How about them Mariners, eh?! Things are looking up for the M’s, and it’s at least a little bit exciting to watch baseball again. This recent two game sweep (and rainout), in New York was reassuring. Seeing two good starts from Chris Young and Roenis Elias was fantastic, but what’s even better was that the M’s were able to get the bats going. Run support has been the most irritating part of watching Mariners baseball so far this season, and it’s nice to see that start to come around. With that, here’s your Seattle Mariners series preview against the Houston Astros.
Felix got the extra day off this week due to the rainout in New York. He was supposed to pitch the closer against the Yankees yesterday, but Lloyd McClendon opted to give him the extra day off after he had a bit of trouble in his last few starts. Ordinarily I’d say that the Astros would be a great way for Felix to get some confidence back, but given that the M’s got thumped last time Felix Pitched against them, maybe that’s not the case. Felix gave up 6 runs (2 earned) in that game and frustrated everyone. Brad Peacock represents a good opportunity for the Mariners bats to keep hot, this will be his third start of the season, but he made a few appearances in relief before moving back into the rotation.
This is the one game that all Mariners fans should be looking forward to this weekend. The return of Cy Young runner up, Hisashi Iwakuma. Iwakuma was put on the DL early this season with a ligament problem in his pitching hand, but he’s finally back, and the fans couldn’t be happier. Iwakuma pitched one rehab game where he went 4 innings and gave up two earned runs. It’s expected that Iwakuma will be on a pitch count around 90. Keuchel has been one of Houston’s more reliable starters so far this season, and has put up a quality start in his four most recent outings. Look for this to be a pitchers duel.
Maurer got rocked in his last start, going only 3.1 innings and yielding 5 runs (all earned) to the Rangers. I mentioned last week that he’s still on a pitch count after missing most of the spring conditioning camp, look for him to finally break the 90 pitch barrier this time around. He’ll be facing the hottest pitcher in the West right now in Collin McHugh. McHugh has been absolutely dominant in two starts against the Mariners and the A’s. Last time he saw the Mariners he went 6.2 innings and held the M’s to only three hits.
- The most exciting thing about this weekend is the return of Hisashi Iwakuma. Pitching hasn’t been the weak part of the Mariners’ game so far this season, but it will sure help to get a guy like Iwakuma back on the mound.
- Roenis Elias is coming off of the best start of his young career yesterday. The young Cuban was dominant against a tough Yankees lineup with 10 Ks and he’s certainly earned a spot in the rotation now that guys are starting to come back.
- Abraham Almonte has drawn some ire from fans recently with his high strikeout numbers and limited ability to get on base at the top of the order. He was replaced with Michael Saunders yesterday who was significantly better (in the one game sample). Look for Saunders to get the nod at least a few more times this weekend.
- Greg Johns noted something spectacular this week, the M’s are 10-9 against teams with a better than .500 record, but are a dismal 1-5 against those with worse than .500. What does this say? The M’s really need to start to winning those games and they could be in a significantly better spot.
- Unfortunately for the Mariners, they won’t get a chance to face Brett Oberholtzer this weekend, who is 0-5 through 6 starts in April, and has been struggling mightily. Though that’s not the only problem the Astros are having.
- The Astros signed Tony Sipp yesterday to help fill the bullpen. Sipp hasn’t pitched since September of last season, but the veteran should be able to give (a little bit of) stability to a fledgling bullpen.
- McHugh is the shining light of Houston right now, and the M’s are going to get a good look at him on Sunday. He’s only had two starts so far, but what we’ve seen has been very impressive, and very unexpected. Similar to what happened with the Mariners and James Paxton last year. While I love seeing a guy come out of nowhere to be successful, maybe the Mariners can give him a rude awakening to 2014.
Around the AL West
The Mariners made up some good ground with the mini-sweep in New York this week, and they should look to keep the ball rolling going into the weekend. They are only 1.5 games back of the Angels and 2 games behind the Rangers.
- Texas and Anaheim happen to be playing a three game set this weekend in Anaheim. This is a good chance for these two teams to duke it out and for the M’s to make up a bit of ground. Best case scenario would be Anaheim taking the series 2-1, allowing the M’s the best opportunity to catch up in the west.
- Oakland has a tough weekend ahead with a three game set in Boston against the Red Sox
- Obviously Houston is hosting the M’s this weekend. The Astros are already in the basement, a full 10 games below .500 right now, and 4 games behind the M’s. This is a good time for the Mariners to claim back some wins.