Series Preview: Mariners (12-22) @ Yankees (20-14)

The Yankees continue their West-Coast trend of late with a weekend series against the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners haven't won a game since beating these same Yankees last Friday, but the biggest questions for the Yankees are: "Can Donovan Osborne be effective?" and "Is Jorge Posada healthy enough to play?"

Seattle just doesn't look like a team that's been to the playoffs recently.  They're old, gimpy and playing like it.  Even the ageless Edgar Martinez and Jamie Moyer are starting to show wear.  That's what happens when the average age of your team is around 65.  The good news for Mariners fans is that Ichiro is finally hitting.  In his last 11 games, the leadoff man is batting .392, but he's only scored six runs in that span.  Similarly, Randy Winn is hitting .324 in his last 10 games, but has only scored four times.  The hits just aren't coming for the Mariners and with the inconsistency of their pitching staff, they can't expect to win like that.  And they haven't been, as evident by their five-game losing streak coming off a sweep by the Twins.  All three games of the Minnesota series were decided by one-run at least.

The Yankees, on the other hand, are looking rejuvenated.  A colleague of mine compared this year to last year in regard to how the Yankees caught fire right after being no-hit by Houston (like I needed to be reminded of that.)  Since being swept at home by Boston, the Yanks haven't lost a series and are winners of 13 of their last 16.  Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams are finally heating up.  Jeter is hitting .321 over the last six games and Williams was 3/4 with a home run in the final game against Anaheim.  Alex Rodriguez is hitting .341 in his last 11 games with three homers and Jason Giambi is hitting .359 in May.

This used to be a good matchup, when Seattle and the Bombers faced off, but this year it's looking a bit lopsided.  Seattle is simply too old throughout to be seriously competitive anymore.  It's still a good team, but Freddy Garcia, Rafael Soriano and Ichiro can't do it all by themselves.

Yankees Home Record: 11-6        Last 10: 7-3
Seattle Road Record:
5-13        Last 10: 4-6

Season Series: Yankees lead 2-1

Key Matchups:  Williams vs. Meche: 0/12, three strikeouts... Rodriguez vs. Meche: 4/14, three home runs... Williams vs. Moyer: 31/78 (.397), six home runs, nine doubles... Sheffield vs. Moyer: 8/15, two home runs, five walks... Rodriguez vs. Pineiro: 2/19, four strikeouts... Williams vs. Pineiro: 6/15, 1.111 OPS... Martinez vs. Mussina: 20/64, three home runs... Olerud vs. Mussina: 17/53 (.321)... Boone vs. Osborne: 3/20, .377 OPS... Olerud vs. Brown: 22/54, home run... Aurilia vs. Brown: 14/40, home run... Boone vs. Brown: 4/22, six strike outs.

Probable Pitchers:

Friday: Gil Meche (1-3, 4.88) vs. Mike Mussina (3-4, 4.93)
Meche and Mussina locked horns in their last starts and, despite pitching well, Meche took a loss.  The right-hander allowed three runs in five innings and struck out six, but the M's couldn't muster any offense in support.  Meche has allowed more than three runs in a start just once this season, a pretty impressive feat if you ask me.

Could it be?  Is it true?  Mussina's ERA is under 5.00?  Mussina's actually been something resembling dominant in his past two outings, with an ERA of 1.20 and nine strikeouts in 15 innings.  He threw eight innings of shutout ball against these same Mariners on May 8, but Edgar and Olerud have historically lit him up like a Christmas tree.

Saturday: Jamie Moyer (1-2, 4.70) vs. Donovan Osborne (2-0, 7.11)
Moyer was cruising along against the Yankees in his last start, that is until the sixth inning when the Yankees decided they didn't really want to lose that game.  Moyer's been inconsistent this season, something he's not used to, but in his last three starts he sports a shiny 3.00 ERA, so he's getting his groove it seems.

Despite the pleadings of Yankee fans to try something else, Yankee management realized there isn't anything else, and so Osborne gets another crack at the Mariners.  Osborne didn't make it out of the second inning in his first start in five years, but the bullpen and bats bailed him out (big time) and he walked away with a no-decision.  Osborne really is rather decent, and I'm all for second chances, but here's hoping that Jose Contreras comes back with his head on straight, eh?

Sunday: Joel Pineiro (1-4, 6.75) vs. Kevin Brown (4-0, 3.42)
Everyone had Pineiro pencilled in as the M's ace of the future, but he's been wildly inconsistent this season.  Things are looking up at least, as Pineiro's ERA in his last two starts is a solid 3.46, but then again, his strikeouts are down over the same stretch.  So who knows what's going on.  In his last start, against the Twins, Pineiro went seven strong innings but didn't figure in the decision.  He hasn't won since April 18, in fact, and he's 2-2 with a 4.08 ERA against the Yanks in his career.

Brown still hasn't lost a decision, but the Yankees bailed him out in his last start.  Brown showed off that patented toughness of his, coming back to pitch after about 90 minutes of rain delay against the Angels, but it was decidedly his poorest start of the season.  In 19 career starts against Seattle, Brown is 4-6 with a 3.78 ERA.  Another interesting tidbit is that every single current Mariner has a batting average of either over .350 or under .185 against Brown.  Nothing in between.

Predictions and Prognostications:
The Yankees are clearly the better team right now, but Osborne, and the return of Posada, are both big question marks.  If Posada plays and Osborne is something resembling effective, the Yankees could sweep.  Don't expect Osborne to be able to pitch poorly and be bailed out again, that was some serious luck.  I'll go ahead and predict a series victory for the Yanks at any rate.

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