10:00 PM EST, ESPN – Money Line: Mariners -135, Run Line: 8.5
As the Regular Season gets ready to reach it’s final act, the chase for the Playoffs is starting to heat up as the Seattle Mariners host the New York Yankees at Safeco Field in the second installment of a three-game series. With the postseason likely out of their grasp, the remainder of the campaign is all about giving the younger talent, or the next generation, all the experience they can get for the Yankees (63-61, 4th in AL East). After what can only be described as a fire sale (at least by their standards), New York has chosen to get the proverbial ball rolling on their rebuild, which was on display in the opening salvo in this three-game set with the Mariners. Though they eventually fell to a final score of 7-5, the contest was not without fireworks as Rookie Catcher Gary Sanchez blasted a pair of home runs, while Second Baseman Starlin Castro did the same in quite a display of power. However, the visitors would not be able to hold onto their 5-3 lead, as the Bullpen relinquished four runs over the remainder of the outing, as the hosts went on to flex muscles of their own. Taking the mound tonight for Girardi and Co. is CC Sabathia (7-10, 4.49 ERA), who if anything this season has proven that he is no longer the ace that he once was. The six-time All-Star and former Cy Young has experienced a very uneven campaign, with the reality that on this very average Yankees’ Pitching Staff he has become little more than an afterthought. And to underscore that fact, consider this; when the Front Office dealt away anyone they thought that would net them prospects, including established veterans such as Carlos Beltran, Aroldis Chapman, and Andrew Miller at the Trade Deadline, there were surprisingly no suitors for the big man’s services. Granted, his massive salary certainly played a factor, but that right there is an indictment on Sabathia, who over the last three seasons has been largely mediocre, going 30-37 with a 4.74 ERA. Still, it’s quite telling that no team out there believed he had anything to offer, let alone as reinforcements for their rotation in lieu of the Playoffs. The 36-year old Lefthander is just a different pitcher these days, unable to consistently overpower batters while struggling with his control. At 3.5 Walks per Nine Innings and a 2.16 Strikeout/Walk Ratio, the 300-pounder hasn’t issued this many bases on balls since 2004 when he was 23-years old. Take his last start for example; Sabathia struck out a dozen Blue Jays, which marked the first time since 2013 that he fanned 10+ batters in a game, but also relinquished a total of nine hits and seven runs, including a homer in six innings of the 7-4 loss. Furthermore, those seven earned runs were the most he had allowed all season. With an Option Year in 2017 and New York looking to turn the page on many of their aging stars, odds are that Sabathia will be wearing a different uniform come next year.
Meanwhile, the Mariners (67-57, 2nd in AL West) have nearly closed the gap in the race for the American League Wild Card, having won fifteen of their past twenty outings, and thus cut the deficit to just one game. Considering the way that the Baltimore Orioles have played in recent weeks, there is plenty of reason to believe that Scott Servais’ charges will ensnare one of those prized playoff spots, particularly given the time left in the campaign. As we stated earlier, Monday Night’s 7-5 victory over the Yankees was quite the display of power, as Seattle avoided defeat by scoring four runs over the course of the final three innings, thanks in large part to the likes of Mike Zunino (9th) and Nelson Cruz (32nd). Corey Seager also contributed to the fireworks, pelting his 24th homer in the Fourth Inning, as the three players combined for seven RBIs on 4-of-11 hitting. On the bump, Cody Martin struggled to successfully make the transition from his typical role in the Bullpen, serving up a quartet of home runs in 5.2 innings of work, but the rest of his cohorts in relief deserve a world of credit for stopping and cauterizing the wound. The platoon of Nick Vincent, Vidal Nuno, Steve Cishek, and Edwin Diaz relegated the Yankees to just two hits over the final 3.1 innings, permitting no runs with a pair of strikeouts as Vincent earned the victory and Diaz registered the save. Heading to the bump tonight for Servais and Co. is Hisashi Iwakuma (14-8, 3.78 ERA), who has carried the Mariners’ Rotation this season, which has too often been thrown into chaos due to injuries. To give you an idea as to what Iwakuma has meant to this Staff, he is the only Starter on the roster to make more than nineteen starts, as brothers-in-arms Nate Karns, Taijuan Walker, and James Paxton are all currently on some variation of the Disabled List. Even unquestioned ace Felix Hernandez hasn’t been immune to the injury bug, making just seventeen starts this season, and proving wildly inconsistent in it’s earlier stages. The Japanese International was granted an extra day of rest this week, in an effort to keep him fresh as Seattle continues their pursuit of the American League Wild Card. The 35-year old Righthander has won eight out of his last ten starts, despite one of those two defeats coming in his last go of it, a 6-4 loss at division rival Los Angeles. Iwakuma allowed a pair of earned runs on six hits over the course of seven innings of labor, letting his teammates in the field handle their business with eleven ground balls and thirteen of the aerial variety leading to an out. Furthermore, the defeat was his first sustained since June 22nd. With that said, this guy has been absolutely locked in during the month of August, registering a stellar 1.69 ERA, along with a 1.01 WHIP, nineteen strikeouts and just a pair of walks over the duration of 26.2 innings. Of course, having one of the more powerful lineups in the Majors doesn’t hurt either, as the Mariners have become quite prolific with the long ball. Seattle ranks third in the American League with 172 home runs, third with a .327 On Base Percentage, and fourth with a .433 Slugging Percentage. Five different players have pelted fourteen or more homers, led by the aforementioned Cruz, who has logged thirty-one all by his lonely. Former Yankee and Second Baseman Robinson Cano has enjoyed yet another All-Star campaign, batting .290 with twenty-eight home runs, and seventy-nine RBIs. The Dominican International has played well against his former team since departing three years ago, batting .271 with sixteen hits, two doubles, three home runs and a dozen RBIs in fifteen meetings.