In the sixth game of the season, the Mariners are already looking to their ace to be the stopper.
Felix Hernandez is set to make his second start of the campaign – and first in front of King’s Court – in the finale of the three-game series with Oakland. The Mariners need a big outing from their big-game pitcher after losing the first two games of the set, which put them at 2-3 on the young season.
The King had the unfortunate distinction of being saddled with an opening-day loss in Texas last Monday despite allowing just one hit in six innings. The Mariners will certainly want to give Felix more run support than they did against the Rangers, when solo homers by Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager provided all the scoring for Seattle in its 3-2 defeat.
Sunday’s contest is certainly an important one for both Felix and the Mariners.
They came home to Safeco Field with momentum, but the always pesky A’s have played their brand of baseball – working the matchups, getting runners on, stealing bases and hitting the occassional home run – to already have the series won entering Sunday.
For Felix, he’ll need to avoid the pitfalls that got to Mariners pitchers not just Friday and Saturday, but also himself in the opener against Texas. In that game, walks and poor defense behind him resulted in an unraveling as the Rangers scored three runs in the fifth inning, which was all they needed to give Felix his first-ever opening-day loss. Not only that, eyes will most assuredly be on his velocity and willingness to challenge batters with his fastball, which were causes for corcern in his first start of the year.
• The Mariners’ struggles against left-handed pitching continued Saturday night. They struck out 10 times against Oakland starter Rich Hill, who allowed just just five hits and a walk in six innings. The A’s turned to another lefty, Marc Rzepczynski, for the final two frames, and his only blemish was a walk. Seattle enters Sunday’s game with a season average of .167 against left-handed pitchers.
• Mike Montgomery’s move to the bullpen has been so far, so good. The 26-year-old southpaw threw a perfect inning on Saturday night, including a strikeout, and now has three scoreless, hitless innings to his credit in 2016. He’s only allowed one base runner on a walk.
• Here’s the lineup for the series finale with Oakland. Nelson Cruz, playing right field, is the only right-handed hitter in the batting order against A’s righty Chris Bassitt. Switch-hitting shortstop Ketel Marte is also starting.