Wednesday, 4:05 p.m. Joel Pineiro (13-5, 3.03) vs. Jake Westrook (4-6, 4.25) FSN
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What's at Stake?
Seattle, it cautiously appears, has been revitalized after a disappointing trading deadline that saw the Mariners make no major moves. On the verge of a player mutiny led by outspoken bullpen veteran Jeff Nelson, Bob Melvin has righted his wayward tilting ship.
After winning only 5 of their first 13, the M's have taken five of their last six, including the last two against the hottest team in baseball, the Chicago White Sox. Their lead in the West remains four, but Oakland is hot and Seattle is hearing the Athletics's oncoming footsteps.
The Mariners must take advantage against a reeling Indians squad that is loaded with young talent and funny pop culture names, but short on veteran leadership. A series win is important for the Mariners because they play their next 17 games against the three best teams in the East: New York, Toronto, and Boston.
This is a chance for the Mariners to get healthy and reload for their battle against arguably the three most talented offensive teams in the league.
Kaz Sasaki has been inconsistent in rehab work with Tacoma and Everett, but is on the verge of returning. It's unclear if he'll regain his role as closer or if Melvin will stay with all-star Shigetoshi Hasegawa, who has been lights out since assuming the closing duties.
The Indians are retooling after getting rid of virtually all of their big name players over the past few years. They are one of the youngest teams in baseball, especially with injuries that have sidelined former Mariner, Omar Vizquel, Matt Lawton (may return soon), and Ellis Burks, who's out for the season after having elbow surgery.
Though they've struggled, a few bright spots have emerged from that pool of fresh talent. C.C. Sabathia, Cleveland's enormously intimidating ace, has the ability to dominate a game with his mid to upper 90's heater and nasty breaking stuff. He'd have five more wins on a better ball club. Sabathia pitches Tuesday against his polar opposite, Jamie Moyer.
Milton Bradley has turned himself into one of the toughest outs in the game. A double hitting machine, Bradley is second behind Ichiro in batting and leads the American League in on-base percentage.
Outfielder Jody Gerut (.274, 13 HR, 48 RBI) and third baseman Casey Blake (.269, 12, 43) are also turning into capable big leaguers.
However, without Burks, the Indians lack a true power threat and are generally a light-hitting ball club. They are 12th in the 14 team American League in both home runs and batting average.
Since the break the Indians are 4-13 and they've lost their last four.
Bottom line: The Mariners should sweep
1B John Olerud has regained his power struck, which has probably coincided with his healthy hamstring. He has a 6-game hitting streak (.409) and 6 bombs since the all-star game. On Saturday against the White Sox, he hit two home runs—a grand slam and a three-run shot . . . OF Randy Winn had a great July and is carrying that into August. He's also injected the Mariner lineup with some much needed power and now has 8 for the season . . . DH Edgar Martinez is hitting .400 in his last 6 games, knocking in 7 . . . the newest Mariner, IF Rey Sanchez hit .308 and walked twice in his first fifteen at bats with his new club . . . Rafael Soriano has looked simply savage against opposing hitters moving into the Mariner bullpen after starting for AAA Tacoma. He leads the league in strikeouts per nine innings and had seven in a row last week . . . SP Joel Pineiro is first on the Mariners staff in innings (151.2), strikouts (102), ERA (3.03), and is second in wins with 13.
Speedy OF Coco Crisp is hitting .333 over his last 24 games . . . Milton Bradley has been pretty hot all season (.330, 10 HR, 54 RBI, 16 SB) . . . OF Ryan Ludwick is hitting .313 over his last 12 . . . SP Jake Westbrook has been solid over his past 4 outings (3.38 ERA), but has only 1-2 record to show for it.
SP Freddy Garcia has been atrocious of late. If it weren't for an amazing June, his ERA would in the millions. There has been speculation of late that he may lose his spot in the rotation . . . Mark Mclemore is 0 for his last 19 . . . C Ben Davis is 1 for his last 11.
Besides Bradley and Crisp, the whole team is in a general funk . . . SS Jhonny Peralta is barely over the Mendoza line (.203) in his last 20 games .
Alex still remembers the days when the Mariners signed Pete O'Brien instead of a young Cecil Fielder. He welcomes your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.