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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Mariners Series Preview

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Here's another team we don't see much.

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs have played the Mariners every three years since 2007 -- not often, and as they're in the A.L. West and play most of their games in the Pacific time zone, many Cubs fans never see their games. 2007, in fact, is the last time the Mariners were at Wrigley Field, so I'd expect a big contingent of their fans in town this weekend.

All-time, the Cubs are 7-5 against Seattle and won two of three when they visited Safeco Field in 2013. The winning pitchers in that series were Yoervis Medina (for the Mariners) and Carlos Villanueva and Edwin Jackson for the Cubs.

And that was only three years ago.

I asked Nathan Bishop, managing editor of our SB Nation Mariners site Lookout Landing, to tell us a bit about his team.

For baseball fans of a National League team the 2016 Mariners will both confirm and subvert assumptions. This is a struggling franchise, one without a playoff appearance since 2001, the longest in the game. In that way this year's team fits the mold. At 51-49, Seattle’s playoff odds hover around one in five. They are a talented, but very flawed team.

The preconception that the Mariners are a pitching heavy, light-offensive club, however, no longer holds true. This is a big, loud, home run bashing offense with a 109 wRC+, second in all of baseball behind the Red Sox. They do it, as I mentioned, primarily through the long ball. Despite playing in Safeco Field the Mariners have hit 143 dingers, behind only Toronto and Baltimore. It’s a throwback to the style of baseball the team used in the late 90s when Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, and Jay Buhner were setting home run records in the Kingdome.

When they do not hit home runs the Mariners, sadly, lack a viable second option to beat you. They are possibly the worst baserunning team in all of baseball, having been caught stealing twenty-two times against only twenty-seven successes, and their defense remains a teamwide weakness. Kyle Seager and Leonys Martin are perhaps the team’s only above average players with the glove, with the exception of recently recalled catcher Mike Zunino.

Seattle’s once vaunted starting pitching has been reduced to merely average, through the attritions of time and injury. Wade Miley and Nate Karns have been injured and ineffective, Taijuan Walker has dazzled when healthy but struggled with a foot ailment almost all year, and Felix Hernandez’s velocity loss may finally have caught up to him, as it has so many other great pitchers. Hernandez’s 4.54 FIP is a grotesquery, a sad reminder of all the years of greatness spent pitching for teams far worse than the 2016 Mariners.

If the Mariners get to their bullpen with a late lead, things get very fun. For us, that is, not you. Steve Cishek, despite five blown saves, has been largely very effective. His unorthodox delivery and terrific movement make him a nightmare to hit against. But the real highlight is rookie Edwin Diaz. The team’s top pitching prospect in AA at the start of the season, Diaz was converted to reliever in May, made his MLB debut on June 6, and has struck out 44 batters in 22.2 IP. Yes, just a tick under two batters per inning. He throws 102 miles per hour, and has a devastating, upper 80’s slider. He’s probably my favorite thing about the team, at this moment.

Fun fact

The Mariners, as you might imagine given their location, have farther to go to road games than any other MLB team. This year, they'll fly 47,704 miles, by far the most of any team (the Angels are second at 44,945). By contrast, the Cubs will travel the fewest miles of any team in 2016 -- only a bit more than half as many as the Mariners at 24,271. Check out every team's miles in this interactive map.

Pitching matchups

Friday: Jon Lester (10-4, 3.09 ERA, 1.112 WHIP, 4.00 FIP) vs. Hisashi Iwakuma (11-6, 3.96 ERA, 1.280 WHIP, 4.40 FIP)

Saturday: Jake Arrieta (12-4, 2.76 ERA, 1.084 WHIP, 2.99 FIP) vs. Wade Miley (6-8, 5.23 ERA, 1.419 WHIP, 5.01 FIP)

Sunday: Kyle Hendricks (9-7, 2.39 ERA, 1.054 WHIP, 3.35 FIP) vs. Felix Hernandez (5-4, 3.45 ERA, 1.308 WHIP, 4.54 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Friday: 1:20 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago, MLB Network (outside Chicago and Seattle markets)

Saturday: 1:20 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago

Sunday: 7:05 p.m. CT, ESPN

Prediction

Felix Hernandez missed some time due to injury this year and as Nathan Bishop noted, he's not the pitcher he once was. The Cubs appear to have favorable pitching matchups and the Mariners, who were in first place in the A.L. West on June 2, have gone 20-27 since. The Cubs will take two of three.

Up next

The Miami Marlins visit Wrigley Field for a three-game series beginning Monday night.