After sweeping the Kansas City Royals in four games, the Mariners now welcome the Toronto Blue Jays to town to finish up the longest homestand of the year. While the talk over the next few days around baseball will be understandably dominated by the upcoming trade deadline on Tuesday night, there will still be three games played at Safeco—three games that could either help the Mariners prove that they are improving or bring them back down to earth against a tougher opponent. Jose Bautista is still on the disabled list for Toronto—a lucky break for the Mariners.
Current record: 51-50
Last series: vs. Tigers. On Friday night the Blue Jays cashed in on some timely hitting with eight of their nine starters getting at least one hit. Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera both hit homers off of starter Carlos Villanueva, but the Jays’ offensive attack led to an 8-3 win. Saturday saw more of the same—Toronto knocked ten hits off of Anibal Sanchez, Brayan Villareal and Phil Coke, cruising to a 5-1 victory. They weren’t able to complete the sweep on Sunday, however, as Doug Fister gave up only one run over eight innings.
Last series against Seattle: April 27 – April 29, 2012. Remember that extra innings game where Michael Saunders hit his tenth inning grand slam to give the Mariners a 9-5 victory? Less memorable are probably the 7-0 drubbing at the hands of Brandon Morrow and the series finale in which Steve Delabar and Charlie Furbush gave up five runs over the final two innings. Hopefully the Mariners are able to reproduce the excitement they created in the first game and forget about the following days.
Familiar Faces: The Blue Jays’ roster has a couple of interesting names on it with ties to Seattle, with the most prolific by far being Omar Vizquel. Signed by Seattle as a 17-year-old free agent back in 1984, Vizquel broke into the big leagues with the Mariners on April 3, 1989, six months before I was born. He went on to play for the Mariners for five years, growing up with a young team that included Randy Johnson, Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner and Ken Griffey, Jr. Omar has won eleven gold gloves at shortstop, but his biggest impact for the Mariners came on April 22, 1993, when he flashed his defensive prowess to secure a no-hitter for Chris Bosio.
Tuesday’s starter, Aaron Laffey, played for the Mariners for part of 2011 and, for a few months, looked like he could become a mainstay in the Mariners bullpen for years to come. Through July 17th and over 34.1 innings, he had only given up seven runs, good for an ERA of 1.83. Ironically, the Mariners then went to Toronto and in 3.1 innings during that series, he gave up three runs, making his ERA jump to 2.39. Between July 19th and August 16th, Laffey made eight appearances for the Mariners and gave up 12 runs over 8.1 innings for an ERA of 12.96. Understandably, the Mariners waived Laffey, who was picked up by the Yankees and then the Royals, the last two opponents the Mariners faced.
There’s also Brandon Morrow, but he’s on the disabled list and I don’t want to talk about Brandon Morrow. Not one bit.
Pitching matchups: Monday –– Hisashi Iwakuma vs. LHP Ricky Romero. Ricky Romero and Hisashi Iwakuma have both been worse than I expected in 2012. After debuting in 2009 he improved in wins, innings pitched, ERA and strikeouts every single year… until 2012. His ERA is nearly double what it was last year, jumping from 2.92 to 5.75. He leads the league in runs given up. While I should be encouraged by Iwakuma’s last start in which he only allowed one run to the Yankees in five innings of work… I’m not.
Tuesday –– Jason Vargas (?) vs. LHP Aaron Laffey. Jason Vargas’ name here is essentially a place-holder. I don’t really think Jason Vargas will make this start because I don’t really think Jason Vargas will be a Mariner on Tuesday. Erasmo Ramirez was successful in a rehab start on July 25th and he could potentially start for Vargas, as it doesn’t look like Danny Hultzen is anywhere near ready to come up to Seattle. Laffey is mediocre but has the ability, as we saw in 2011, to absolutely implode.
Wednesday –– Blake Beavan vs. RHP Carlos Villanueva. Blake Beavan has been more than impressive since being recalled from Tacoma a few weeks ago, posting a 3-0 record. Opposing him will be Carlos Villanueva, who is at 6-0 on the year with a 2.92 ERA. I’m not sure how he has managed this as he has been mediocre at best in the past—his career ERA from 2006 – 2011 is 4.28 and he had more losses than wins coming into this year. Brendan Ryan is 5-for-8 against Villanueva… but I’m not counting on that to continue.
Expected results: Three series previews, three correctly projected outcomes. I told you the Mariners would go 3-1 against the Royals the first go-around. I told you they would falter and go 1-2 against the Yankees, and I even told you that they would pull off their first four game sweep since 2005 and take down the Royals. Even though this team is rolling, I can’t bring myself to call for another sweep. With the starting pitching a bit suspect, I have to say the Mariners will drop this series, 1-2. Please prove me wrong.