Free agent signee Nelson Cruz has been a hit for the Mariners, but the team has underperformed this season. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Red Sox-Mariners series preview

August 14, 2015 - 7:40 am
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In a clash of two teams disappointingly not in playoff contention, the Red Sox will take on the Mariners this weekend at Fenway.

The Sox remain in the cellar of the American League East and the entire AL, owning a 50-64 record and .439 win percentage. The Blue Jays are winners of 11 straight and are new division leaders, sitting 13 games ahead of the Sox.

The Red Sox have been better while playing in the friendly confines of Fenway, where the team owns a more mediocre 27-28 record. On the season in full, the Sox have a minus-75 run differential, which is the worst in the AL and third worst in all of baseball.

The Red Sox are not the only team to yield disappointing on-field results this season. The signing of slugger Nelson Cruz (among other offseason moves) looked to put the Mariners in a position to contend. Instead, the tea M's have fallen flat in a manner not unlike the team on Yawkey Way.

Seattle has a 54-61 record, placing it fourth in the AL West. The Mariners are eight games behind the division-leading Astros and have won seven of their last 10 contests, including a Hisashi Iwakuma no-hitter on Wednesday.

Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon was cautiously optimistic about the team's momentum and the rest of the Mariners' season after Iwakuma's no-no.

"If you look at this club since the All-Star Break we're playing real good baseball," McClendon said. "Probably should have won three out of four in Minnesota. Took the series in Colorado and we won our last three series in a row. So we're starting to pick it up. This type of game only helps."

The problems for the Mariners have stemmed from the team'€™s sputtering offense. The M's have scored 430 runs, which is 25th-most in baseball and 13th in the AL. The Mariners' .242 team batting average is 27th in the sport. The team ranks 20th in team OPS and 12th in the AL.

While some teams have been able to sustain a bottom-third offense with impressive pitching (the Mets being a prime example), the Mariners have not been able to do so, as they are owners of a very middle-of-the-road pitching staff. Seattle has a 3.96 team ERA, ranking 18th in baseball. They also are 13th in the game in batting average against, holding opponents to a .248 average. The Mariners'€™ 1.26 WHIP is 15th, right smack in the middle of the league.

Here are the pitching matchups for the series:

Friday: Joe Kelly (4-6, 5.96 ERA) vs. Mike Montgomery (4-4, 3.25 ERA) Saturday: Wade Miley (8-9, 4.68 ERA) vs. Felix Hernandez (14-6, 3.11 ERA) Sunday: Henry Owens (1-1, 3.60 ERA) vs. Vidal Nuno (0-2, 2.64 ERA)

WHO'S HOT: RED SOX

-- David Ortiz seems to have time-traveled back to 2006. In his last seven games, the hulking designated hitter has hit .407 with five home runs and nine RBIs and a 1.484 OPS. He has 10 homers in his past 21 games, bringing his total on the season to a team-leading 25 round-trippers. This stretch has brought him to 491 in his career, as he grows ever closer to the 500-homer plateau.

-- Xander Bogaerts continues to play like one of the best shortstops in the American League. He has hit .326 in his last 11 games, knocking four doubles and six RBIs in that time frame. Bogaerts is hitting .314 on the season, which is sixth among all qualified hitters in the American League.

-- Rusney Castillo is starting to show Red Sox Nation why the organization invested $72.5 million in the him last summer. The Cuban import is hitting .324 in August with eight RBIs. He was called up from Triple-A on July 27 when the Sox traded Shane Victorino to the Angels. Since then, Castillo has slashed .321/.357/.453 with a homer in 15 games (12 starts).

WHO'S HOT: MARINERS

-- Cruz has been one of the few bright spots on the Mariners offense all season long, and recently that trend has continued. In the month of August (10 games thus far), Cruz is slashing a monstrous .425/.438/1.025 with seven homers and seven RBIs. He leads the team in all major offensive categories this season.

-- Second baseman Robinson Cano hasn't had a particularly impressive season (this just the second year of a 10-year, $240 million contract), but has been better this month. In August, Cano is hitting .311 with a home run, three doubles and nine RBIs. His average has been brought up to .268 for the year.

-- Brad Miller has hit .385 in the last week with two doubles and two walks. Miller has struck out four times but still has accrued and OPS of 1.005 in his past five contests. In nine games in the month of August, Miller has a .379 average and 1.075 OPS.

WHO'S NOT: RED SOX

-- Brock Holt has not enjoyed August as much as the months that preceded it. The Red Sox'€™ lone All-Star has struggled this month, hitting just .189 in 10 games. He has struck out seven times and does not yet have an extra-base hit. His average on the season is down to .276.

-- Third baseman Pablo Sandoval has continued to give Red Sox fans reason to doubt the five-year, $95 million contract he received this past winter. He has just four hits this month, going 4-for-26 for a .154 average in eight games. He has one homer and one RBI and eight strikeouts in August.

-- With closer Koji Uehara out for the season, Tazawa has been given an opportunity to close, and it has not gone well. Tazawa has two losses in four appearances in August, giving up seven hits and five runs in just four innings pitched. He blew the save Tuesday, giving up a run on two hits in the ninth inning of a game the Sox wound up losing in the 10th.

WHO'S NOT: MARINERS

-- Outfielder Seth Smith (whom Red Sox fans may remember fondly for his role as the hitter in this clip) has had a forgettable month thus far. He is hitting just .148 in 10 August contests with only a single extra-base hit (a double) and five strikeouts. He is 4-for-27 in that span.

-- Austin Jackson also hasn't been great recently. The outfielder has a .209 average in his last 11 games, striking out 14 times. He has an August OPS of .483 as compared to a .650 OPS on the season. This season, Jackson is hitting .252 with six homers and 30 RBIs.

-- Kyle Seager has had a solid offensive season but has not had much success lately. In his 11 most recent contests, Seager has hit .222 with eight strikeouts. He has a single homer and two RBIs. On the year, the third baseman is hitting .264 with 16 homers and 45 RBIs.

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