Series Preview: Cleveland Indians (52-46) vs. Seattle Mariners (46-52)

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Here’s 10 reasons you should visit Seattle:

1. You like coffee? They do coffee very well there, unless you don’t like how Starbucks burns theirs all the time

2. The Seahawks are a pretty cool bunch of guys and play in an awesome stadium

3. The rain makes you REALLY appreciate sunshine

4. You might run into Dave Grohl by accident

5. The flannel district, which I have to assume exists

6. The Sounders/Timbers rivalry is one of the best in sports

7. The city makes you feel like you’re in a giant castle because of all the drawbridges

8. Statistically speaking, you have a higher chance of running into a sasquatch than any other major metro area. Probably.

9. Fish?

10. Proximity to Canada for cigarettes and healthcare

In case you didn’t pick up on it, none of those things involve the Seattle Mariners, the Indians opponent for the next three games. That’s because the Mariners aren’t that attractive, at least four out of every five days. That Felix guy is pretty cool.

 

Jul 13, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez (34) reacts to the Mariners getting the final out of the 8th inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field. Seattle defeated Los Angeles 6-0. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

If it sounds like I have it out for the Mariners, I suppose you’re right, but it’s their fault. They’re the ones who said mean things about Cleveland. Granted, Cleveland probably isn’t quite as nice as Seattle – I wouldn’t know since I haven’t been there. But there’s an uncommon level of animosity between these two teams dating back to repeated clashes in surprisingly high stakes situations, and it makes for interesting series.

The M’s are probably better than their record suggests, they just have to play in a division with two top flight teams and an underachieving big spender. Just the other day  I noticed their third baseman Kyle Seager is having a stupendous season, 16 homers with a 138 OPS+ in a park that suppresses offense as much as any in baseball. For the life of me I can’t figure out where this came from, though at 25 he’s already had one above average offensive season with 20 homers and a 109 OPS+ a year ago. The Mariners have been searching for an offensive cornerstone for years now and with Seager, maybe they’ll have something to hang their hat on. Though he’s a bit more athletic than your average hat rack.

Along with Seager, quietly the Mariners are finally getting some legitimate at-bats from Justin Smoak. Prior to this year he’s been woefully underwhelming and seemingly a total disappointment as the key piece in the Cliff Lee trade. But he’ s learned his strike zone or something, sitting at a .371 OBP going into Sunday’s action and combined with decent power he’s packing a 131 OPS+. Not quite a superstar or anything but it’s a contribution. Better than can be said for his previous seasons.

How about Raul Ibanez too, huh? Before age 33, he had two seasons with 20 or more homers. In the last five years he’s got three, plus 19 last season in New York in 130 games. This year he’s already got 24 and even if his on-base percentage has taken a dip he’s having a banner offensive season. You know the M’s didn’t sign him to be a middle of the order ball murderer but surprises are fun sometimes. Makes Jack Z look like a genius.

Outside of those three Seattle isn’t too terrifying offensively, as a team ranking 12th in batting aveage and on-base percentage and ninth in the league in slugging. They’re also 13th in stolen bases and most importantly 10th in runs. So yeah, they don’t score a whole lot, really a pitching-centric team as they have been for quite some time. WHenever I watch them I can’t help but wonder which players of theirs would be offensive dynamos in another park. Kendrys Morales for instance was a great hitter in Anaheim before signing with the Mariners, now he’s a DH with a sub-.800 OPS. Michael Morse had a great couple seasons in Washington but like Morales, he’s only slightly above league average.

They also have Oliver Perez in their bullpen, which is weird because according to the NYC media, during his time with the Mets he was worse than the plague. He’s actually pretty good again. Go figure. Their bullpen has been solid all year, but closer Tom Wilhelmson had a BRUTAL June, giving up 13 of the 20 runs he’s allowed this year and ballooning his numbers. Charlie Furbush has likewise been good with 14 strikeouts in his last 11 innings of work over the previous month. Batters have a .598 OPS against him in that span and he’s vaporized lefties all year – just a .455 OPS. Luckily the Indians aren’t all southpaws anymore or he’d look like Phil Coke out there. That’s a compliment, albeit esoteric and backhanded. In addition to being part of one of the funniest sounding trades in baseball history, Furbush proven to be a solid piece for Wedge and Co along with the rest of the ‘pen. Hopefully the Indians can brutalize them.

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Tags: Aaron Harang Cleveland Indians Jason Kipnis Lonnie Chisenhall Seattle Mariners Series Preview