GAME: Athletics (18-17, 2nd, AL West, -3.5 GB) at Mariners (16-19, 3rd, AL West, -5.5 GB). GAME #: 36. SERIES: 1st of 3 games. MEETING: 5th (series tied 2-2). WHEN: Friday, 7:10 p.m., Safeco Field. STREAKS: Mariners W 1; Athletics L 3. TV: Root Sports. RADIO: ESPN 710, Mariners Radio Network
Between May 1-24, the Mariners will appear at Safeco Field just three times. The first is Friday night against AL West nemesis Oakland, which provides Seattle with an excellent chance to slice into the Athletics’ 1.5-game edge in the division standings. The Mariners not only have Hisashi Iwakuma and “Safeco Joe” Saunders going in the series, they will face an Oakland club at its most vulnerable, with three Athletics starters who have struggled, to put it kindly.
Oakland has a four-game losing streak, and has lost 14 of 20 since their 12-4 start, and is still smarting from a blown call by game officials in Cleveland in which the Athletics were denied a home run that could have extricated them from their current funk.
Now, the Athletics will face Iwakuma, who has emerged as one of the premier starters in the majors. He currently ranks No. 7 in WAR for pitchers (1.9), No. 6 in ERA (1.61) and No. 2 in WHIP (0.76). His 3-1 record would doubtless be better if had received more run support. The Mainers have scored three or fewer runs in five of his seven starts.
Iwakuma will oppose Dan Straily, whose only victory this season came against the lowly Houston Astros, seemingly destined to lose 110+ even though they’ve beaten Seattle four times in six games. Brandon Maurer’s opposite Saturday, Jarrod Parker, is 1-5 and gave up four home runs in his last start. Saunders will face Tommy Milone Sunday, and Milone has lost his last four.
The Mariners can move into second place in the AL West by the end of the three-game series. They may not have a better opportunity all season.
MARINERS: RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (3-1, 1.61 ERA, 0.76 WHIP)
The 32-year-old Iwakuma, a Tokyo native in his second major league season, both with the Mariners, will make his eighth start and second against the Athletics. Iwakuma has pitched into the sixth inning in six of his starts and is the American League leader in WHIP at 0.76. He is coming off an 8-1 win at Toronto and defeated the Athletics 7-1 April 2 in his first start of the season. He did not walk a batter in three of his starts.
- LAST START: May 4 at Toronto, won 8-1; 1 earned run on 5 hits in 7.0 innings; 5 strikeouts, 3 walks, 0 home runs, 108 pitches, 74 for strikes.
- LAST VS. ATHLETICS: April 2, won 7-1 at Oakland; 1 earned run on 2 hits in 6.0 innings; 7 strikeouts, 0 walks, 1 home run, 88 pitches, 53 for strikes.
- CAREER VS. ATHLETICS: 1-2, 4.05 ERA in 3 games, including 2 starts, covering 13.1 innings; 13 strikeouts, 4 walks, 3 home runs, 0.97 WHIP.
- AT SAFECO FIELD: 7-3, 2.09 ERA in 20 games, including 13 starts, covering 94.2 innings; 83 strikeouts, 28 walks, 9 home runs, 1.06 WHIP.
- LOVES TO FACE: John Jaso (0-for-3, .000), Brandon Moss (0-for-3, .000), Coco Crisp (1-for-7, .143).
- HATES TO FACE: Yoenis Cespedes (3-for-6, .500), Eric Sogard (1-for-2, .500), Josh Donaldson (1-for-4, .250).
- CURRENT ATHLETICS VS. IWAKUMA: 6-for-38, .158 BA, 10 strikeouts, 3 walks, 2 home runs, .220 on-base percentage.
ATHLETICS: RHP Dan Straily (1-0, 5.94 ERA, 1.20 WHIP)
The 24-year-old Straily, a Redlands, CA., native in his second major league season, both with Oakland, will make his fourth start and first against the Mariners. Straily defeated the Houston Astros in his first start April 5 and did not start again until April 29. He has two no-decisions in his last two outings. Acquired by Oakland in the 2009 amateur draft, Straily went 2-1 for the A’s in seven starts in 2012.
- LAST START: May 5 at New York Yankees, took a no-decision in Oakland’s 5-4 loss; 3 earned runs on 4 hits in 5.1 innings; 4 strikeouts, 3 walks, 0 home runs, 85 pitches, 60 for strikes.
- LAST VS. MARINERS: Sept. 29, 2012, took a no-decision in a 7-4 Oakland win; 3 earned runs on 4 hits in 4.1 innings; 3 strikeouts, 4 walks, 2 home runs, 74 pitches, 39 for strikes.
- CAREER VS. MARINERS: 0-0, 6.23 ERA in 1 start covering 6.2 innings; 3 strikeouts, 4 walks, 2 home runs, 1.61 WHIP.
- AT SAFECO FIELD: Never pitched.
- LOVES TO FACE: Dustin Ackley (0-for-2, .000), Justin Smoak (0-for-1, .000), Robert Andino (0-for-1, .000).
- HATES TO FACE: Endy Chavez (1-for-1, 1.000), Michael Saunders (1-for-1, 1.000), Kendrys Morales (2-for-5, .400).
- CURRENT MARINERS VS. STRAILY: 6-for-18, .333 BA, 3 strikeouts, 5 walks, 4 home runs, .478 on-base percentage.
MARINERS STATS / NOTES
- CURRENT HOME STAND: Three vs. Oakland (Friday-Sunday). Following the Oakland series, the Mariners have a nine-game road trip to face the Yankees (May 14-16), Indians (May 17-20) and Angels (May 21-22).
- Felix Hernandez (1.53) and Hisashi Iwakuma (1.61) rank second and sixth, respectively, in major league ERA. Iwakuma leads the American League in WHIP (0.76).
- Joe Saunders ranks eighth in MLB in earned runs allowed with 28.
- In the Mariners’ 16 victories, they are batting .296 (37-for-125) with runners in scoring position. In 19 losses, the Mariners are batting .121 (15-for-123) with RISP. The Mariners have no hits with RISP 10 times in 35 games.
|5/10||Fri||vs. Oak||RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (3-1) vs. RHP Dan Straily (1-0)|
|5/11||Sat||vs. Oak||RHP Brandon Maurer (2-4) vs. RHP Jarrod Parker (1-5)|
|5/12||Sun||vs. Oak||LHP Joe Saunders (2-4) vs. LHP Tommy Milone (3-4)|