Series Preview in Blog: Seattle Mariners (Round 2)

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Minnesota Twins (58-59) @ Seattle Mariners (65-50)

The Twins continue their death march road trip with a three game series in Seattle. Thus far they are 1-5 on this trip, and have dipped below the .500 mark for the first time in quite a while. The Mariners on the other hand return home after a road trip through Baltimore and Chicago which saw them go 5-1 while pounding out 47 runs. That road trip got Seattle back to .500 away from home, but their home record is an impressive 37-22 (trailing only LA, Bos, NY for best in AL). The Twins have struggled lately on the road, winning only 3 of their last 14 away from the Dome while seeing their road record fall to 26-32. The Mariners are currently in second place in the AL West, 3.5 games behind the Angels. In the Wild Card standings, they are the current leaders, with a one loss lead on the Yankees, but it would probably be prudent to focus on the division for now.

Mike Hargrove made the surprising decision to step down in the middle of an 8-game winning streak earlier in the season. The fact that he retired despite the fact that his Mariners team was starting to show signs of competing for a playoff spot didn’t satisfy some fans, who may have preferred a more ignominious exit. His replacement, bench coach John McLaren, hasn’t exactly been earning rave reviews. Although he hasn’t been the subject of too many long-winded rants, most of the criticisms are short, quick, and to the point. On the other hand, he has shown an increasing willingness to mix things up as he gets more comfortable in his role, and every now and then you have to give credit where credit is due when a series of moves works out just as planned.

A lot of the frustration with McLaren (and before him, Hargrove) stems from the unwillingness to sit underperforming veterans like Raul Ibanez and Richie Sexson. If someone ran a business like the Mariners run their roster, well you can see it probably wouldn’t work that well. Sexson has struggled this year, posting a .203/.298/.390 line, and it doesn’t look like it will improve real soon. The recent road trip saw him hit .353/.353/.412 and could be a sign of him turning it around, but don’t be fooled. Mariners fans still would rather have anyone else up there in the middle of a rally.

Raul Ibanez is a similar case to Sexson. He has been less than impressive this year, both with the bat (.253/.310/.387 before recent road trip) and in the field. He too heated up on the recent road trip, hitting 5 homeruns in 5 games and posting an OPS of 1.919 in 26 PA in Baltimore and Chicago (two hitters parks in the heat of August, it will be interesting to see if these two hitter’s resurgence carries over to the pitcher-friendly Safeco Field). The struggles of Ibanez prompted the callup of Adam Jones, the Mariners top hitting prospect. The reaction of some of the veteran players to that move was, to put it nicely, a little less than enthusiastic. Jones has gotten 13 PA so far and has hit well (.417/.462/.500) but given the veteran’s recent hot bats, he may not get as much playing time as some would like.

In other prospect news, Ryan Rowland-Smith made his major league debut earlier this season, and he has appeared in 11 games this year. He made at least one good first impression with an appearance against the Red Sox.

Things get started off with Johan Santana versus Felix Hernandez. The Mariners have actually had more success against left-handed starting pitchers this year. You’ve no doubt heard about turning around a switch-hitter to get a more favorable matchup, but the Mariners have been employing the same tactic against LHP, which may account for their success. King Felix hasn’t quite returned to the utterly dominating form he was in early in the season, and some fans are getting tired of his non-regal behavior. Sometimes you just need to step back and realize that, even if he’s not everything you want right now, he’s still something special.

Tuesday pits Matt Garza against Horacio Ramirez in a pitching matchup that might actually favor the Twins. Ramirez has really struggled this year, but he’s been better at home, so he’s got that going for him (in addition to facing the Twins offense).

The road trip ends with Scott Baker taking on Jarrod Washburn, which means they will face two different Jareds on this trip and neither one can spell their name correctly. The Twins will want to work some counts and get Washburn’s pitch count up because he has run out of gas pretty consistently in his recent starts.

Kansas City has Emil Brown. Seattle has the Mariner Moose. It’s gettin’ dangerous out there on the diamond.

Finally, Ichiro just signed a pretty big contract, but, seeing as how he’s an odd dude, he attributes the decision to stay in Seattle to his dog. Maybe he’s hallucinating due to hunger, seeing as how he apparently never eats anything.

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