Felix Hernandez

Red Sox-Mariners series preview

August 22, 2014 - 7:15 am
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The friendly confines of Fenway Park have not been so friendly to the Red Sox lately. The Sox came into their 11-game homestand last weekend feeling positive after a successful road trip but have stumbled yet again, getting swept in a four-game series against the Angels. The Sox were outscored 18-8 for the series and were one-hit by Halos starter Matt Shoemaker in 2-0 loss Thursday night. The Red Sox are 2-6 through the first eight games of the homestand to fall to 56-71 for the season. They're 18 games back of the first-place Orioles in the AL East and six games behind the Rays for fourth place. While the Sox have been one of the biggest disappointments in baseball this season, the Mariners, who the Sox take on in a three-game series to close out the homestand, have been one of the game's biggest surprises. At 68-58, Seattle is just a half-game back of the Tigers for the final AL wild card spot, putting the M's in contention for their first postseason berth since 2001. The Mariners dropped two of three to the Phillies this week but have won seven of their last 10. Seattle's emergence is due largely to its pitching staff, which leads all of baseball with a 2.93 team ERA. The Mariners, as expected, are headlined by ace Felix Hernandez, who leads the team is wins (13), ERA (1.99), strikeouts (197) and WHIP (0.87). However, Seattle also has been lifted by the emergence of unlikely studs Hisashi Iwakuma and Chris Young, who both are having impressive years in their mid-30s. The Sox were shut down by this staff when they dropped two of three in Seattle in the lone meeting between these teams June 23-25. The Red Sox scored just 10 runs in the series, which was less than the Mariners' total (12 runs) in the first game alone.

Here are the probable pitchers for the three-game set.

Friday: Felix Hernandez (13-4, 1.99 ERA) vs. Joe Kelly (2-3, 4.67 ERA) Saturday: Chris Young (12-6, 3.07 ERA) vs. Brandon Workman (1-7, 4.26 ERA) Sunday: Hisashi Iwakuma (12-6, 2.57 ERA) vs. Allen Webster (3-1, 4.73 ERA)

WHO'S HOT: RED SOX

-- No one has been hotter than David Ortiz as of late. The slugger was 14-for-26 (.538) with five multi-hit games through the first seven games of the Sox' 11-game homestand before being given a day off on Thursday. Ortiz has made his mark in the Red Sox' record books during this stretch as well. On Saturday, he hit his 400th and 401st home runs in a Red Sox uniform, making him the third player in club history to reach that mark behind Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski.Wednesday's home run marked Ortiz's eighth 30-home run season, tying him with Williams for most in Sox history.

-- Catcher Christian Vazquez has been an exciting player to watch behind the plate lately. The 24-year-old caught three Angels stealing over the four-game series and picked off Howie Kendrick at first base on Monday. Vazquez has recorded nine outs by caught stealing or pickoff, tied for most by a Sox catcher this season. He's had just nine stolen bases against him in 16 attempts this season.

-- Mookie Betts looked like an impact center fielder for the Sox this week after being recalled to the big leagues on Monday. The second baseman-turned-outfielder made a number of strong defensive plays, showing both his range and arm in the process. On Thursday, Betts made an impressive leaping catch in left-center on a deep fly ball by Erick Aybar. The 21-year-old has been solid at the No. 8 spot in the lineup as well. He's collected three hits, a walk and a run scored in his four games since his recall. His single on Wednesday extended his hitting streak to five games with the Red Sox dating back to Aug. 1. That streak was snapped with a hitless night Thursday.

WHO'S HOT: MARINERS

-- Robinson Cano got paid a significant amount of money to play for Seattle this season. So far, he's earned his money. Cano is hitting .329/.397/.469 and leads Seattle in runs (66) and OPS (.865). He's hit the ball well as of late, going 8-for-24 (.333) with three multi-hit games in the last seven.

-- Kyle Seager has had a breakthrough season for the Mariners, leading the team in home runs (19) and RBIs (78). Seager has reached base in nine straight games and has scored a run in three of the last four.

-- Iwakuma has pitched shutouts in consecutive games and has allowed just two runs in his last 29 1/3 innings. On Tuesday, he shut out the Phillies on four hits over eight innings, walking none and striking out 11. Iwakuma has struck out 19 and walked just one in his last three starts.

WHO'S NOT: RED SOX

-- While Xander Bogaerts' struggles adjusting to shortstop at the major league level have been well documented, his slump at the plate is notable as well. Bogaerts has one hit in his last 25 at-bats and has nine strikeouts in that stretch. The shortstop went on a 21-at-bat hitless streak before reaching on an infield single in the eighth inning Wednesday. He's hitting .108 with 19 strikeouts since Aug. 1.

-- Kelly's Fenway Park debut last Sunday was not one the pitcher will want to be remembered for. The right-hander gave up seven runs on seven hits, including a grand slam to Jose Altuve, and six walks over four innings to take his first loss in a Red Sox uniform. Kelly is 0-1 with a 5.29 ERA in his first three starts with the Red Sox.

-- The same Junichi Tazawa who was the reliable setup man during the Red Sox' World Series run last year is the same Tazawa who has struggled mightily as of late. The righty has allowed baserunners in his last four appearances and has walked four in his last 1 2/3 innings.

On Monday, Tazawa gave up a pair of unearned runs by making two errors in one play. He loaded the bases again on Thursday before getting out of the jam. He has a 4.82 ERA in 22 appearances since July 1.

WHO'S NOT: MARINERS

-- Austin Jackson hasn't given the Mariners the offensive boost they had hoped when they acquired him from the Tigers at the trade deadline. Jackson is hitting .227/.275/.267 in 18 games with Seattle and has seven hits in his last 31 at-bats.

-- Young catcher Mike Zunino has been a liability at the plate for the Mariners lately. Zunino is 2-for-19 (.105) since Aug. 12 and has had just two extra-base hits since Aug. 1.

-- It's been a rough go at it for Mariners reliever Brandon Maurer when he's actually been given the chance. He has a 13.49 ERA in his last three appearances and has given up nine hits in his last 4 1/3 innings.

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