Series Preview 8/26 – 8/28: New York Yankees vs. Seattle Mariners

After what can only be described as a difficult series in Oakland last week, the Yankees went on to face the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers and took two out of three games.  While not a sweep, the outcome of Dodgers’ series was exactly the type of outcome that restored fan confidence in the Yankees, especially with the postseason approaching in just over a month.  They are still firmly in first place in the American League East, with a full nine-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays.  

What with all of the good news leaving Los Angeles, the Yankees have even more good news heading into their next series: they will face the last-place, 56-75 Seattle Mariners.  The Mariners are 28.5 games behind the first-place Houston Astros, and a whole six games behind the Los Angeles Angels -- who are next-to-last in the AL West standings.  The Yankees should not get comfortable and complacent; however, the Mariners are an easy opponent, both on the offensive side and, believe it or not, on the pitching side as well. After facing the team with the best record in MLB, going up against a last-place team should be, and feel, easy for our Savages.

Game One: Monday, August 26, 2019 at 10:00 PM EST
JA Happ (10-8, 5.58 ERA) vs TBD
2018 JA Happ and 2019 JA Happ are two different players.  It’s been nothing short of heartbreaking to see the promise that Happ brought to the Yanks, after the 2018 trade deadline, go to near-waste during the 2019 season.  Of course, baseball is still baseball, and Happ could choose now to have a comeback game. Aaron Boone may need to get the bullpen ready, and early, if Happ continues to struggle.  Again, the main attraction here is that the Mariners are a weaker team offensively; however, they are still 27-for-84 and .321 against Happ lifetime.  Considering Happ's current state of affairs, Game One is easily the game of the three that the Yankees have the most cause for concern. 

At this time, the Mariners’ starter is TBD.

Game Two: Tuesday, August 27, 2019 at 10:10 PM EST
Masahiro Tanaka (9-7, 4.68 ERA) vs Yusei Kikuchi (5-8, 5.19 ERA)
When Tanaka is on top of his game, there is truly no stopping him from finding the strike zone.  However, in the YES Network telecast of Tanaka’s most recent start against the Oakland Athletics, David Cone pointed out that Tanaka threw about 44 pitches before finding his rhythm.  At the end of August, the Yankees don’t have 44 pitches to wait.  By the time Tanaka started to look like the best Tanaka he could be, the A’s were already well on the board.  Tanaka has to set the tone early in the game -- which shouldn't be a difficult feat.  The Mariners are 23-for-111 and .207 lifetime versus Tanaka.  

Yusei Kikuchi is 5-5 in his last 10 game appearances, but he’s fresh off a 9.0 IP, 7-0 shutout of the Toronto Blue Jays on August 18.  Of course, the second-to-last-place Blue Jays are a far less difficult opponent than the Yankees are.  But, that’s not to say that the Yankees’ offense doesn’t have to look out for a pitcher who is looking to continue his momentum.  There isn't a lot of history to go on -- the Yankees have a combined total of 24 lifetime at-bats versus Kikuchi.  Regardless, Kikuchi should be an easy opponent for the Yankees, especially considering his record and his ERA.  But, again, they need to make sure that they don’t get complacent and overconfident.  

Game Three: Wednesday, August 28, at 4:10 PM EST
James Paxton (10-6, 4.43 ERA) vs Justus Sheffield (0-0, 6.43 ERA)
Big Maple will arrive in Seattle coming off one of his most important starts of the season, so far.  His performance in Los Angeles last Friday is one that has, somewhat, restored fan confidence.  Paxton went 6.2 IP, allowing one run and striking out 11.  He did not allow a run in the first inning of play, which is a notable stat, considering he allowed a run in the first inning of play in 11 of his last 14 starts prior to 8/23.  That game didn’t only restore fan confidence in Paxton, but also, in the whole team -- which then came off a three-game sweep by the Athletics.  Because Paxton is a former Mariner, the lifetime statistics of the Mariners versus Paxton are slim, and predictions for this series are best based on Paxton's current situation.  As such, if Paxton can continue this current momentum, it will only help the Yankees.  

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Not only will Justus Sheffield be facing the system he started his career with for the first time, but he’ll also be matched up against Paxton -- who went to the Yankees as part of a trade package that sent him to Seattle.  He spent the majority of the 2019 season as a member of the Mariners’ Double-A affiliate, after making his big league debut in April.  As such, he is without a MLB record going into this game.  As with Kikuchi, the Yankees’ offense cannot become complacent -- but, collectively, they should be able to hit Sheffield without a problem.  There is a bonus element in this case, too; some of the “Baby Bombers” on the offensive side, who came up to the Yankees this year, know how Sheffield works and pitches.  As a result, they should have greater knowledge of his pitching style when facing him.

While complacency is dangerous -- and probably what allowed the Yankees to run into trouble in Oakland, the Mariners are a far less superior team to the Yankees.  They are 7-3 over their last 10 games, a stat which proves that they aren’t as awful as, say, the Baltimore Orioles. But, even with a starting rotation that’s been a problem all season long, the Yankees have the superior starting pitcher in each matchup (save for Game One, as the Mariners’ starter hasn’t been announced yet).  Their team leader in batting average is Domingo Santana with .256, while LeMahieu leads the Yankees with a whopping .331.  If all goes according to plan, us fans will have no trouble staying awake for the last leg of this west coast road trip.

Article by: Mary Grace Donaldson


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