GAME: Mariners (55-64, 3rd, AL West, -14.0 GB) at Rays (67-51, 2nd, AL East, -3.0 GB). GAME #: 120. SERIES: 3rd of 3 games. MEETING: 3rd (series tied 1-1). WHEN: Thursday, 4:10 p.m., Tropicana Field. STREAKS: Mariners L 1; Rays W 1. TV: Root Sports. RADIO: ESPN 710, Mariners Radio Network
Prior to the start of Seattle’s nine-game road trip Tuesday, acting manager Robby Thompson mentioned, almost off the cuff, that Dustin Ackley would receive ample opportunity to sport his stuff as a center fielder over the season’s final seven weeks. According to Thompson, the Mariners want to “solidify” Ackley’s “situation” once and for all.
Almost simultaneously, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports either reported or speculated that the Mariners might be inclined to make a run at Boston center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury when he hits the free agent market in the off season.
“The Mariners are deep in young, affordable position players, with a mere $33.257 million committed to their 2014 payroll,” Rosenthal wrote. “Ellsbury, who is from Madras, OR., and attended Oregon State, could fill two voids, leading off and playing enter field. Michael Saunders is not a center fielder and Dustin Ackley has not proven to be a long-term solution . . . The addition of Ellsbury would upgrade the defense, ignite the offense and energize the fan base.”
Ellsbury, in his seventh major league season, all with Boston, is hitting .300 with seven home runs, an on-base percentage of .360 and an OPS of .792. Brad Miller’s, Seattle’s usual leadoff hitter who hasn’t exactly slouched lately, is batting .261 with a .329 OBP and .769 OPS.
Ackley doesn’t have the greatest arm in center and is still learning the position after transitioning from the infield at mid-season. In his favor: he covers ground well and his bat is showing signs of life. He’s hitting .328 with an .803 OPS since the All-Star break, but has abysmal power numbers — one homer, .295 slugging percentage.
Ellsbury wouldn’t come cheap and might be inclined to re-sign with Boston. But that’s down the road a bit. Meantime, Ackley, who went 0-for-3 in Wednesday’s 5-4, walk-off loss and is batting .230, will be auditioning for a job in center for the remainder of this season.
MARINERS: LHP Joe Saunders (10-11, 4.69 ERA, 1.52 WHIP)
The 32-year-old Saunders, a Fairfax, VA., native in his ninth major league season and first with Seattle, will make his 25th start and first against the Rays. Of the nine runs given up by Saunders in his last start vs. the Brewers, only four were earned, all coming on Yuniesky Betancourt’s grand slam. Saunders will have to trust his defense, which has been shoddy since the All-Star break. Saunders has lost three of his past four starts after winning four in a row.
- LAST START: Aug. 9, lost to Milwaukee, 10-5; 4 earned runs on 7 hits in 4.1 innings; 4 strikeouts, 2 walks, 1 home run, 95 pitches, 55 for strikes.
- LAST VS. RAYS: June 9, 2008, pitching for the Angels, lost 13-4; 8 earned runs on 9 hits in 4.2 innings; 4 strikeouts, 2 walks, 3 home runs, 102 pitches, 62 for strikes.
- CAREER VS. RAYS: 0-2, 7.59 ERA in 2 starts covering 10.2 innings; 7 strikeouts, 6 walks, 3 home runs, 1.78 WHIP.
- AT TROPICANA FIELD: 0-1, 1.50 ERA in 1 start covering 6.0 innings; 3 strikeouts, 4 walks, 0 home runs, 1.33 WHIP.
- LOVES TO FACE: Luke Scott (0-for-4, .000), Jose Molina (1-for-9, .111), Evan Longoria (1-for-5, .200).
- HATES TO FACE: Jason Bourgeois (3-for-4, .750), Yunel Escobar (4-for-9, .444), James Loney (8-for-27, .296).
- CURRENT RAYS VS. SAUNDERS: 20-for-66, .303 BA, 7 strikeouts, 5 walks, 3 home runs, .361 on-base percentage.
RAYS: RHP Alex Cobb (6-2, 3.01 ERA, 1.15 WHIP)
The 25-year-old Cobb, a Boston native in his third major league season, all with Tampa Bay, will make his 14th start and first against the Mariners. Cobb will make his first start since June 15, when he was struck in the head by a line drive. He is slated to throw around 90 pitches. Cobb had been arguably the Rays’ most effective starter before getting injured.
- LAST START: June 15, took a no-decision in Tampa’s 5-3 win over Kansas City (departed after getting hit in the head with a line drive); 2 earned runs on 4 hits in 4.1 innings; 3 strikeouts, 3 walks, 0 home runs, 78 pitches, 51 for strikes.
- LAST VS. MARINERS: Aug. 13, 2012, won 4-1; 1 earned run on 4 hits in 7.0 innings; 5 strikeouts, 2 walks, 0 home runs, 91 pitches, 59 for strikes.
- CAREER VS. MARINERS: 1-2, 3.52 ERA in 3 starts covering 15.1 innings; 17 strikeouts, 5 walks, 1 home runs, 1.17 WHIP.
- AT TROPICANA FIELD: 11-7, 3.47 ERA in 25 starts covering 150.1 innings; 132 strikeouts, 57 walks, 9 home runs, 1.17 WHIP.
- LOVE TO FACE: Justin Smoak (0-for-4, .000), Raul Ibanez (1-for-6, .167), Brendan Ryan (1-for-5, .200).
- HATES TO FACE: Kendrys Morales (2-for-5, .400), Kyle Seager (1-for-3, .333).
- CURRENT MARINERS VS. COBB: 9-for-45, .200 BA, 12 strikeouts, 1 walk, 1 home run, .217 on-base percentage.
MARINERS STATS / NOTES
- CURRENT ROAD TRIP: Three at Tampa Bay (Tuesday-Thursday), three at Texas (Friday-Sunday), three at Oakland (Aug. 19-21). Following a day off Aug. 22, the Mariners will begin a six-game home stand Aug. 23 vs. the Angels and Rangers.
- Aaron Harang took a no-decision Wednesday when he pitched in his 33rd major league ballpark. He allowed three earned runs.
- Danny Farquhar entered Wednesday’s game with five saves in five opportunities, but didn’t record an out in suffering his first loss of the season. His scoreless innings streak stopped at 14.2.
- Seattle has nine walk-off losses this season.
- The Mariners have lost 10 of their last 17 games.
- Fifty-five of Seattle’s 119 games have been decided by two runs or less.
|8/15||Thr||at TB||LHP Joe Saunders (10-11) vs. RHP Alex Cobb (6-2)|
|8/16||Fri||at Tex||RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (10-6) vs. LHP Derek Holland (9-6)|
|8/17||Sat||at Tex||RHP Felix Hernandez (12-5) vs. LHP Martin Perez (5-3)|
|8/18||Sun||at Tex||RHP Erasmo Ramirez (4-0) vs. RHP Yu Darvish (12-5)|
|8/19||Mon||at Oak||RHP Aaron Harang (5-10) vs. TBA|
|8/20||Tue||at Oak||LHP Joe Saunders (10-11) vs. TBA|
|8/21||Wed||at Oak||RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (10-6) vs. TBA|