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May 14, 2013 at 9:12 AM

Big offensive test coming up for Mariners on this road trip

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We’re about to kick off a nine-game Mariners road trip with a gem tonight that sees Felix Hernandez facing C.C. Sabathia. And the way this trip lines up mound-wise for the Mariners, it’s going to be a huge test of their offensive ability to generate some runs.

We saw last week in Pittsburgh how, even with Hernandez at the top of his game, the Mariners nearly didn’t pull a victory out until a late home run by Jesus Montero. That’s because the Mariners were shut down offensively most of the day by Pirates starter A.J. Burnett.

We’re going to see some similar dynamics at play in this series against the Yankees, who don’t score as often as they used to but are still capable of putting up an average number of runs per contest. That means the Mariners will have to score an average number of runs to give themselves a chance at winning and it will be a challenge when they face the likes of Sabathia and others.

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The one thing the Yankees have done very well this year is pitch. Not just the starters. When the Yankees get a game into the seventh inning, their bullpen is highly effective at shutting opponents down via strikeouts. And we’ve already seen that the Mariners are vulnerable to becoming invisible when facing strikeout pitchers. So, this will be one of those early defining tests for this offense. We’ll see whether they start to roll over again, as they did when facing the Tigers and Rangers a few weeks back.

Or, whether the Mariners can battle, even with two strikes on them in the count.

Once they get done with New York, the Mariners will face a much different challenge against an Indians team that’s been piling on the offense so far. The Indians aren’t nearly as dangerous from the mound as the Yankees are, but they lead the league by a large margin in park-weighted on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) and will be facing Brandon Maurer and Joe Saunders the first two games.

In other words, if the Mariners struggle here in New York, they have the potential to see their mini-slump snowball in a big hurry once they head to Cleveland. The Indians will undoubtedly score some runs those first two games and the Mariners will have to be able to produce offensively in order to keep up.

The final two games in Anaheim will produce a similar challenge to the Cleveland series in that Aaron Harang and Maurer will start the two contests (unless a change is made before then). The Angels are reeling and trying to salvage their season and you can bet they will be playing some desperate baseball as they did last year around this time when they waltzed in and beat up on the Mariners in a four-game series.

So, again, the bats will have to be ready because expecting the back-end of the rotation to hold the Angels to a couple of runs is a bit much.

No other way to put it. This road trip represents a big moment for these Mariners hitters. The pitching matchups that favor them will largely be countered by solid mound opponents. And the “easier” starters they will face this trip will also be offset by some tough opposing bats that will require many runs of Mariners offense to counter.

It should be interesting. It may not be pretty. But we’ll know a lot more about the 2013 Mariners when this trip is done.

Tonight’s lineup:

Michael Saunders (L) CF

Jason Bay LF

Kyle Seager (L) 3B

Kendrys Morales (S) 1B

Michael Morse RF

Kelly Shoppach C

Raul IbaƱez DH

Robert Andino 2B

Brendan Ryan SS

Starting Pitcher

Felix Hernandez RHP

Comments | More in offense | Topics: felix hernandez; c.c. sabathia; brandon maurer; joe saunders


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