Mariners Game Notes: Nelson Cruz Returns to M’s Lineup in Houston
The Seattle Mariners (27-33) will take on the Houston Astros (34-27) Friday night in the opener of a 3-game weekend series. First pitch is scheduled for 5:10 PT from Minute Maid Park in Houston. Felix Hernandez (9-2, 2.51 ERA) will try for his 10th win of the season tonight for Seattle. 25-year-old southpaw, Brett Oberholtzer (0-1, 3.75 ERA) will get the ball for the Astros in the series opener.
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The Mariners come to town on the heels of their first series win in 2 weeks, and they hope to take advantage of an Astros’ team that has lost 7 in a row. Seattle is currently in 4th place in the American League West, 6.5 games back of the division leading Houston Astros.
Mariners’ skipper Lloyd McClendon and Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch have released the following lineups for tonight’s series lid-lifter:
Nelson Cruz Returns to M’s Lineup
After missing 2 games with back spasms, Nelson Cruz will hit cleanup and serve as the Mariners’ designated hitter on Friday night. Cruz has been the main contributor for Seattle this season, posting a .326 batting average with a league leading 18 home runs and 39 RBI’s. He carried the M’s last month in Houston, and hopefully he can produce similar results this weekend in what has the makings of a key series for Seattle. The 34-year-old slugger is truly having an MVP caliber season, and it is a travesty that Kendrys Morales has overtaken Cruz in All Star voting.
King Felix Going for Mariners’ History on Friday Night
Felix Hernandez will try and join Jamie Moyer as the only other Mariners to win 10 games in their first 13 outings of a season. Hernandez has a great chance to join the exclusive club, as he sports a record of 3-2 with a 1.84 ERA across 7 career starts versus the Astros. King Felix currently leads the Major Leagues with 9 wins, and his 2.51 ERA is good for 6th in the AL.
Hisashi Iwakuma Working Towards Return
Lloyd McClendon told the media on Friday that Hisashi Iwakuma is scheduled to throw a simulated game in Everett on Monday, and if all goes well, he will make a rehab start in Tacoma next Saturday. The Mariners have been without the services of Iwakuma since he went down with a strained Lat muscle in late April. Kuma struggled during his 3 outings for the M’s this season, going 0-1 and registering a 6.61 ERA. Seattle’s starting rotation has benefited greatly from the presence of Roenis Elias and Mike Montgomery, and I’m not sure if Iwakuma is deserving of another shot right now.
Jun 4, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners first baseman Mark Trumbo (35) watches the play at the plate after getting his first hit as a Mariner in the second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
Pick to Click
Mariners’ fans have come to expect inconsistent offense, and the last 2 games are about as inconsistent as they come. Seattle exploded for 9 runs on Wednesday night against the Tribe and proceeded to get shut out yesterday afternoon in the series finale. Hopefully the return of Nelson Cruz will spark the M’s offense, but I am going with Mark Trumbo as my pick to click tonight. Trumbo is hitting .143 with 0 home runs and 1 RBI across his first 28 at bats in a Mariners’ uniform. Despite his recent struggles, Trumbo is hitting 2nd tonight and I like the logic. The 29-year-old is raking this season against southpaws, hitting .302 with 4 home runs and 8 RBI’s though 23 games. Best of all, he has posted a .362 on base percentage against lefties in 2015. While he does not possess any speed, Trumbo should do a nice job setting the table for the middle of the Mariners’ order tonight. I look for Trumbo to collect at least 2 hits with 1 home run and 2 RBI’s tonight in Houston.
Final Score Prediction
The Mariners enter play tonight winners of 3 of their last 5, and Houston has lost 7 consecutive games. Combine that with the fact King Felix is toeing the rubber, and Seattle has to be considered the favorites to take the series opener. The only thing I worry about is the M’s outfield tonight. McClendon is going with arguably the worst starting outfield of the season for Seattle with Rickie Weeks and Mark Trumbo manning the corners. Minute Maid Park is a big outfield to defend, and neither Weeks or Trumbo is very capable. However, I still expect the M’s to cruise to victory tonight. I predict a rousing 5-1 win for Seattle in the series opener on Friday night.
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