White Sox-Mariners Preview
The Seattle Mariners are on the brink of matching their longest home winning streak of the season, and doing so could put them in postseason position.
Another powerful display from Mike Zunino would surely help.
Zunino has a chance to set the Mariners’ record for the most homers hit by a catcher in a single season Saturday night, when they go for another win over the sputtering Chicago White Sox.
Seattle (61-54) has won the first four of this nine-game homestand after beating Chicago 4-1 on Friday. The Mariners, who won a season-high five straight games at Safeco Field from June 15-24, are tied with the New York Yankees a half-game behind Kansas City for the AL’s second wild-card spot.
Zunino was key to keeping Seattle rolling, hitting a three-run, opposite-field homer to right Friday.
"That’s where I really want to drive the ball when I’m feeling good," said Zunino, who has homered five times in 11 hits over the past 14 games. "I was able to get a good fastball on a 2-0 count and barrel it up."
Zunino, 23, is batting .211 in his first full season as the Mariners’ starting catcher, but his team-leading 18 homers are tied with Cincinnati’s Devin Mesoraco for the most in the majors at the position. He had five in 52 games as a rookie last year.
Zunino’s home run total is also tied for the most by a catcher in franchise history, a mark most recently reached by Miguel Olivo in 2011.
James Paxton (2-0, 2.76 ERA) gets the ball for the second time since missing nearly four months with a left lat strain. He was pulled with one out in the fifth after throwing 83 pitches and allowing two runs in last Saturday’s 6-3 win at Baltimore.
"I felt really strong," Paxton told MLB’s official website. "I had absolutely no problems with my arm. Everything felt great. So now it’s just a matter of tightening things up, getting ahead in some counts and going deep in the ballgame for our guys."
Paxton is 5-0 with a 2.01 ERA in seven career starts, but he’s reached the seventh inning only twice – once in three games this year.
The rookie left-hander may find comfort in knowing the Mariners bullpen has the lowest ERA in the majors at 2.35. The relievers have allowed two runs with 12 strikeouts in 10 1-3 innings over the past four games.
Chicago (55-62) has lost six of seven games, and four in a row behind a .195 batting average and 8.74 ERA.
The White Sox also lost Adam Eaton to a sore rib cage after he grounded out to lead off the game Friday. It was the center fielder’s return to the lineup after sitting out Thursday’s 13-3 defeat in the opener of this four-game set due to a lower back bruise.
"Everything we’re going through, it’s just like you’re in a funk," manager Robin Ventura said. "If it can go wrong, it’s going to go wrong."
Ventura is turning to Hector Noesi (6-8, 4.97), who has been feast or famine while going 4-3 with a 4.81 ERA over his last seven starts. The right-hander owns a 1.98 ERA in those victories, while compiling a 9.77 mark in the defeats.
That stretch includes a solid effort at home in his first career start against the Mariners on July 6, when he allowed five hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 1-0 victory.
Noesi also pitched well Monday, allowing one earned run in a seven-inning, rain-shortened four-hitter in a 5-3 win over Texas.