BRENT STECKER

Three things: Will playing time for Mike Zunino benefit the Mariners?

Jul 5, 2016, 11:27 AM | Updated: 1:47 pm
Mike Zunino will catch the series opener against the Yankees and bat seventh. (AP)...
Mike Zunino will catch the series opener against the Yankees and bat seventh. (AP)
(AP)

The Mariners come out of the holiday weekend at 43-40 after a four-game sweep of the American League East-leading Baltimore Orioles, though they dropped the first of three in Houston to an Astros team they’re fighting for a wild-card spot.

Here are three things to consider this week:

1. Will Mike Zunino’s promotion benefit both him and the Mariners?

There’s no doubt Mike Zunino’s return to the Mariners’ lineup was a special moment, the 25-year-old catcher ripping a pair of home runs Saturday at Safeco Field after 10 months out of the big leagues. It took three games into his promotion to get him some action, however, and the front office has made it clear that playing time is the most important thing for Zunino at this stage in his career. That could work to the Mariners’ advantage, though. Chris Iannetta has played in 65 of Seattle’s 83 games, which puts him well on pace to see more than his career-high of 115 games. In the long-term, the Mariners need Zunino to be a competent major-league hitter. In the short-term, they need to give Iannetta more days off than they have been. As long as Zunino hits enough to get himself in the lineup two or three times a week, there’s good reason to think this arrangement will work out for both sides.

2. Take a bow, Seth.

Seth Smith put together a five-day stretch that made manager Scott Servais ditch his platoon plans for the time being, going 10 for 21 with four homers, 11 RBIs and five runs from last Wednesday through Sunday. That included his first-career grand slam, which capped off four straight games with a homer for the 33-year-old outfielder. Smith raised his average from .258 to .280 over the five games, and even though he crashed to Earth on Monday with a hitless, three-strikeout game, you have to think it will be pretty tough for Servais to keep him out of the batting order until the All-Star break.

3. Is the pitching … OK?

Over their last five games, the Mariners’ starting pitchers have been – at the very least – serviceable. All but one member of the current rotation made it six or more innings in his last start, and the lone outlier, James Paxton, fell just one out short. Though Seattle lost 2-1 on Monday, it was through no fault of Wade Miley, who was much more effective in his second start back from the disabled list than in his first, holding the Astros to two runs on seven hits and two walks over 6 2/3 innings. On Sunday, Hisashi Iwakuma received solid run support and kept the Orioles at bay by allowing four runs over six frames. Paxton didn’t have much to worry about Saturday after being staked a 5-0 lead that later grew to 8-1. Wade LeBlanc limited Baltimore’s powerful offense to two runs over six innings of three-hit, one-walk baseball on Friday. And Taijuan Walker worked through the pain of his foot issue to hold Baltimore to one run on four hits and no walks in 6 1/3 innings Thursday. As the starters go for the Mariners, so should the rest of the team. The bullpen’s workload has shrunk as a result of the rotation’s recent success, which allowed Seattle to get back to a four-man bench on Tuesday. And, oh yeah, Felix Hernandez should be back after the All-Star break.

Date Starting Pitcher
Thursday, September 29 @ 6:40 pm Mariners' Marco Gonzales vs. Rangers' Jon Gray

Mariners Roof Report

Brought to you by
Sunny
High 69° | Low 52°
Roof is open
Rangers at Mariners today at 6:40pm

Brent Stecker

Mariners J.P. Crawford Jarred Kelenic...
Brent Stecker

State of the Mariners: Where things stand with magic number at 2

The Mariners' magic number is down to two. We detail what that means, plus everything you need to know about the playoff race and the team.
16 hours ago
Mariners Mitch Haniger...
Brent Stecker

Where Mariners’ quest for playoff spot stands after collapse in KC

How fans should be feeling about the Mariners' chances of ending their postseason drought in less than two weeks and how they are actually feeling right now are probably two different things.
5 days ago
Mariners Harry Ford...
Brent Stecker

Top Mariners prospect Harry Ford lights up WBC qualifiers

The season for the Modesto Nuts, the Mariners' Single-A affiliate, may have ended over a week ago, but one of the Nuts' best players is continuing to rake.
10 days ago
Mariners Luis Castillo...
Brent Stecker

Mariners Takeaways: 4 things to know as playoff push hits final turn

The Mariners have 20 games left, and they sit comfortably in a playoff position. A look at the rotation, standouts and the wild card picture.
16 days ago
Mariners Ty France...
Brent Stecker

5 things that stand out after Mariners’ huge series win over Guardians

The Mariners picked up a huge series win over the Guardians this weekend. SeattleSports.com's Brent Stecker breaks down five things to know.
1 month ago
Mariners Mitch Haniger...
Brent Stecker

Mariners stumble to start ‘easy’ part of schedule, need to flip switch

The Mariners hit the supposedly easy part of the schedule with a healthy roster, only to be handed a disappointing series loss by Texas.
2 months ago
Three things: Will playing time for Mike Zunino benefit the Mariners?