GAME: Mariners (30-38, 3rd, AL West, -10.5 GB) at Athletics (41-28, 1st AL West, +2.0 GA). GAME #: 69. SERIES: 2nd of 3 games. MEETING: 9th (Mariners lead 5-3). WHEN: Saturday, 4:15 p.m., O.com Coliseum. STREAKS: Mariners W 1; Athletics L 1. TV: Root Sports. RADIO: ESPN 710, Mariners Radio Network
The Mariners made a major move Friday by signing 41-year-old catcher Henry Blanco, a well-traveled catcher with 16 years of major league experience, while simultaneously designating for assignment their recent starter, Kelly Shoppach. The move says that the Mariners are handing the backstop slot for the foreseeable future to 2012 first-round draft choice Mike Zunino.
For one game, anyway, the decision by GM Jack Zduriencik and manager Eric Wedge to promote Zunino paid off handsomely. Seattle’s fifth starting catcher this season, Zunino cracked his first major league home run Friday and made a stellar defensive play to cut down a runner at the plate as the Mariners defeated the Oakland A’s 3-2.
Zunino’s homer, a massive shot to center in the seventh inning, became the game winner for the Mariners, who lost five of eight before upending the Athletics. It also made a winner out of lefty Joe Saunders, who finally won a road game after starting the season 0-4, 9.00 away from Safeco Field.
The Mariners have an opportunity to do something special. With Felix Hernandez pitching Saturday and Hisashi Iwakuma Sunday, Seattle can sweep Oakland for the first time since April 10-12, 2009.
Hernandez defeated Oakland once this season and sports an impressive record at O.com Coliseum. His opponent Saturday, A.J. Griffin, hasn’t won in his past three starts. A closer look:
MARINERS: RHP Felix Hernandez (7-4, 2.49 ERA, 1.04 WHIP)
The 27-year-old Hernandez, in his ninth major league season, all with Seattle, will make his 15th start and second against the Athletics. Hernandez has won his last two decisions, took a no-decision in his last outing and hasn’t lost since May 25. He beat Oakland on Opening Day, and has an outstanding record when pitching at O.com Coliseum, 7-2 with a 2.96 ERA in 14 starts.
- LAST START: June 9 at Safeco Field, took a no-decision in a 2-1 loss to the Yankees; 1 earned run on 5 hits in 7.0 innings; 7 strikeouts, 2 walks, 0 home runs, 108 pitches, 66 for strikes.
- LAST VS. ATHLETICS: April 1, defeated Oakland 2-0; 0 earned runs on 3 hits in 7.2 innings; 8 strikeouts, 1 walk, 0 home runs, 109 pitches, 69 for strikes.
- CAREER VS. ATHLETICS: 14-6, 2.70 ERA in 27 starts covering 186.2 innings; 179 strikeouts, 55 walks, 14 home runs; 1.14 WHIP.
- AT O.COM COLISEUM: 7-2, 2.96 ERA in 14 starts covering 87.1 innings; 84 strikeouts, 26 walks, 8 home runs; 1.14 WHIP.
- LOVES TO FACE: Brandon Moss (2-for-12, .167), Coco Crisp (10-for-52, .192), John Jaso (1-for-8, .200),
- HATES TO FACE: Seth Smith (6-for-16, .375), Yoenis Cespedes (4-for-15, .267), Josh Donaldson (2-for-8, .250).
- CURRENT ATHLETICS VS. HERNANDEZ: 38-for-189, .201 BA, 48 strikeouts, 9 walks, 2 home runs, .248 on-base percentage.
ATHLETICS: RHP A.J. Griffin (5-5, 3.78 ERA, 1.14 WHIP)
The 25-year-old Griffin, in his second major league season, both with Oakland, will make his 14th start and second against the Mariners. Although Griffin has five victories, he’s coming off two losses and a no-decision. Griffin had his best outing May 3 when he defeated the Yankees 2-0, allowing six hits over 7.0 innings. The Athletics selected Griffin in the 13th round of the 2010 amateur draft.
- LAST START: June 9 at Chicago, lost 4-2; 4 earned runs on 7 hits in 7.1 innings; 5 strikeouts, 1 walk, 2 home runs, 102 pitches, 74 for strikes.
- LAST VS. MARINERS: April 4, defeated Seattle 8-2; 2 earned runs on 7 hits in 6.0 innings; 3 strikeouts, 2 walks, 1 home run, 95 pitches, 61 for strikes.
- CAREER VS. MARINERS: 3-0, 2.12 ERA in 3 starts covering 17.0 innings; 14 strikeouts, 5 walks, 2 home runs, 1.29 WHIP.
- AT O.COM COLISEUM: 5-1, 3.28 ERA in 13 starts covering 74.0 innings; 58 strikeouts, 20 walks, 8 home runs, 1.31 WHIP.
- LOVES TO FACE: Kyle Seager (2-for-9, .222), Brendan Ryan (1-for-4, .250), Raul Ibanez (2-for-8, .250).
- HATES TO FACE: Michael Morse (2-for-3, .667), Michael Saunders (2-for-7, .286).
- CURRENT MARINERS VS. GRIFFIN: 16-for-61, .262 BA, 13 strikeouts, 3 walks, 1 home run, .292 on-base percentage.
MARINERS STATS / NOTES
- CURRENT ROAD TRIP: Three at Oakland (Friday-Sunday), four at L.A. Angels (Monday-Thursday). Following the road trip, the Mariners return to Safeco Field for a three-game series with the Athletics June 21-23, Pittsburgh Pirates (June 25-26) and Chicago Cubs (June 28-30).
- Joe Saunders was winless on the road (0-4, 9.00) before holding the Athletics to one earned run on five hits over 7.0 innings Friday. He struck out four and walked two.
- Oliver Perez recorded his first save of the season Friday.
- Manager Eric Wedge said Tom Wilhelmsen is out of the closer’s role after Wilhelmsen’s four blown saves since May 20. Wedge said he will opt for a closer-by-committee approach, inserting pitchers based on matchups. “I’m not going to put it on any one guy,” said Wedge. “Nobody is ready for that.” Wedge said that Wilhelmsen has been unable to locate his pitches and that his curve isn’t working — not good for a pitcher who has only two pitches.
- Wilhelmsen has a team-leading 16 saves, but allowed five earned runs in his last outing.
- The Mariners Friday signed free agent catcher Henry Blanco, who most recently played for the Toronto Blue Jays, and designated catcher Kelly Shoppach, who had been their starter, for assignment. The Mariners are Blanco’s 11th major league team.
|6/15||Sat||at Oak||RHP Felix Hernandez (7-4) vs. RHP A.J. Griffin (5-5)|
|6/16||Sun||at Oak||RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (7-1) vs. RHP Bartolo Colon (7-2)|
|6/17||Mon||at LAA||RHP Aaron Harang (3-6) vs. TBA|