Series Preview: New York Yankees vs. Seattle Mariners (8/22-8/24)

As we head down the stretch towards the playoffs, these two teams are right in the playoff hunt, each vying for a wild card spot. Seattle heads in with a 66-57 record, just a game behind the Orioles in the Wild Card race. New York’s 63-60 puts them four games back. This is the second series of the season between these two, as Seattle took two out of three in the Bronx back in April. The Mariners have been hot as of late, owning a 14-6 record in August. The Yankees “youth movement” has pushed them three games over .500.

Game One (Monday, August 22 at 10:10 PM ET)
Michael Pineda (6-10, 4.89 ERA) vs. Cody Martin (1-2, 3.14 ERA)
The young right-hander was claimed off waivers by the Mariners last October. He will be making his second start after the season after a pedestrian outing against an average Angels offense. In 4.1 innings, he allowed just two runs, but also allowed seven hits and two walks. He has been up and down in the majors, but he's been solid when given the chance. In his other 10 innings this season out of the bullpen, he's given up three runs on ten hits (2.70 ERA). Despite the decent numbers, look for the Yankees to have the advantage in game one with the more experienced Michael Pineda on the mound.

Pineda will get to face his former team here in the first game. In his lone season with Seattle in 2011, he made the All Star team and ended up with a 9-10 record and an ERA of 3.74. Those numbers don't display how good he was in his rookie season, as he faltered in his last few starts. Heading into this game, he's had two consecutive very good starts. Despite a combined five strikeouts in those two outings, he's allowed a combined two runs in 11 innings of work. This has also been against two of the best offenses in the majors, the Blue Jays and Red Sox. He didn't get the win in either though, as the Yankees eeked out a victory versus Boston and fell apart against the Blue Jays. Since the All Star break, he's had three starts allowing one run or fewer, but also three starts allowing at least four runs. He ranks seventh in the AL in K’s with 154 to his name. Facing his former team, Pineda should have another solid outing.

Game Two (Tuesday, August 23 at 10:10 PM ET)
C.C. Sabathia (7-10, 4.49 ERA) vs. Wade LeBlanc (3-0, 4.72 ERA)
The left-handed journeyman was acquired via trade from the Blue Jays in mid-June. He’s made nine starts with the Mariners so far, allowing at least three runs in his past seven starts. LeBlanc has provided Seattle with some much needed starting pitching depth, as James Paxton has dealt with injuries, Nathan Karns was sent to the bullpen, and the ineffective Taijuan Walker was demoted to Triple-A. This game should feature many runs, as both lefties have struggled against offenses this season.

C.C. started the season looking like his old self. Through 11 starts, his 2.20 ERA had Yankee fans thrilled how well the fifth starter was throwing. He has dropped off mightily since then. In 11 starts since, he has an astounding 6.78 ERA, with just two quality starts. He's allowed at least three runs in ten of those starts as well. A big part of the runs allowed has been the home run ball. In the first 11 starts, he allowed only two homers, but has allowed 13 since then. The lefty looks like the pitcher we saw last year and he will struggle heavily with a home run happy Mariners offense.

Game Three (Wednesday, August 24 at 3:40 PM ET)
Masahiro Tanaka (10-4, 3.24 ERA) vs. Hisashi Iwakuma (14-8, 3.78 ERA)
Tanaka has really got his stuff going right now, accumulating 25 strikeouts over his past three starts. He has combined for a 2.18 ERA in those starts, although they have been against pedestrian offenses in the Angels, Indians, and Rays. Tanaka has struggled to get results despite pitching well throughout the season, as he has ten wins in 25 starts. His 3.24 ERA ranks 12th in the AL and he has a relatively low WHIP of 1.07. He also tied for seventh in the AL in innings pitched with 161.

Iwakuma has been a reliable starter behind King Felix for a few years now, as gives them solid performances each start. Over his past four starts, he's pitched to a 1.69 ERA and lasted at least seven innings in three of them. His numbers though have declined in every season since 2013. In that season, his 2.66 ERA led him to the All Star game and helped him finish third in the Cy Young voting. His career 3.29 ERA is slightly higher than Tanaka’s 3.19 for his career. This matchup between the two Japanese pitchers will be intriguing, but give the advantage to Tanaka, as he's been better in just about every aspect this season.

Players to watch for the Yankees
Brian McCann
Oh how times have changed this season for Brian McCann. After making seven All Star teams while in Atlanta, he has yet to make one in three seasons with the Yankees. Even after a solid three for nine against the Angels this past weekend, he's batting .191 since the All Star break with two homers and ten RBIs. He's been so consistent for so many years, but Sanchez looks to have possibly taken over the starting job for good. McCann has been severely affected from the shift, as he pulls the ball into shifts constantly. He has probably been one of the more affected players as far as shifts, but his 16 homers for the season still bring hope for him next season. A possible trade candidate in the offseason, McCann’s true leadership has helped gel Sanchez in the majors.

Gary Sanchez
Sanchez has been a top prospect for a long time and many thought he wasn't gonna make it after 2013. After nagging injuries and disappointing performances in the past, Sanchez has finally put it together this season and has gotten the chance in the big leagues. He's already made Yankee fans calling for Brian McCann to be released/traded after a brilliant start. In 61 ABs thus far, he has slugged six homers with 12 RBIs. Heading into Sunday's ballgame, he was 12 for his last 21 with five homers and eight RBIs. This performance already has him batting third in the Yankees lineup. On top of his outstanding offense, he has shown off his ridiculous arm behind the plate. This combination has Yankee fans thrilled for his future.

Tyler Austin
Although he was overshadowed by Judge when called up, Austin was incredible in Triple-A this season. He was pretty good in Trenton, New York’s Double A affiliate, but he took off when promoted to Triple-A. After a .260 average and four homers in Trenton, he batted .323 in Triple-A along with 13 homers and 49 RBIs. His power outburst and defensive versatility led to being called up this month. His debut was one to remember, hitting a homer to right in his very first career at bat. He started off his major league career three for seven. Since, he’s been held hitless in 13 ABs. Like Judge, strikeouts have been the downfall of his career in the minors and now the majors. He's struck out eight times in 20 chances so far. Despite his struggles against major league pitching, look for Austin to continue to get an opportunity with the Yankees.

Players to watch for the Mariners:
Robinson Cano
Yankee fans will always remember how dominant Cano was in New York, as he was a virtual lock as the starting second baseman for the AL All Star team on a yearly basis. His smooth stroke, lefty power, and tremendous range at second made Bronx fans fall in love with him. In his time with New York, he made it to five All Star teams, won the 2011 Home Run Derby, and helped lead the Yankees to a ring in 2009. Since his departure, second base has been a struggle for the Yankees, although Starlin Castro has done a decent job this year. His first two years in Seattle were very good, despite seeing decline in his power numbers. This season, he's on pace for a career high in homers, as he already has 28 on the season. Those totals are currently tied for ninth in the AL, along with a team-leading batting average of .290 and 79 RBIs that are second on the team. His 145 hits are 13 more than the next closest Mariner and he has continued playing good defense. Cano has regained status as once again being a top second basemen in all of baseball.

Kyle Seager
Overshadowed by his younger brother Corey, who was a highly touted prospect and is now an NL MVP candidate for the Dodgers, Kyle’s value to the Mariners continues to be under appreciated. He hits for average and power, along with knocking in runs at a great pace. He does have the advantage of batting behind two of the best hitters in the game (Cano and Nelson Cruz), but his .283 average and 23 homers can't be ignored. His team leading 80 RBIs is tied for ninth in the AL with 2015 MVP Josh Donaldson and is ahead of the likes of superstars Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, and Manny Machado. An All-Star in 2014, Seager has been a constant force for the Mariners, hitting at least 20 homers the past five seasons and knocking in at least 65 runs in those seasons as well. He has slightly improved his game in every aspect, although his base stealing has vanished. Heading into the season, he had 38 stolen bases in 688 games, but he has fallen to just one this season. His run producing will be key in this series.

Mike Zunino
The former Florida Gator has bounced back nicely in his short stint this season. Once a first round draft pick, Zunino was atrocious in his first few seasons. Despite having a combined 33 homers in 2014 and 2015, he batted .199 and .174 in those seasons. This forced him to Triple-A this season, eventually working his way back to the majors. He has a career slash line of .199/.264/.376, which is quite concerning. Since returning to the Mariners in 2016, he's hit a solid .282 in 71 ABs, while smashing 8 homers and adding 18 RBIs. If Seattle can continue to get this kind of production from Zunino, this will only make the lineup deeper and scarier.

Things to watch for:
Yankees starters
Recently, the New York starters have been very good. This past weekend, they allowed just one run in a combined 19.2 innings. The offense’s quiet game yesterday led to the Yanks going 2-1 in this series, but the starters gave them great outings in all three games. In fact, other than the declining C.C. Sabathia and the occasional starts from Luis Severino, the starters have been quite good. As highlighted before, Tanaka has been dominate as of late. Pineda has put forth some impressive starts and the youngsters Luis Cessa and Chad Green have been brilliant in their recent starts. If you exclude Sabathia’s typical below-average start, the Yanks starters have pitched to an outrageous 0.29 ERA in their past five starts. Thanks to Sabathia, Severino, Nathan Eovaldi and former Yankee Ivan Nova though, their starters ERA of 4.65 still ranks 21st in the majors. The quality of starts they get from Pineda, Sabathia, and Tanaka will be the key to the series.

Mariners home runs
This Seattle offense is similar to Toronto in that they have a deep lineup, with each guy having the capability to hit it deep. They have eight guys with double digit home runs and that doesn't even include the aforementioned Mike Zunino. They rank third in the majors in this department with 172. Cruz leads the team with 31 long balls, as Cano and Seager have 28 and 23, respectively.

This series will be fun to watch, as Seattle has one of the better lineups in baseball. The pitching matchups in each game are relatively even and there are many storylines to watch each game, including Robinson Cano, Michael Pineda, and Vidal Nuno (yes he's still in the majors) facing off against their former teams. As these two are fighting to make the playoffs, look for the series to come down to game three.

Article by: Spencer Schultz
Follow me on Twitter @SpenceSchultz63
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