BY SPNW Staff 07:02AM 06/29/2013

#81: Zunino Stars, Mariners Reach Halfway Point

A 5-4 walk-off winner Friday, the Mariners trot out Aaron Harang against the Cubs Saturday. Harang allowed four earned runs in his past three starts.

Kendrys Morales is hitting .272 with nine home runs for the Mariners, who play the second of two against the Chicago Cubs Saturday. / Drew MxKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

GAME: Cubs (33-45, 4th, NL Central, -15.5 GB) at Mariners (35-45, 4th, AL West, -12.0 GB). GAME #: 81. SERIES: 2nd of 3 games. MEETING: 2nd (Mariners lead 1-0). WHEN: Saturday, 4:15 p.m., Safeco Field. STREAKS: Mariners W 1; Cubs L 1. TV: FOX. RADIO: ESPN 710, Mariners Radio Network

A 5-4 walkoff winner Friday in the openerof a three-game series against the Cubs, the Mariners play their 81st game Saturday, marking the halfway point of a 2013 season that has gone sadly (but predictably) awry, given their own expectations and those of an ever-shrinking fan base. In a season of damning stats, the most damnable of all: Seattle’s most productive hitter, Raul Ibanez, is 41 years old and doesn’t even play every day.

Maybe we should have seen this coming. Last year, Seattle’s best hitter was its backup catcher and John Jaso didn’t play every day, either. Jaso became expendable when the Mariners decided that Jesus Montero was the answer at catcher. Only he wasn’t.

It’s not hard to imagine where the Mariners would be without Ibanez (18 homers), Michael Morse (11) or Kendrys Morales (9), the three major offseason additions to the club’s offense. Morse and Morales have performed as expected, Ibanez has exceeded expectations, and so has Jason Bay (ninth homer Friday night), but the Mariners, despite a huge uptick in home runs, are no better off than a year ago, that due to the failure of so many of their young players.

Maybe Mike Zunino will be different. Brought up June 11 from Tacoma, Zunino delivered a walk-off single in the 10th inning Friday as the Mariners snapped a two-game losing streak. Impressively, Zunino worked the count full before delivering the game-winning hit, giving the Mariners their 35th victory against 45 losses. Last year at the 81-game mark, the Mariners stood 34-47.

“It was a giant sigh of relief,” Zunino told reporters. “Anything you can do to help the team win, that’s what I’m all about. I would have taken a sac fly, I would have taken anything in that situation.”

Michael Saunders and Ibanez led off the 10th with consecutive walks before Blake Parker was relieved by Shawn Camp. Jason Bay advanced the runners with a bunt, and Justin Smoak was walked intentionally to load the bases. That brought up Zunino, who succeeded admirably in an area that has been so disappointing for the Mariners this season — hitting with runners in scoring position.

Even with the win, the Mariners are only batting .236 as a team. That’s up just two ticks over last year’s .234. While home runs are up, 89 this year over 69 a year ago at the halfway point, overall run production is down, 288 this season to 316 at the same point last year, when the Mariners ranked 14th and last in the American League.

Aaron Harang will pitch the 81st game Saturday. Harang has eye-popping numbers over his last three outings — 1.89 ERA with 17 strikeouts (only one win to show for it), but over his past six Harang has pitched two shutouts and also been knocked out of the game before the sixth inning three times.

Despite an elating win Friday, Harang’s consistent inconsistency is also the story of the 2013 Mariners.

SATURDAY’S PROBABLES

MARINERS: RHP Aaron Harang (3-7, 5.29 ERA, 1.31 WHIP)

The 35-year-old Harang, a San Diego native in his 12th major league season and first with Seattle, will make his 13th start and first against the Cubs. Harang has allowed just four earned runs in his past three starts, but only has one win to show for it, a 4-0 complete-game shutout over Houston June 11.

  • LAST START: June 22 vs. Oakland, took a no-decision in Seattle’s 7-5 victory; 3 earned runs on six hits in 5.0 innings; 3 strikeouts, 2 walks, 0 home runs, 95 pitches, 60 for strikes.
  • LAST VS. CUBS: May 6, 2012, pitching for the Dodgers, took a no-decision in a 4-3 L.A. loss; 2 earned runs on 7 hits in 6.0 innings; 2 strikeouts, 3 walks, 0 home runs, 96 pitches, 59 for strikes.
  • CAREER VS. CUBS: 1-8, 4.40 ERA in 26 starts covering 165.2 innings; 137 strikeouts, 42 walks, 29 home runs, 1.30 WHIP.
  • AT SAFECO FIELD: 4-4, 3.02 ERA in 10 starts covering 59.2 innings; 53 strikeouts, 13 walks, 5 home runs, 0.95 WHIP.
  • LOVES TO FACE: Wellington Castillo (0-for-3, .000), Scott Hairston (2-for-10, .200), Nate Schierholtz (2-for-9, .222).
  • HATES TO FACE: David DeJesus (3-for-5, .600), Ian Stewart (3-for-5, .600), Darwin Barney (2-for-5, .400).
  • CURRENT CUBS VS. HARANG: 27-for-95, .284 BA, 17 strikeouts, 6 walks, 1 home run, .320 on-base percentage.

CUBS: Jeff Samardzija (5-7, 3.39 ERA, 1.19 WHIP)

The 28-year-old Samardzija, a Merrillville, IN., native in his sixth major league season, all with the Cubs, will make his 17th start and first against the Mariners. A fifth-round draft pick by the Cubs in the 2006 draft, Samardzija is coming off consecutive victories over St. Louis and Houston in which he allowed a combined five earned runs. He had his best start April 1 at Pittsburgh, holding the Pirates to two hits and no runs in 8.0 innings.

  • LAST START: June 23 vs. Houston, won 14-6; 3 earned runs on 9 hits in 7.0 innings 5 strikeouts, 0 walks, 0 home runs, 92 pitches, 67 for strikes.
  • LAST VS. MARINERS: Never faced.
  • CAREER VS. MARINERS: No record.
  • AT SAFECO FIELD: Never pitched.
  • LOVES/HATES TO FACE: Current Mariners have 12 at-bats against Samardzija, going 3-for-12, .250 BA. Brendan Ryan is 2-for-4.

MARINERS STATS / NOTES

  • CURRENT HOME STAND: Three vs. Oakland (Friday-Sunday), two vs. Pittsburgh (Tuesday-Wednesday), three vs. Chicago Cubs (Friday-Sunday). Following the home stand, the Mariners will head out on a six-game road trip through Texas and Cincinnati.
  • With the start of the Texas series July 2, the Mariners will play 13 games in 13 days. At the end of that stretch, the Mariners will have four days off for the All-Star break.
  • Hisashi Iwakuma, who started Friday night, pitched 8.0 innings, allowing four runs on six hits. It marked the fourth time this season Iwakuma has worked 8.0 innings and all four times he has come away with a no-decision.
  • Brad Miller, called up from AAA Tacoma Friday, got the start at shortstop and went 0-for-3 with a walk, stolen base and RBI in his big league debut. Miller became the eighth player to make his MLB debut with Seattle this season.
  • Nick Franklin has hit safely in 13 of his past 15 games and is batting .339 over that stretch.
  • All of Jason Bay’s nine home runs have been solo shots.
  • Dustin Ackley made his first outfield start (center) since his recall from Tacoma and went 0-for-4, dropping his average to .200.
  • Kyle Seager leads the Mariners in hits with 84 and in walks with 28. The Mariners have not had a player lead the team in both categories since Edgar Martinez in 1995.
  • If Raul Ibanez hits one more home run in June, he will become the first Mariner to hit 10 homers in a month since Edgar Martinez in May 2003.
  • Mariners have endured 12 losses this season in the opponents’ final at-bat, including six walk-off defeats, tied for most in the majors with Detroit and Texas.
  • The Mariners Friday outrighted RHP Josh Kinney to AAA Tacoma after they reinstated him from the 60-day disabled list. Kinney had been on the DL since March 25 with a rib injury. He has three days to accept the assignment to Tacoma or become a free agent.
  • The Mariners will wear throwback uniforms from the 1909 Seattle Turks in Saturday’s game. The Cubs will wear jerseys from the early 1900s.

UPCOMING PROBABLES

Date Day Opp. Probable Pitchers
6/29 Sat vs. Cubs RHP Aaron Harang (3-7) vs. RHP Jeff Samardzija (5-7)
6/30 Sun vs. Cubs RHP Jeremy Bonderman (1-1) vs. RHP Edwin Jackson (3-10)
7/2 Tue at Tex LHP Joe Saunders (5-8) vs. RHP Justin Grimm (7-5)
7/3 Wed at Tex RHP Felix Hernndez (8-4) vs. LHP Derek Holland (6-4)
7/4 Thr at Tex RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (7-3) vs. TBA

 


YourThoughts

  • Trygvesture

    It’s almost Boilerplate Sportspress on the Ms pages now: change the year and fill in the names– same old story. What would qualify as news? Oh, yeah, but the captains without a Compass Rose that functions will never understand how off course they are. Forever lost at sea, certain they’ve found Atlantis– a mirage…So they stay…

  • jafabian

    Raul practically IS playing every day and shouldn’t. Because he’ll burn out if that’s the case. Just like Wilhelmsen has.

  • Fan873

    I wish we were winning more too but if people can’t see that we’re making huge strides towards getting better, I don’t know what to say. We may be producing at a similar clip to futile years past but there is a huge difference — we actually have a future that’s looking bright. For one, our payroll is pretty low and even lower this offseason, we’ll have money to spend if need be. The rookies: JackZ’s 1st wave of rookies wasn’t perfect (Smoak, Ackley, Montero) but it did get us Seager. JZ’s 2nd wave of rookies is starting to arrive and they look really promising. Zunino looks good, Franklin looks great and Miller looks to continue that. We will soon see some pitchers come up in this 2nd wave too. The rotation in Tacoma is amazingly talented and if 2 or 3 of these guys pan out (Walker, Hultzen, Ramirez, Maurer, Paxton) we’re looking really good. JZ’s drafts are outstanding. The kid we just picked up a few weeks ago in the 1st round (DJ Peterson) already has 2 grand slams in Everett, the guy’s a beast and will likely skyrocket through our system. The youth movement is really picking up steam now. We’re building a solid young core. This will be a playoff team by 2015.

  • SandlotSam

    The Mariners are, as my grandmother used to say, “bad soup”. But the soup is getting better. It’s not making me sick anymore. It’s tasting a little better every day. Certainly much better than 5 years ago. I’m going to hang in there.