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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Mariners series preview

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Here’s a place the Cubs haven’t visited in a while.

Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

SEATTLE — I’m excited for this series as this is my first trip to the ballpark formerly known as Safeco Field. In fact, here’s a story about that. I bought the tickets for these games in a presale last November. That was during the interregnum between the expiration of Safeco’s naming rights deal at the end of the 2018 season and the start of the T-Mobile deal. So the tickets (printed box office tickets, as I prefer those if I can get them) say “Mariners Ballpark” on them. Collectors items!

The last time we saw the Mariners, Jon Lester was laying down a walkoff bunt in the 12th inning. That’s always worth watching again! [VIDEO]

For more on the Mariners, here’s Kate Preusser, managing editor of our SB Nation Mariners site Lookout Landing.

A few things to know about the 2019 Mariners:

Despite the widely-publicized “step-back” season that saw the Mariners send away their best starting pitcher, reliever, and starting catcher in trades, the Mariners have come out of the gates strong in 2019 — or at least, stronger than some relatively poor teams in the AL. The bar, it is low. Good teams like the Astros and Indians can still crush this ragtag band, and they can put up some real stinkers as they did when they lost a combined 29-2 to Texas over the past two games, but early returns are mostly solid, at least with the offense and pieces that will be part of the team for a while, which is good news for the coming years.

With the starting pitching staff, the Mariners have been scrambling some since stalwart innings-eater Wade LeBlanc went down with an oblique injury. He’s progressing but is still a few weeks from re-joining the team. This is complicated by the fact that Yusei Kikuchi, the team’s big off-season signing, is on an innings limit, so rookies like Erik Swanson and Justus Sheffield are being asked to carry a heavier load than usual. On the bright side, Félix Hernández has had back-to-back encouraging outings after a forgettable 2018, and Marco Gonzales has been one of the best pitchers in baseball by fWAR, and those happen to be the two pitchers the Mariners will be throwing in this series.

The bullpen continues to be a struggle with closer Hunter Strickland still shelved with an oblique injury. Rule 5 pick Brandon Brennan has been surprisingly effective after a tweak to his arsenal and Connor Sadzeck is probably their best reliever stuff-wise if he can command the ball, which he’s been better at since coming over from Texas, but this is still a bottom-five group by fWAR.

The separator for the Mariners has been their offense. They have the second-highest ISO in baseball including the most home runs, and while they do strike out a fair amount (top ten in MLB), they also walk a lot (top five in MLB). Their MO has been to jump on starters early and drive up their pitch counts, knocking them out of games and forcing other clubs to go to their bullpens early. Opposing pitchers can’t have poor first innings against this club, or they’re setting themselves up for a very rough day.

Fun fact

The last time the Cubs played in Seattle was so long ago, Henry Blanco started at catcher for the Mariners, and Edwin Jackson was the winning pitcher for the Cubs. It happened June 30, 2013, a 7-1 Cubs win.

Pitching matchups

Tuesday: Cole Hamels, LHP (3-0, 3.16 ERA, 0.989 WHIP, 3.74 FIP) vs. Felix Hernandez, RHP (1-2, 3.91 ERA, 1.224 WHIP, 3.70 FIP)

Wednesday: Jon Lester, LHP (1-1, 2.37 ERA, 1.211 WHIP, 4.13 FIP) vs. Marco Gonzales, LHP (5-0, 2.80 ERA, 1.200 WHIP, 3.06 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Tuesday: 9:10 p.m. CT, NBC Sports Chicago

Wednesday: 5:40 p.m. CT, WGN

Prediction

Paradoxically, the Mariners hit LHP better than RHP (.908 OPS vs. LHP, .794 vs. RHP), but have a better record vs. RH starters (15-10) than LH starters (3-3). They are also only 7-9 at home (2-8 in their last 10 games at T-Mobile Park) as opposed to 11-4 on the road, and as noted by Kate Preusser, they got absolutely crushed in their last two home games, losing 14-1 and 15-1 to the Rangers.

Thus I think the Cubs can take both these games. We’ll see the Mariners again later this year at Wrigley Field, September 2 and 3.

Up next

After an off day Thursday, the Cubs return to Wrigley Field to begin a 10-game homestand. First up: a three-game set against the Cardinals beginning Friday afternoon.

Poll

How many games will the Cubs win against the Mariners?

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    2
    (157 votes)
  • 42%
    1
    (124 votes)
  • 4%
    0
    (13 votes)
294 votes total Vote Now