Make sure to get an early evening nap in for this one tonight as the Pirates head to the northwest to take on the Seattle Mariners in a quick two-game series with first pitch set for 10:10PM EST.
The Mariners come into this series similar to the Pirates treading water in third place of the AL West at 38-38 thanks to a rough June. Despite having a middle of the road team batting average of .260, one thing the Mariners do well is hit the ball of the park. They rank third in the AL (behind only the Orioles and Blue Jays) with 112 home runs and is third in the league in OPS+.
They’re led by Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz who each is first in the team with 19 home runs on the season. After hitting 14 and 21 home runs in his first two seasons in Seattle, Cano’s power is back with 19 already before the All-Star break. He’s also slashing an impressive .297/.354/.546.
The Pirates (37-40) just saw Corey Seager with the Dodgers, and now they’re face his brother Kyle Seager, who is next on the Mariners with 15 bombs. Leonys Martin and Adam Lind each have 11 homers and even Korean first baseman Dae-ho Lee has 10 home runs in his first year in the Majors. This team has plenty of pop even for a team playing in spacious Safeco Field.
The Mariners are also second in the AL in team ERA with 3.87, but it’s a bit misleading as they’re middle of the road with a 4.26 FIP and their stud ace Felix Hernandez has been on the DL the entire month. Hernandez’s injury is a major blow to this team and has led them to an 8-17 month of June after starting the season 30-21.
The Pirates will luck out and miss Taijuan Walker and James Paxton in this two-game series and instead face Hisashi Iwakuma and Wade Miley. Iwakuma has struggled this year to a 6-6 record, 4.45 ERA and 4.78 FIP as he’s given up almost 10 hits per nine innings. He’s having the worst year of his 5-year career and will face the Mariners for the first time ever tonight.
The Pirates will start lefty Jon Niese for his 16th start of 2016. Niese has had a rough month of June (much like the entire team) as he’s 1-3 with a 5.97 ERA in five June starts. Last season in 176 innings, Niese surrendered 20 home runs while through 87 innings this season, he’s already given up 18 long balls, more than one per start. Despite pitching at Safeco tonight, Niese giving up a long ball or two to this lineup could be a good bet. He’s pitched one time at Safeco Field and gave up four runs on 11 hits in 6.0 innings of work back in 2014 with the Mets.
RARE SIGHT: You could say the Pirates and Mariners on the same field is a rare sight as the two teams have faced each other only 10 times since MLB began interleague play back in 1997. They didn’t play until 2004 with the Mariners sweeping a three-game series at PNC Park. The Mariners then took 2-of-3 in Seattle in 2007 and the Pirates won 3-of-4 in four games in 2013, which was two at Safeco and two games at PNC. Overall, the Pirates are 4-6 against the Mariners.