Ichiro Suzuki (Photo: Samara Pearlstein)

After taking two of three against the pesky Toronto Blue Jays, the Boston Red Sox (40-35) wing it to the West Coast to take on the foundering Seattle Mariners (32-45). The Mariners are 4-6 in their last 10 games, while the Red Sox are 8-2 in their last 10. The Sox are now tied for third in the AL East, 6.5 games behind the New York Yankees, while the Mariners are again in the cellar of the AL West, 15.5 games behind the Texas Rangers.

STARTING PITCHERSFelix Hernandez, Hector Noesi, Erasmo Ramirez and Jason Vargas

Felix Hernandez (facing Franklin Morales in the opener) just keeps rolling along. Hernandez is striking out a career-high 8.94 batters per 9 innings, and with an 3.36 ERA, a 3.35 FIP, a 3.44 xFIP and a 3.44 SIERA, Hernandez maintains his position as one of the top American league pitchers. However, there are a couple of numbers about which to be concerned. Hernandez has a career-low 45.5% ground ball rate, his WHIP is a not-stellar 1.27 and his fastball velocity has dropped to 91.8 MPH. Maybe Larry Bernandez pitched a few games in Felix’s stead.

Hector Noesi (against Aaron Cook on Friday night) came to the Mariners in the Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero trade. His first season in Seattle, however, has been forgettable. With a 5.50 ERA/5.20 FIP/4.98 xFIP and a 4.88 SIERA, the 25-year-old Noesi hasn’t yet become a top pitcher, but there is still time. Striking out only 5.82 batters per nine and walking 3.43 batters per nine won’t get it done. On the good side, Noesi’s batting average against isn’t horrible at .243 and his WHIP fell from 1.51 last season to 1.30 so far this season.

Erasmo Ramirez (versus Josh Beckett on Saturday night) is an intriguing young pitcher. In his first season in the majors, Ramirez has compiled a 4.18 ERA/4.24 FIP/3.68 xFIP and a 3.60 SIERA. With a K/BB rate of 3.29, Ramirez can become a solid pitcher if he maintains that rate. Ramirez’s .277 BABIP may indicate a bit of luck on his side but every athlete needs a bit of luck on their side every once in a while.

Jason Vargas (facing Felix Doubront on Sunday afternoon’s finale) is giving up so many homers this season that someone should have him pitch in the Home Run Derby. 21 homers in 109 innings? Really? Other than the homers, Vargas has been an average pitcher this season, with a 2.55 K/BB, a .245 batting average against and a 1.19 WHIP. Vargas’s .252 BABIP may indicate luck, but the 21 homers negate any luck he gained.

EXPECTED LINEUP

1. Ichiro Suzuki, RF
2. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
3. Kyle Seager, 3B
4. Jesus Montero, DH
5. Justin Smoak, 1B
6. Michael Saunders, LF
7. John Jaso, C
8. Dustin Ackley, 2B
9. Brendan Ryan, SS

WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT

In the last two weeks, John Jaso (.385/.579/.692, .531 wOBA, 249 wRC+), Ichiro Suzuki (.333/.364/.373, .303 wOBA, 93 wRC+), Casper Wells (.400/.464/.560, .453 wOBA, 195 wRC+) and Brendan Ryan (.294/.385/.441, .358 wOBA, 130 wRC+) are the hot hitters for the M’s, but Justin Smoak (.093/.184/.163, .166 wOBA, -1 wRC+), Michael Saunders (.156/.174/.222, .186 wOBA, 12 wRC+) and Jesus Montero (.225/.262/.325, .259, 62 wRC+) aren’t hitting very well.

In the Mariner bullpen, Charlie Furbush (1.95 ERA/2.01 FIP/2.15 xFIP) and closer Tom Wilhelmsen (2.77 ERA/2.52 FIP/2.86 xFIP) are having excellent years, while Lucas Lutege (1.40 ERA/3.06 FIP/4.11 xFIP) is riding his luck, with a LOB% of 84.0% despite walking 5.59 batters per 9 innings. On the flip side, Hisashi Iwakuma (4.75 ERA/5.70 FIP/4.18 xFIP) isn’t pitching well by any measure.

INJURIES

LHP George Sherrill (Tommy John surgery) is out for the season. LF Mike Carp (right shoulder inflammation) and RHP Stephen Pryor (strained left groin) are on the 15-day DL.

AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?

The Red Sox are getting hot at the right time. With injuries to Yankee starters C.C. Sabathia and Andy Pettitte, the Sox are in a great position to close their current 6.5 game gap in the American League East. In the past two weeks, the hot hitters for the Olde Towne Team have been David Ortiz (.316/.458/.868, .524 wOBA, 235 wRC+, 6 HR), Cody Ross (.333/.371/.758, .471 wOBA, 199 wRC+, 3 HR), Will Middlebrooks (.387/.389/.806, .472 wOBA, 200 wRC+, 3 HR) and Daniel Nava (.364/.447/.455, .407 wOBA, 155 wRC+), while Darnell McDonald (.231/.333/.308, .293 wOBA, 77 wRC+), Ryan Kalish (.250/.300/.286, .273 wOBA, 63 wRC+) and Nick Punto (.111/.273/.111, .251 wOBA, 48 wRC+) are on the cool side.

As for the starters in the past fortnight, Franklin Morales leads the way but has had some very bad luck. 13.91 K/9 against 0.82 BB/9? Wow. A 0.25 FIP and a 1.30 xFIP? Staggering. But Morales’s .423 BABIP and a 3.27 ERA from those numbers are just plain bad luck. Felix Doubront had a bad stretch, posting a 6.75 ERA/5.81 FIP/4.37 xFIP, but his .395 BABIP could also explain it. In the bullpen, only Vicente Padilla (0.00 ERA/1.06 FIP/2.15 xFIP) retained the Blutarsky ERA Award, while Matt Albers (8.10 ERA/11.16 FIP/4.23 xFIP) was the only Red Sox reliever to post an ERA over 2.45.

SUMMARY

The Seattle Mariners have a couple of decent hitters, a couple of decent starters, and a couple of decent relievers. They just need more of them. If Larry Bernandez could get a few of his friends onto the team, the Mariners might contend someday.

Categories: Aaron Cook Andy Pettitte Boston Red Sox Brendan Ryan C.C. Sabathia Casper Wells Charlie Furbush Cody Ross Daniel Nava Darnell McDonald David Ortiz Dustin Ackley Erasmo Ramirez Felix Doubront Felix Hernandez Franklin Gutierrez Franklin Morales George Sherrill Hector Noesi Hisashi Iwakuma Ichiro Suzuki Jason Vargas Jesus Montero John Jaso Josh Beckett Justin Smoak Kyle Seager Lucas Luetge Matt Albers Michael Pineda Michael Saunders Mike Carp New York Yankees Nick Punto Ryan Kalish Seattle Mariners Stephen Pryor Tom Wilhelmsen Toronto Blue Jays Vicente Padilla Will Middlebrooks

Scott Candage is a long-time Red Sox fan. He recently came in third in the 127th annual Upperclass Twit of the Year competition. His best friend is a tree and he is a stockbroker in his spare time.

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