The Seattle Mariners open up a six-game homestand with a three-game set against the Houston Astros (5-14) beginning Monday. Both teams are riding extended losing streaks, with the M’s carrying a six-game slide into the series and the Astros a majors-worst seven-game slide.
Here are the starting lineups for Monday night’s game which will feature RHP Felix Hernandez (3-0, 1.91) against the Astros’ LHP Dallas Keuchel (1-1, 3.50):
1. Abraham Almonte cf
2. Dustin Ackley lf
3. Robinson Cano 2b
4. Corey Hart dh
5. Justin Smoak 1b
6. Stefen Romero rf
7. Kyle Seager 3b
8. Mike Zunino c
9. Brad Miller ss
1. Jose Altuve 2b
2. Dexter Fowler cf
3. Jason Castro c
4. George Springer rf
5. Marc Krauss 1b
6. Alex Presley lf
7. Matt Dominguez dh
8. Marwin Gonzalez 3b
9. Jonathan Villar ss
The big change you will note for the Mariners is Ackley sliding up into the two hole with Miller falling all the way back into the ninth spot in the batting order. Ackley is the Mariners’ leading hitter by batting average at .279 while Miller is off to a slow start hitting just .194. Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon previously said he wanted to just leave Ackley where he was, but clearly his performance to start has warranted more at bats.
“He’s one of the guys with a good average,” McClendon said. “I’m just trying to get our hot bats up front, get some speed up front and see what we can do.”
Despite the losing streak and entering the week in fourth place in the AL West, the Mariners sport the American League’s third-best team ERA at 3.48. Pitching has clearly been one of the team’s strong points, but can that hold up given the current state of the rotation?
“Obviously with our starting pitchers we’ve been dealt a tough hand with that, we’ve just got to play it out. Once we get beyond that, I think we’ll be just fine,” McClendon said.
One of the main concerns right now is the amount of work the bullpen endured to start the season. On the previous seven-game road trip, the Mariners’ relievers worked 25 innings. That’s nearly 3.2 innings per game. McClendon said the team just can’t continue at that rate.
“If you look at the numbers, the amount of appearances that these guys have had, it’s just been too much,” McClendon said. “We can’t continue at that rate, it just won’t work. We have to do something about it and we’re trying to do something about it.
“I’ve got (Dominic) Leone cleaned up, I got (Yoervis) Medina cleaned up, Wilhelmsen probably needs a day.”
Also, McClendon noted that left-handed starter James Paxton is coming along fine according to the 6-8 week return schedule for the lat muscle injury he suffered on April 8. That leaves Paxton potentially not returning to the rotation until early June depending on when the M’s start his throwing program.
Meanwhile starter Hisashi Iwakuma will make his first rehab start on Tuesday for AAA Tacoma. The Mariners could potentially have him back in two weeks.
And Taijuan Walker will meet with a doctor on Wednesday, if everything looks good he will begin playing catch later in the week. McClendon said that Walker’s arm feels much better.