff 06:31AM 05/15/2013

#40: Little Boost For Mariners At Quarter Mark

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.

Robinson Cano is 3-for-6 (.500) in his career against Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma, who starts for the Mariners Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. / Wiki Commons

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:

WEDNESDAY’S PROBABLES

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).

  • LAST START: May 10 at Safeco Field, defeated Oakland 6-3; 2 earned runs on 4 hits in 7.0 innings; 9 strikeouts, 0 walks, 0 home runs, 95 pitches, 68 for strikes.
  • LAST VS. YANKEES: Aug. 5, 2012, lost 3-2 at Yankee Stadium; 4 strikeouts, 2 walks, 1 home run, 101 pitches, 64 for strikes.
  • CAREER VS. YANKEES: 0-1, 3.60 ERA in 2 starts covering 10.0 innings; 7 strikeouts, 5 walks, 2 home runs, 1.80 WHIP.
  • AT YANKEE STADIUM: 0-1, 5.40 ERA in 1 start covering 5.0 innings; 4 strikeouts, 2 walks, 1 home run, 1.80 WHIP.
  • LOVES TO FACE: Jayson Nix (0-for-3, .000), Ichiro (1-for-5, .200), Mark Teixeira (1-for-4, .250).
  • HATES TO FACE: Vernon Wells (4-for-5, .800), Robinson Cano (3-for-6, .500), Travis Hafner (1-for-2, .500).
  • CURRENT YANKEES VS. IWAKUMA: 19-for-39, .487 BA, 5 strikeouts, 3 walks, 3 home runs, .535 on-base percentage.

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.

  • LAST START: May 10 at Kansas City, won 11-6; 6 earned runs on 7 hits in 5.2 innings; 3 strikeouts, 2 walks, 2 home runs, 98 pitches, 70 for strikes.
  • LAST VS. MARINERS: May 12, 2012, won 6-2; 4 strikeouts, 1 walk, 1 home run, 112 pitches, 70 for strikes.
  • CAREER VS. MARINERS: 4-2, 2.83 ERA in 9 games, including 6 starts, covering 41.1 innings; 28 strikes, 11 walks, 3 home runs, 1.25 WHIP.
  • AT YANKEE STADIUM: 28-12, 4.32 ERA in 72 games, including 48 starts, covering 302.0 innings; 261 strikes, 91 walks, 59 home runs, 1.28 WHIP.
  • LOVES TO FACE: Endy Chavez (0-for-6, .000), Michael Saunders (1-for-9, .111), Robert Andino (2-for-9, .222).
  • HATES TO FACE: Dustin Ackley (5-for-10, .500), Jason Bay (5-for-15, .333), Michael Morse (1-for-3, .333).
  • CURRENT MARINERS VS. HUGHES: 21-for-96, .219 BA, 32 strikeouts, 8 walks, 2 home runs, .279 on-base percentage.

MARINERS STATS / NOTES

  • CURRENT ROAD TRIP: Three at New York (Tuesday-Thursday), four at Cleveland (Friday-Monday), two at L.A. Angels (May 21-23). The Mariners return to Safeco Field May 24 for a three-game series with the Texas Rangers.
  • The Mariners produced 10 hits in the 4-3 loss to the Yankees Tuesday, but left 11 men stranded and went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
  • Manager Eric Wedge held Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero out of the lineup Tuesday because of “matchup” issues.
  • Felix Hernandez (1.53) and Hisashi Iwakuma (1.74) rank second and eighth, respectively, in major league ERA. Iwakuma leads the American League in WHIP (0.76).
  • The Mariners committed two errors Tuesday, the first time this season they had more than one in a game.
  • In the Mariners’ 18 victories, they are batting .297 (42-for-141) with runners in scoring position. In 21 losses, the Mariners are batting .121 (17-for-140) with RISP. The Mariners have no hits with RISP 10 times in 39 games.

UPCOMING PROBABLES

Date Day Opp. Probable Pitchers
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)

 


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