GAME: Cubs (34-45, 4th, NL Central, – 15.5 GB) at Mariners (35-46, 4th, AL West, -12.0 GB). GAME #: 82. SERIES: 3rd of 3 games. MEETING: 3rd (series tied 1-1). WHEN: Sunday, 1:10 p.m., Safeco Field. STREAKS: Mariners L 1; Cubs W 1. TV: Root Sports. RADIO: ESPN 710, Mariners Radio Network
During the offseason, the Mariners took the drastic step of reconfiguring Safeco Field. By bringing in the fences, in some places by as much as 17 feet, they hoped to dramatically improve on a paltry total of 56 home runs in 81 home dates. The move paid off. Through 41 home games this season the Mariners have swatted 40 home runs. Last year after 41, they had 21.
What’s wrong with this picture is that more home runs have not translated into significantly more wins. By losing 5-3 Sunday in the second of a three-game series with the Chicago Cubs, the Mariners reached the halfway point of the 2013 season — 81 games — with a record of 35-46. A year ago at the 81-game mark, the Mariners stood 34-47, and that was without the supposed benefit of the Houston Astros, who joined the division this year and are 5-4 vs. the Mariners.
The major reason for the lack of team improvement: The Mariners continue to struggle — flail is a better word — with runners in scoring position. A year ago, the Mariners batted .239 with RISP. This year: .227.
Holding up their end: Nick Franklin, .412; Kendrys Morales, .368; Raul Ibanez. Pratfalls: Dustin Ackley, .220; Kyle Seager, .219; Michael Morse, .170; Justin Smoak, .100.
The Mariners begin the mathematical second half of the season Sunday when they close out a three-game series with the Cubs.
MARINERS: RHP Jeremy Bonderman (1-1, 3.30 ERA, 1.23 WHIP)
The 30-year-old Bonderman, a Kennewick native in his ninth major league season and first with Seattle, will make his sixth start and first against the Cubs. Although he has just one win and three consecutive no-decisions, Bonderman has provided a tremendous boost to the back end of the Mariners rotation since his recall from AAA Tacoma. He has allowed three earned runs in his last 19.1 innings while lowering his ERA to 3.30, down from 13.50 after his Seattle debut June 2.
- LAST START: June 23, took a no-decision in Seattle’s 6-3 win over Oakland; 2 earned runs on 6 hits in 5.1 innings; 2 strikeouts, 3 walks, 0 home runs, 97 pitches, 57 for strikes.
- LAST VS. CUBS: Never faced.
- CAREER VS. CUBS: No record.
- AT SAFECO FIELD: 3-2, 3.15 ERA in 9 starts covering 60.0 innings; 38 strikeouts, 15 walks, 4 home runs, 1.23 WHIP.
- LOVES TO FACE: Ryan Sweeney (0-for-4, .000), Dioner Navarro (0-for-2, .000), Julio Borbon (1-for-6, .167).
- HATES TO FACE: Scott Hairston (3-for-4, .750), Alfonso Soriano (3-for-10, .300), David DeJesus (10-for-35, .286).
- CURRENT CUBS VS. BONDERMAN: 17-for-61, .279 BA, 12 strikeouts, 3 walks, 0 home runs, .323 on-base percentage.
CUBS: RHP Edwin Jackson (3-10, 5.84 ERA, 1.55 WHIP)
The 29-year-old Jackson, a Columbus, GA., native in his 11th major league season and first with the Cubs, will make his 16th start and first against the Mariners. Jackson, who has pitched for the Dodgers, Tampa Bay, Detroit, Arizona, the White Sox, Cardinals and Nationals, has lost two straight starts and five of his past seven. He is without a win since June 14 when he beat the Mets 6-3. On the other hand, Jackson is 3-0 lifetime against Seattle and 2-0 at Safeco Field.
- LAST START: June 25 at Milwaukee, lost 9-3; 6 earned runs on 6 hits in 4.2 innings; 1 strikeouts, 2 walks, 1 home run, 88 pitches, 49 for strikes.
- LAST VS. MARINERS: April 18, 2009, pitching for Detroit, won 2-0; 0 earned runs on 5 hits in 7.2 innings; 6 strikeouts, 1 walk, 0 home runs, 96 pitches, 71 for strikes.
- CAREER VS. MARINERS: 3-0, 0.40 ERA in 3 starts covering 22.2 innings; 14 strikeouts, 7 walks, 1 home run, 0.92 WHIP.
- AT SAFECO FIELD: 2-0, 0.61 ERA in 2 starts covering 13.0 innings; 14 strikeouts, 13 walks, 0 home runs, 1.02 WHIP.
- LOVES TO FACE: Brendan Ryan (0-for-5, .000), Raul Ibanez (2-for-10, .200), Michael Morse (1-for-4, .250).
- HATES TO FACE: Endy Chavez (4-for-7, .571), Kendrys Morales (3-for-9, .333), Jason Bay (3-for-11, .273).
- CURRENT MARINERS VS. JACKSON: 16-for-54, .296 BA, 12 strikeouts, 9 walks, 1 home run, .397 on-base percentage.
MARINERS STATS / NOTES
- CURRENT HOME STAND: Three vs. Oakland (Friday-Sunday), two vs. Pittsburgh (Tuesday-Wednesday), three vs. Chicago Cubs (Friday-Sunday). The Mariners head out on a six-game road trip through Texas and Cincinnati.
- When Endy Chavez drove in the tying run Saturday in the ninth inning, he snapped an 0-for-19 slide.
- Aaron Harang, who started Saturday, worked more than 6.0 innings for the third time this season. For the seventh time, he did not walk a batter.
- Justin Smoak has hit three home runs since being activated from the 15-day disabled list June 17.
- Dustin Ackley, who went 1-for-3 Saturday, left the game in the ninth inning with a sprained left thumb. He had his first RBI since May 16 at New York.
- Raul Ibanez extended his hitting streak to six games Saturday. He’s hitting .375 over than span.
- Seattle is 5-7 in extra-inning games.
|6/30||Sun||vs. Cubs||RHP Jeremy Bonderman (1-1) vs. RHP Edwin Jackson (3-10)|
|7/2||Tue||at Tex||LHP Joe Saunders (5-8) vs. RHP Justin Grimm (7-5)|
|7/3||Wed||at Tex||RHP Felix Hernndez (8-4) vs. LHP Derek Holland (6-4)|
|7/4||Thr||at Tex||RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (7-3) vs. LHP Martin Perez (2-1)|
luckily, not one intelligent person has ever posited the idea that they’d improve by moving in the fences, only make the game more fair to players on both sides of the ball.