Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Yankees vs. Mariners Series Preview

Yankees vs. Mariners
New Yankee Stadium
(3 games)

After taking care of business against the injury-riddled Mets at Citi Field, the Yanks head home for a three-game series with the Mariners. It's the first time the two teams have met this season, last year the Yanks won seven of the nine games against Seattle. Heading into this series the Yanks have won five in a row and look like they're putting that tough 13-game stretch that saw them go 4-9 behind them. They are now 43-32 just 3.5 games behind the first place Red Sox in the division and sit a game and a half ahead of the hard-charging Rays.

Throughout June the Yankees have been pitching very well. For the month their team ERA is 3.49 which is almost a run better than their 4.28 ERA for the month of May, and over two runs better than their pitiful 5.79 ERA for the month of April. Now, to go along with the pitching, they've started to hit again, which is the reason for their five-game winning streak. If they can keep that up for a while this team will be a force to be reckoned with, but I've already said that a few times.

Seattle heads to The Bronx winners of 9 of their last 12 and are a surprising 39-36, just 3.5 games behind the Angels first in the AL West. They have some quality young arms on their pitching staff, including Felix Hernandez, who looks like he could be headed for his first Cy Young award. The 23-year-old is 8-3 with a 2.54 ERA and has struck out 107 in 109.2 innings. Luckily, the Yanks don't have to face him this series. They also won't be facing left-hander Erik Bedard either because he's on the DL. Like Hernandez, Bedard is having a great season. So far he's 5-2, with a 2.47 ERA. Jason Vargas, who the Yanks will face, has also had a solid year, going 3-3 with a 3.79 ERA in nine starts. He will start the Thursday game. Veteran Jarrod Washburn is also having a very solid start to his year, the Yanks will face him tomorrow.

Their bullpen has also been fantastic. Sean White, Shawn Kelley, Miguel Batista, and closer David Aardsma all have ERA's under 3.00, with White, Kelley and Aardsma are all under 2.00. Their bullpen ERA is the second best in baseball at 3.16, behind only the Red Sox who are at 2.89.

Seattle's problem has been their offense. They've scored the second fewest runs (291) in the game, ahead of only San Diego who has scored just 287. Thanks to Ichiro their team batting average is at a somewhat respectable .261. Besides Ichiro, Russell Branyan has also had a solid year, hitting .303/.400/.609 with a team leading 19 homers and 39 RBI. He trails only Jose Lopez for team lead in RBI. Ken Griffey Jr. is back with the M's, but is struggling. He's hitting .218/.332/.409 with 9 HR and 25 RBI, and even though he's probably a few months past the time he should have retired, he's probably good for at least one more homer in the Bronx, though I'd much rather see him go 0-for-the series.

I thought they should have swept the Mets heading into the weekend series and said so on this blog. I feel the same way about this series with the Mariners, they should at least take two of three. While the Mariners have played well lately, they've done it against NL teams - although they did take two of three from the Dodgers in LA - their team just lost Adrian Beltre to shoulder surgery, and the Yankees are the better team.

Pitching Matchups

Game 1: Tonight @ 7:05 p.m. | TV/Radio: YES, WCBS
RHP Joba Chamberlain (4-2, 3.81) vs. RHP Brandon Morrow (0-3, 5.64)

Game 2: Tomorrow @ 7:05 p.m. | TV/Radio: YES, WCBS
LHP Andy Pettitte (7-3, 4.38) vs. LHP Jarrod Washburn (4-5, 3.22)

Game 3: Thursday @ 7:05 p.m. | TV/Radio: YES, WCBS
LHP CC Sabathia (7-4, 3.55) vs. LHP Jason Vargas (3-3, 3.79)

Players to Watch

YANKEES: Alex Rodriguez - It's not just a coincidence that the Yankees started when A-Rod started hitting again, so that's why, for the second series in a row, he's my Yankee to watch. In the last five games the third baseman is hitting .467/.667/.867 (that's an OPS of 1.533) with 2 homers and 9 RBI. The batting average for the year is still at an ugly .232, but he's got a solid .399 on-base % and he's slugging .484 and climbing.

A-Rod has done well against the team that drafted him throughout his career, hitting .287/.396/.597 with 29 HR and 75 RBI in 94 games. Last year, however, was not a good year for A-Rod against the M's. He hit a lame .150/.346/.150 with just one RBI in six games.

Rodriguez vs. Morrow: .286/.375/.714 (2-for-7) HR, 2 RBI, 3 strikeouts.
Rodriguez vs. Washburn: .370/.419/.593 (15-for-47) 6 HR, 10 RBI
Rodriguez vs. Vargas: He's never faced Vargas.

MARINERS: Ichiro Suzuki - Have we seen a better pure hitter in the last 20 years than Ichiro? Boggs and Gwynn are the only two I can think of that could be better. Currently he's leading baseball with a .372 batting average. He has 110 hits on the season, including 14 doubles, 3 triples, 13 stolen bases, and has hit 6 homers which ties his total in each of the past two seasons.

In 70 games against the Yanks in his career, Ichiro is hitting .320/.365/.423 with 6 HR, 25 RBI, and has stolen 19 bases. The numbers last year against the Yanks were not too impressive. Yankees pitching held Ichiro to a hitting line of .289/.289/.367 with a homer and 3 RBI. .289 may be good for some, but not for Ichiro. At the old stadium he hit .341/.372/.439 with 3 homers and 12 RBI in 37 games.

Ichiro vs. Chamberlain: 1-for-3 with a strikeout.
Ichiro vs. Pettitte: .400/.400/.433 (12-for-30) a double, 5 RBI, and 6 strikeouts.
Ichiro vs. Sabathia: .395/.395/.737 (15-for-38) two doubles, one triple, 3 HR, 4 RBI.

Injury Report

- Xavier Nady, RF: 15-day DL with an injured right elbow. He played in two minor league rehab games before taking himself out of yesterday's game in the fifth after feeling something in his right elbow. Brian Cashman said this could be a "worst-case scenario" which likely means he could be done for the year.
- Jose Molina, C: On the 15-day DL with a strained left quad. He's begun baseball activities and could be back in as little as a week.
- Damaso Marte, RP: 15-day DL with a sore shoulder. He's played a lot of catch, but is still nowhere close to returning.

- Adrian Beltre, 3B: Will miss 6-8 weeks after having shoulder surgery.
- Yuniesky Betancourt, SS: 15-day DL with a strained right hamstring.
- Endy Chavez, OF: 60-day DL with a torn ACL - done for the year.
- Erik Bedard, SP: 15-day DL with left shoulder inflammation.
- Carlos Silva, SP: 60-day DL with a right shoulder impingement.
- Shawn Kelly, RP: 15-day DL with a strained left olblique.
- Cesar Jimenez, RP: 60-day DL with left biceps tendinitis.
- Ryan Feierabend, SP/RP: 60-day DL after having left shoulder surgery - out for season.