Series Preview: Cleveland Indians vs. Seattle Mariners

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Pitching Matchups

One of the many faceless pitchers the Mariners have trotted out over the years, Maurer made his debut in the Majors at 22 this year giving up six runs over six innings to the Athletics. He did throw 6+ innings of shutout ball against the Angels, but looks to be a middle of the rotation type of guy, topping 94 with his fastball along with a very good slider and a solid change. We’ve seen what younger pitchers do to the Indians, but if they can just work him a bit, the kid could crack. It’d be nice to start the series off on a good foot, and what better chance than an untested, middling rookie?

So what’s it going to be, Big U? We gonna have fun here? We gonna get another 6+ innings, a chunk of K’s and five or les hits? Or are you going to make the M’s look like world beaters? We all like the way he’s been pitching, but we’ve all been led on all too much in the past to bandwagon up yet. He’s won his last three starts and struck out eight Tigers his last time out, in hostile territory no less, though he unsurprisingly has a 4.35 ERA against Seattle. That’s mainly because he’s been terrible against everyone. Of current M’s, Dustin Ackley and Michael Saunders have homered. So yeah, we’ll see. (editor’s note: You can listen to Merritt, Ed, and Nick talk about Ubaldo ad nauseum on the Wahoo’s on First podcast, Wahoo’s on the Mic)

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Bazooka Joe, as he is apparently known, is the definition of a journeyman pitcher – 197 total starts and a career 4.20 ERA, you could do worse than Joe Saunders every fifth day. He’s 32 now, and may be nearing the end of his shelf life. It’s been an up and down season already, including two starts against the Astros, one of which led to 6.1 innings of shutout ball and the other an eight run thumping, as well as a complete game to end April. So he’s been all over the place, but at the worst he’ll give the Mariners a chance to win, or would if they had an offense. Drew Stubbs seems to kick his ass with a 1.053 OPS over 12 plate appearances, and Nick Swisher and Jason Giambi have homered off him along with Stubbs. Maybe the homers will keep coming, it’s been a good time leaving Philly.

To all the naysayers out there, shut up about Zach McAllister. As far as I’m concerned, and regardless of how many times I’ll come back on this, he’s the real deal. The guy has been brilliant, nigh unhittable his last few starts and he isn’t getting rattled by guys on base. It’s not like he’s pitched against cupcakes either, whether it’s seven and change innings of scoreless ball against the A’s or six innings of two run ball in Detroit, he’s getting it done. So it should be a vacation for him against a very poor but not quite Astrosian offense. The key is to keep the walks down and locate his fastball, as with any pitcher, and he’s a top tier starter.

What can you say about Felix Hernandez. He’s the best in the business right now, with regards to Messrs Verlander, Kershaw and perhaps Darvish. Still young, still getting better, perfect game thrower, Cy Young winner, Felix on his game is simply unbeatable. He’s got the mindset of never wanting to give up a run, something Verlander seems to struggle with at times (for more on this, email me) simply because Felix CAN’T give up many runs. He loves it in Seattle, and they love him. This year he’s dominated like usual, and I’m looking forward to this one as a test of where the Tribe is to this point. They’ve beat up Cy Young winners already this year, time for another test.

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A duel of aces, it seems. Though Masterson isn’t as brilliant as Felix, he’s certainly done the job he’s been tasked with this season. His last outing, that shutout against the Yankees? Brilliant stuff. He had it all working, the few jams he was in were inconsequential, and he was, well, an ace. Like McAllister, the success stems from his not walking people like he did last year (3.4/9 as opposed to 3.8/9) but also the K’s, nearly two more per nine innings than a year ago. Is it sustainable? Perhaps, the strikeout is becoming more a thing in baseball and he’s looked great anyway so maybe, just maybe, we have a real actual ace for the first time in four years. Hope is our personal methamphetamine. So is Justin’s beard.

Aaron Harang has weird facial hair. He also has a good last name, if you like yelling at people. Besides that, he’s, well, eh. You’ll remember him from the Reds when he was their ace because there was nothing else going on there, then he took his talents to San Diego then LA where he was the oddest man out. Nowadays he’s kinda terrible, giving up more than a hit an inning, but at least he’s not walking a ton at 1.8/9. Plus he seems to have rediscovered his strikeout pitch, K’ing 8.4 per 9 in this young season. He’s gotten better in May giving up two runs in each of his outings, after an April that saw three, eight and five runs scored on him. Plus he lasted past the fifth this month! The Indians should feast. On the other hand, his peripherals tell us he’s better than that, so darn if Harang isn’t an enigma. I hate mediocre pitchers sometimes.

Thus does the redemption story continue. Kazmir continues to look like his 2007 self, and who could be happier than me? Well, maybe Kazmir, because he’s about to get paid. He’s still rarely getting past the sixth inning, but when you’re striking out at least a batter per inning who cares? Once Pestano comes back the pace of his starts will fall into place. Three Mariners have homered off Kazmir, but two of them are Raul Ibanez and Kelly Shoppoch, neither of which are likely to get much work. Watching him is like Ubaldo, just wait and see, but it’s a bit more joyful when the Kazmanian Devil (terrible?) (editor’s note: No… awesomely terrible. It’s a keeper) is on the hill.

Final Thought

We’re roughly a quarter of the way through the season, and the Indians are totally bad ass. A wraparound series with a middling team is a great chance to gain ground and maybe surpass the Tigers, and assert themselves in first. It’s a long season and the ups and downs are going to be fun and horrid, but hey, where’s the fun in knowing what’s going to happen? The Tribe should take this series, at least one blowout win because that’s how they do, and Felix might just get knocked around. Or he’ll K like 18. That’ll be a fun one.

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