Series Preview: Seattle Mariners

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

This one has trap series written all over it folks, and I’ll explain why in a second. The Yankees and Mariners have met once before this season, in Seattle back at the end of May. The Yankees lost two of three but had leads in all three games, they just couldn’t close things out.

What Have The Mariners Done Lately?

Losing. Lots and lots of losing. As in a franchise-record 15 losses in a row. Seriously. The Mariners haven’t won a game since July 5th, when they beat the Athletics 4-2. They’ve been outscored 87-40 during the losing streak, and eight of those 40 runs came yesterday. All told, the Mariners are 43-58 with a -50 run differential, the third worst record and run differential in the AL. It seems inevitable that they’ll end that ugly losing streak in the Bronx, if not win the series.

Mariners On Offense

(Photo Credit: Flickr user hj_west via Creative Commons license)

Seattle scored just 513 runs last season, the worst run production in the DH era. They’re on pace for 533 this season, so I guess that’s improvement. For comparison’s sake, the Yankees have already scored 513 runs on the season. Think about that. The Mariners are hitting .226/.289/.334 with a .279 wOBA as a team, MLB worsts in everything but SLG. They’re one point ahead of the Padres in that department.

It all starts at the top, where Ichiro Suzuki is going through the same kind of painful-to-watch age-related decline as Derek Jeter. He went 2-for-5 yesterday and that raised his season line to .268/.315/.318. Brutal. Brendan Ryan was a pain the last two times these two clubs met, and he’s hitting .264/.324/.342 as the regular two-hitter. He did go 2-for-4 yesterday and is on a nice little .305/.362/.436 tear over the last 30 days though. Dustin Ackley was called up a little more than a month ago and has already emerged as the team’s best hitter. He’s up to .297/.347/.505 on the season following yesterday’s 2-for-5. Everything kinda goes downhill from there.

When these two clubs met in May, Justin Smoak was at .263/.365/.461 on the season and making the Mariners looking very smart for taking him over Jesus Montero last July. He’s hitting just .190/.278/.341 since then, and we’re talking about 205 plate appearances. That’s dragged Smoak’s season line down to .244/.319/.396. Miguel Olivo has been hitting cleanup with his .223/.260/.395 batting line, and both Adam Kennedy (.251/.297/.382) and Jack Cust (.214/.347/.332) are getting regular at-bats. Franklin Gutierrez catches everything hit in the air and between the lines, but he’s all the way down to .192/.230/.231. Mike Carp (.263/.344/.439 in limited action) is now the regular left fielder, but it’s just 64 PA. That’s their regular lineup, though Chone Figgins (.182/.236/.240), Greg Halman (.256/.284/.385), Jack Wilson (.229/.259/.252), and Josh Bard (.222/.243/.417) almost might make appearances. It’s an ugly offense, as ugly as it gets.

Mariners On The Mound

Monday, LHP Jason Vargas (vs. Freddy Garcia): The Yankees tagged Vargas for six runs in three innings back in May, and he’s coming off back-to-back five-run outings. His 3.94 ERA lines right up with his 3.96 FIP, and his peripheral stats aren’t anything to write home about: 5.80 K/9, 2.35 uIBB/9, and 37.3% grounders. Vargas throws four pitches regularly but will mix in two others; his high-80’s four and two-seamers set up his low-80’s changeup, and he’ll also throw some mid-80’s cutters. Every once in a while you’ll see a curveball or slider. He doesn’t have much of a platoon split because of the changeup, but Vargas is a fly ball pitcher that doesn’t miss bats. Handedness shouldn’t matter much.

Tuesday, RHP Doug Fister (vs. CC Sabathia): The Yankees drafted Fister once upon a time, back in the sixth round of 2005. He didn’t sign and went back to Fresno State for another year, then the Mariners grabbed him in the seventh round of the 2006 draft. Fister has developed into a very nice starting pitcher in his second full-season, backing up his 3.30 ERA with a 3.19 FIP. His strikeout rate sucks (5.44 K/9), but he’s even stingier with the walks than Vargas (1.88 uIBB/9) and does a much better job of keeping the ball on the ground (45.5%). He gets good downhill plane from his 6-foot-8 frame and pounds the zone with his high-80’s four and two-seamers. A mid-70’s curveball and a mid-80s slider are his go-to secondary offerings, but we’ll also see a low-80’s change on occasion. The Yankees have not faced Fister this season or last, so the only experience they have against him is a pair of starts in 2009 (7 IP, 3 R and 4 IP, 6 R).

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Mark Sobba via Creative Commons license)

Wednesday, RHP Felix Hernandez (vs. Phil Hughes): Long live the king. Felix won the Cy Young Award with a 3.04 FIP and a 3.14 xFIP last season, and this year he’s at 3.11 and 3.11, respectively. Don’t be fooled by the 3.47 ERA, blame that on a low (for him) 72.0% strand rate. It had been north of 76% in the past. His .299 BABIP is also his highest in three years. Hernandez’s peripherals are still as good as it gets (8.43 K/9, 2.73 uIBB/9, 48.9% grounders), and his stuff is world class: mid-90’s with both the four and two-seamers, a high-80’s changeup, a mid-80’s slider, and a low-80’s curve. There are few better than Felix, who has made a habit of wrecking the Yankees in recent years. Yeah, they got to him for four runs in seven innings earlier this year, but that was a minor miracle. When it comes to pitchers of this caliber, history doesn’t matter.

Bullpen: The Red Sox did the Yankees a favor by taxing Seattle’s bullpen yesterday, forcing four relievers to throw 72 pitches across 3.2 IP. One of those four relievers was lefty Aaron Laffey (4.65 FIP), who recorded zero outs but gave up four hits and three runs on a dozen pitches. He also threw 18 pitches on Saturday, so he might not be an option tonight. He’s their only lefty in the ‘pen.

Closer Brandon League (2.69 FIP) threw 18 pitches, but he was just getting work in the blowout. Sometimes setup guy Jamey Wright (4.76 FIP) threw 28 pitches, and garbage time reliever Josh Lueke (4.54 FIP in limiting time) threw 14 pitches. David Pauley (3.36) is the Mariners’ relief ace, and you’ve also got some guy named Jeff Gray (3.42 FIP) and Yankees’ punching bag Chris Ray (3.54 FIP). They typically get the job done, though most of these guys are no names.

Recommended Mariners Reading: U.S.S. Mariner and Lookout Landing. Remember that RAB Tickets can get you to any of the three games for cheap.

2011 Draft: Yankees sign fourth rounder Matt Duran

The Yankees have signed fourth round pick Matt Duran, or at least that’s what this tweet from the kid suggests. The team hasn’t confirmed the signing yet, but given the context of Duran’s tweet, I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet. Baseball America (subs. req’d) said the New Rochelle native “generates plus raw power from his 6-foot-1, 220-pound build” and “has a long swing and can drive the ball to all fields.” Because of his limited defensive skills, he’s likely to move off third base down the road, probably to first. I don’t know what kind of signing bonus he received, but MLB’s slot recommendation for the 149th overall pick is $171,000. I figure the rookie level GCL Yankees are in his immediate future.

Update: Jim Callis says Duran got $335,000, so almost double slot. Good for him.

Fan Confidence Poll: June 25th, 2011

Record Last Week: 4-3 (39 RS, 25 RA)
Season Record:
59-40 (513 RS, 385 RA, 63-36 pythag. record), three games back in the loss column
Opponents This Week:
vs. Mariners (three games, Mon. to Weds.) Thurs. OFF, vs. Orioles (four games, Fri. to Sun., two on Sat.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
View Results

Yanks survive late chaos to take series from A’s

The first series of this cushy ten-game homestand is complete, and the Yankees did what they had to do by taking two of three. It got a little hairy in the late innings, but all that matters is that they … put it on the left side!

And there's the lead.

Biggest Hit: Eduardo’s Double

The Athletics jumped out to a two-zip lead in the second inning with a little help from Russell Martin (more on that in a bit), but the Yankees answered back with one run in the bottom half before taking the lead for good in the fourth. It was a two out rally too; Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher started the fourth out with a ground out and a fly out. Gio Gonzalez created his own mess by putting Martin (grazed by a pitch in the pant leg) and Andruw Jones (four-pitch walk) on base without making them take the bat of their shoulders. That brought Eduardo Nunez to the plate.

Playing shortstop while Derek Jeter got a half day off as the DH, Nunez saw two fastballs and a changeup in his first at-bat, a fly out to Josh Willingham left. Gio went to the hook the second time around, dropping the first curve in for a called strike. The second curve wasn’t a bad pitch, but Nunez loves pitches down in the zone and he golfed it out to left. Willingham didn’t catch this one, and it landed on the warning track. Martin scored easily from second and Jones chugged all the way from first to score. Just like that, the Yankees turned a one-run deficit into a one-run lead with just one swing of the bat. The WPA on this sucker was +.227, the second biggest play of the game. We’ll cover the first in a bit.

Hi Eduardo.

Honorable Mention: Grandy Goes Boom

One inning after Nunez gave the Yankees the lead, their offensive MVP tacking on what proved to be a pair of big insurance runs. Gio again hurt himself by walking Jeter after a full count to lead off the fifth, then he again ran the count full to Curtis Granderson. Curtis saw nothing but fastballs that at-bat, and I assume it was because Oakland was worried about a stolen base. The seventh heater of the encounter was a little inside but it was up, and Granderson did what he’s been doing to that pitch all season. He pulled his hands in and yanked it down the line, into the second deck for a two-run homer to turn a 3-2 game into a much more comfortable 5-2 game. At +.138 WPA, this was the third biggest play of the game.

Seven From Bart

Out.

It wasn’t the complete game shutout he threw against the A’s in May, but Bartolo Colon gave the Yankees seven innings of one-run ball, his second straight strong effort after a pair of stinkers. He did allow eight hits, several of which were very hard hit (as were some of the outs), but he only walked one and recorded 15 of his 21 outs on the infield. Colon did get some help in the fifth, when Eric Sogard got thrown out at the plate on Hideki Matsui‘s double. Granderson made a nice throw to the cutoff man, but Cano kinda airmailed the relay throw to the plate. Martin jumped to catch it and came down in time to apply the tag. That made up for the ball he failed to receive properly in the second, which led to a pair of Oakland runs.

Colon threw 99 total pitches and just 28 balls, though 23 of those pitches were offspeed (22 sliders and one changeup). That’s about double his season average, which is something that’s been going on since he came off the DL. I think it’s a conscious decision to change up the scouting report and keep the hitters guessing a little bit simply because he doesn’t seem to favoring the hamstring anymore. The four-seam fastball averaged 92.35 mph and topped out at 95.5, so the velo’s there. Things got a little scary with the injury, but these last two starts have shown that the clock hasn’t struck midnight just yet.

Why Robertson?

Joe Girardi pulled off his best Joe Torre impression in the eighth inning, using David Robertson with a four-run lead one day after he threw 25 pitches in oppressive heat and humidity. Robertson ended up getting smacked around a bit, giving up three hits for just the second time this season and two runs for the third time. He ended up throwing 30 pitches while recording only two outs, so forget about having him on Monday and probably Tuesday as well. It just seemed pretty unnecessary, if you can’t use Luis Ayala or Cory Wade with a four-run lead in the eighth inning against the Athletics, when can you use them?

And that's the ball game.

Relax, Mo’s Got This

Robertson’s struggles resulted in Mariano Rivera coming in for the four-out save, just the second time all season he’s been asked to do that. The other time was April 24th in Baltimore, when he blew the save but escaped the inning because Felix Pie got thrown out the plate. The Yankees went on to win that game in extra innings after a rain delay. Anyway, Mo cleaned up Robertson’s mess with a ground ball out to end the eighth, but some BABIP shenanigans created an interesting situation in the ninth. Jemile Weeks singled through the right side on what sounded like a broken bat, Coco Crisp reached on an infield single off Cano’s glove at second, then Matsui blooped in a broken bat single.

All of a sudden, the bases were loaded with one out (Sogard grounded out to open the inning). Willingham became the fourth straight batter to single, a legit line drive to left that could only score one run. Paul O’Neill made an interesting point, saying that the outfielders should not have been playing deep because it’s not often that Mo gives up a ball to the wall. Had Brett Gardner (who replaced Jones for defense late) been playing normal depth, that ball is hit right at him for the second out. Anyway, the next batter hit a line drive to Mark Teixeira at first, who stepped on the bag for the game-ending double play. I thought the ball would have curved foul when I say the play live, but upon further review it clearly would have gone down the line and into the corner for extra bases. Three dinky hits started the rally but a line drive double play ended it. The BABIP gods work in mysterious ways. That double play was worth +.291 WPA for the Yankees and was the biggest play of the game.

Leftovers

Nunez’s double was obviously very important, but he also created an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth. Joey Devine came on for Oakland and much like Friday night, his first pitch was behind the batter. Eduardo ducked out of the way and then singled two pitches later. Brandon Laird bunted him over to second then Nunez stole third*, and with the infield in, he managed to score on Jeter’s ground ball. Nunez broke on contact and was so far down the line that the A’s didn’t try for the play at home. That whole inning was like a big FU for the first pitch of the inning, like Nunez got mad and got some revenge.

* Am the only one that finds that kinda funny? Bunt a guy to second and then he steals third? Why not just have him steal second and save the out?

The Yankees botched a chance to score some runs in the third inning, when Laird (reached on an error) and Jeter (walk) started the inning by reaching in base. Grandy clobbered a pitch to deep center, but Crisp ran it down on the warning track. Laird should have tagged up there as soon as he saw Crisp settle under it, but he wandered too far off the bag and had to stay at second. Jeter did was he was supposed to do, he’s got to go to second so he can score in case it gets over the outfielder’s head. Rookie mistake by Laird. Teixeira grounded into a double play as the next batter to end the inning.

Granderson’s homer was his 11th off a left-handed pitcher this year, by far the most in the majors by a left-handed batter. Matsui is second with seven. Speaking of Godzilla, damn did he have himself a game or what? Five hits in five at-bats including two doubles, his first five-hit game since 2007. He was a thorn in the side all weekend, but I can’t bring myself to dislike the guy. First class all the way and a great Yankee.

As for the rest of the offense … Jeter had two walks, Tex a bloop single just off Crisp’s glove, Cano a single, Martin two singles, and Jones had two singles and a walk. Andruw has five hits (including two homers) in 14 at-bats (.357) since the break to go along with two walks and just one strikeout. He’s coming around a little bit, which is nice to see. Martin has nine hits in 32 at-bats (.281) since the break with four walks and one hit-by-pitch (.378 OBP). Maybe the three days off (he did fly to Arizona but didn’t play in the All-Star Game) did him some good.

The Yankees managed to give up 38 hits in the series, the most they’ve given up in any three-game stretch all season. This game was also the first one all year they won while allowing 15 hits or more. Oh, and it’s the first time Mo allowed four hits in an outing and still got the save in eight years. Go figure. Rivera’s 25th save of the season extended his own record of consecutive seasons with 25+ saves to 15.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, ESPN the up to date standings.

Up Next

Trap series! The Mariners are coming to town on a 15-game losing streak. Yes, 15 games. That streak will inevitable end in the Bronx and cause MASS PANIC! Freddy Garcia will be charged with keeping his former team in check in the opener on Monday. Jason Vargas gets the ball for Seattle. If you want to catch the game, RAB Tickets can get you there on the cheap.

SWB beats in old friend as Soriano rehabs

Commenter mbonzo was kind enough to put together a makeshift DotF in my  absence last night, so check that out for last night’s update. Dante Bichette Jr.’s on some kind of tear, 4-for-4 with two walks and two doubles yesterday has him up to .500/.569/.786 in his last ten games and .305/.448/.484 on the season. As for Dellin Betances, he left last night’s game with the trainer, but apparently it was just heat related. He labored that inning (30+ pitches) and just ran out of gas covering first. If there’s any definitive update, we’ll obviously keep you updated.

Triple-A Scranton (7-2 win over Syracuse)
Rafael Soriano, RHP: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2-0 GB/FB - gave up a leadoff homer to this guy and then refused to talk to the media after the game, so he’s in midseason form … he didn’t start, this was the first time during his rehab that he warmed up and came out of the bullpen … apparently there’s a chance he’ll pitch again tomorrow, and after that he might rejoin the big league team … nothing confirmed yet though
Kevin Russo, 3B: 1 for 4, 2 K, 1 SB
Greg Golson, LF: 0 for 3, 1 R, 2 K, 1 HBP – threw a runner out at the plate
Jesus Montero, DH: 2 for 4, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI – one of the doubles was off the top of the wall, almost a homer … he’s ruining the narrative by raising his OPS, that jerk
Mike Lamb, 1B, Gus Molina, C, Luis Nunez, 2B & Doug Bernier, SS: all 1 for 4 – Gus hit a three-run homer and whiffed … Nunez doubled and drove in a run
Jordan Parraz, RF: 2 for 3, 1 R, 1 3B, 2 RBI, 1 K – threw a runner out at second
Austin Krum, CF: 1 for 3, 2 R, 1 BB
Andrew Brackman, RHP: 4 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 0 K, 5-1 GB/FB - just 35 of 73 pitches were strikes (47.9%) … he was the starter, but yawn, another bad outing in a terrible year
Josh Schmidt, RHP: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1-1 GB/FB – 16 of 23 pitches were strikes (69.6%)
Randy Flores, LHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 0-3 GB/FB – nine of 12 pitches were strikes
Eric Wordekemper, RHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K – 11 of 15 pitches were strikes (73.3%)

For Old Time’s Sake
Chien-Ming Wang, RHP: 5 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 WP, 5-4 GB/FB – 63 of 96 pitches were strikes (56.6%) … gave up Molina’s homer and Montero’s almost homer … that’s it for him, the team announced that he’ll start against the Mets on Friday … I do wish him the best because it’s been a long, long road back (he hasn’t been an effective pitcher since June of 2008), so  good luck Wanger

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