Here are three key elements to watch on this Mariners’ team:
1. Where there’s Smoak, there’s Power: Last year, at the trade deadline, the Yankees were in on the sweepstakes for Cliff Lee, but Seattle did not want Jesus Montero. Instead, they waited till the last minute to get coveted first baseman Justin Smoak from the Texas Rangers. Smoak only played in thirty games last year for Seattle, hitting just .209. However, his time down in Tacoma has seemed to help him mature as a ballplayer. So far, the young first baseman is hitting .268 with six home runs and 26 RBI’s. He leads the team in on-base percentage as well (.365). With the lack of power in their lineup, the Yankees had better keep an eye on Smoak, who is hitting .283 at home this season.
2. A Pine off the old Tree: A few weeks ago, I talked about Zach Britton as an AL Rookie of the Year Candidate. Nevertheless, maybe it is a different pitcher’s award to lose. Michael Pineda has even pitched better than reigning Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez. Pineda is coming into Friday’s start with a fourteen inning scoreless streak. He is in the top 10 in ERA and WHIP amongst all major league pitchers. True, the kid has a great fastball, but you have to watch out for the great command he has on his splitter and his offspeed pitches. This kid is the real deal and gives the Mariners a nice 1-2 punch for potentially the next few years.
3. A League of their Own: Ever since J.J Putz left Seattle, the Mariners have been looking for a good, young closer to fit their bullpen. They got their man now in former Blue Jays’ reliever Brandon League. League has a high ERA (5.85), but does have 12 saves on the season. From the numbers, it appears to be feast or famine. They have solid middle relievers in Jamey Wright (9 holds) and Aaron Laffey. Both pitchers have ERA’s under two. If you look at the ERA’s for both teams after the 7th inning, the Mariners’ bullpen is about on the level with the Yankees. Seattle has an ERA of 3.37 while the Yankees’ ERA is 3.43 in that span.
The Mariners’ starters are so good in both Friday and Saturday’s games that I do not think the Yankees will win the first two at SAFECO Field. Now, that is not an indictment on their offense, but more credit to the Mariners’ good pitching staff. This will make the decision to throw C.C Sabathia on Sunday look great because he should avoid the sweep. A successful West Coast trip in general for the Yankees, in my opinion, would be winning five or six of these nine games. New York will have to keep Ichiro off the bases as well, but it will be difficult to do, since Ichiro is in the top ten in MLB in hits with 57.
SEATTLE WINS 2 of 3!