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Series Preview 20: White Sox at Mariners

The White Sox will limp into Seattle on a six game losing streak after being swept in Oakland over the weekend.  The Sox were shut out twice in three games and have not been able to do much of anything offensively lately.  The Mariners are coming home after dropping two of three to Minnesota and have lost four of their last six.  The Sox took two out of three against Seattle back in the opening week of the season.


Pitching Matchups

The series kicks off Monday night with John Danks (0-1, 5.40 ERA) taking on Joe Saunders (3-5, 5.57 ERA). 

The Sox did not face the veteran lefty when they played the M’s back in April.

Saunders has been very hit or miss for Seattle this year.  He has had five starts in which he allowed two runs or less but has also had four starts in which he allowed six runs or more.  Saunders is coming off a good start against the Padres where he went 7 innings and gave up just 1 run on 4 hits with no walks and 3 strikeouts.  Saunders is not overpowering, striking out just 4.5 batters per 9 innings and his K/BB ratio is just 1.45.

He is also prone to giving up the long ball as he has allowed 10 home runs this year in 64.2 innings (1.4/9 innings).  Lifetime against the Sox Saunders is 4-4 with a 4.24 ERA in 9 starts.  Alex Rios (.296, HR), Paul Konerko (.350, HR) and Alexei Ramirex (.300) have all had success against Saunders.

John Danks will be making his third start of the season after working his way back from last season’s shoulder surgery.  In his last start Danks lasted just 4 innings against the Cubs and allowed 3 runs, including a pair of homers to Dioner Navarro.  He threw just 46 of his 80 pitches (57.5%) for strikes, although he only walked one batter, Danks was wild within the zone.

The second start is often the rockiest for a guy coming back from a long term injury so hopefully Danks got that out of his system and will be ready to go in Seattle.  Danks is 7-4 against the Mariners in his career with a 2.96 ERA and 4-2 with a 2.32 ERA at Safeco Field.  Current Mariner players have hit just .222 combined against Danks with Raul Ibanez (3-for-8, two doubles) and Endy Chavez (2-for-5, double) having the most success.  Kelly Shoppach has the lone homer against Danks but is just 3-for-20 (.150) with 10 strikeouts. 

Tuesday night’s game is the must see pitching matchup of the series as Jake Peavy (6-3, 3.62) takes on “King” Felix Hernandez (6-4, 2.38 ERA).

Believe it or not but this White Sox team actually beat Hernandez back on April 6th in Chicago.  The Sox scored 4 runs on 6 hits and Alex Rios went deep as the Sox won 4-3.  In the ten starts following that loss to the Sox, Felix has allowed one earned run or less in seven of them.  He did have a couple of back to back rocky starts in late May, allowing 5 runs in each game and failing to make it out of the 6th inning.

He bounced back his last outing with an 8 inning, 3 hit, 1 run win over the Padres.  Felix is just 3-5 with a 3.69 ERA against the White Sox in his career.  Paul Konerko (.280, 2 HRs) and Adam Dunn (.286, HR) have had some moderate success against The King in their careers.  Overall current Sox players are hitting .253 with 4 homers and 27 strikeouts against Hernandez.

Jake Peavy will be looking to bounce back from a brutal performance against the Cubs in Wrigley Field.  He allowed a season high 6 runs on 8 hits in 4 innings, his shortest outing of the year.  The big blow was a grand slam off the bat of Cubs PITCHER Travis Wood.

It was by far the worst outing of the year for Peavy who had been pitching very well coming in and was coming off his best start of the year, a complete game, against the Marlins.  Peavy did not face the Mariners back in April but has had their number in his career going 5-1 with a 2.25 ERA in 9 starts.  He is 3-0 with a 0.86 ERA in 3 career starts at Safeco Field.

Raul Ibanez (.313, HR), Endy Chavez (.333), and Kendrys Morales (.300, HR) have had some success against Peavy while Jason Bay (.167, 4 K’s) and Brendan Ryan (.125, 3 K’s) have struggled. 

The finale on Wednesday afternoon will see Dylan Axelrod (3-4, 4.04 ERA) going up against Hisashi Iwakuma (6-1, 2.13 ERA).

Iwakuma has been incredible for the Mariners this year.  After making 30 appearances (16 starts) for the Mariners a year ago, Iwakuma earned a spot in the M’s starting rotation this year and has not disappointed.  He currently leads the American League in WHIP at 0.871 and is second in ERA at 2.13.

Iwakuma faced the Sox back in early April in Chicago and went 8 innings, allowing 3 runs on 4 hits but served up 2 homers.  The White Sox won the game 4-3 but Iwakuma did not factor in the decision.  The 3 runs allowed to the Sox are the second highest total allowed in a game this year by Iwakuma.  He has also taken advantage of his home ballpark, going 2-0 with a 1.34 ERA in 5 starts at SafeCo Field.

Opponents are hitting just .158/.171/.254 against Iwakuma at home.  In three career appearances (1 start) against the Sox Iwakuma is 0-0 with a 2.77 ERA.  He has allowed 4 runs in 13 innings to the Sox.  Adam Dunn is 2-for-5 with a pair of homers against Iwakuma and no other Sox player has more than 1 hit against the 32-year-old Japanese right-hander. 

Axelrod hopes the Sox can manage some offense against Iwakuma because they could do anything to help him his last time out.  He went 7 innings allowing 2 runs on 4 hits with no walks and 7 strikeouts against the A’s and took the loss.  He had only allowed 2 hits through 7 innings before the A’s hit a pair of doubles to lead off the 8th and break the 0-0 tie.

The Sox would be shut out by Bartolo Colon and Axelrod took yet another tough loss.  Axelrod made his first start of the year against the M’s back on April 6th and although he didn’t get the win, he out dueled Felix Hernandez allowing 1 unearned run on 3 hits over 5.2 innings.  That was his first and only appearance against the Mariners in his career.  Mike Morse and Raul Ibanez are the only M’s to have tallied hits against Axe.


Keys to the Series

Runs are at a Premium

Both of these teams are bad offensively.  The White Sox and Mariners are tied with a .237 team batting average that ranks last in the American League.

They are the two teams that have scored the fewest runs in the American League and rank in the bottom three in slugging percentage.  The offensive issues for the White Sox have been glaring during this current six game slide as the Sox have scored just nine runs in those six games and have been shut out three times.

The Sox haven’t homered since May 26th and have just 52 long balls on the year, which ranks 13th in the American League.

If the Sox don’t homer, they can’t score and if they can’t score they can’t win.  Both of these teams pitch well and SafeCo Field is a pitchers ballpark so I would expect to see low scoring games.  Whoever can scratch a couple runs across will probably win these games. 

Pitching Prowess

Despite their hitting woes the White Sox continue to pitch pretty well.  They have allowed the fewest hits in the AL and the third fewest earned runs and although they rank 6th in overall team ERA, they are 2nd in starters ERA at 3.61.

The Mariners, despite the fact that they have two of the top four lowest starters ERA’s in Iwakuma and Hernandez, rank 9th in the AL in starters ERA at 4.33.  The Sox will have to continue to get solid starting pitching and hope that their bats can eventually figure out how to run into a few balls and score some runs. 

Sox own Seattle

The White Sox have dominated the Mariners over the last couple of seasons.  Since the start of the 2010 season the Sox are 26-5 against the M’s and have not lost more than 2 games in a single season against them.

Just like there are certain clubs that a team can struggle against, there are teams that you own, and the Mariners are one of those teams for the White Sox.  Despite all the great pitching Seattle has had and the Sox usual struggles on the West Coast, they have managed to take care of the Mariners.


Outlook

The White Sox are a disaster right now and look about as bad as you can look.  As much as Hawk wants to say that Gordon Beckham’s return will help the Sox get back on track, unless he starts hitting like Miguel Cabrera, I doubt he will be the savior.

Both of these teams don’t hit so defense might make a difference and that is an area where having Beckham back will help.

The Sox have to snap out of this eventually right?  They own the Mariners, so hopefully this is the time but at this point I am having a hard time seeing this team score anything against Felix and Iwakuma.  I hope I am wrong. 

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