The road ahead

The M’s head off on the road having greased the skids for the A’s continued slide out of contention for the AL West.  It was great to see Iwakuma do what he does best.  It’s nice to see Brandon Maurer stay in a game.  It was good to see Safeco Joe Saunders be, well, Safeco Joe Saunders. The A’s are struggling right now, and it’s important to kick those teams when they’re down, especially if they’re ahead in the division.

Kendrys Morales' three run homer helped beat the Oakland A's yesterday, 6-3
Kendrys Morales’ three run homer helped beat the Oakland A’s yesterday, 6-3.  Photo: Elaine Thompson

The teams the M’s will face on this road trip are not struggling.  The Yankees and Indians are both division leaders and they’re both red hot.  The Yanks are 7-3 in their last ten games, having swept the improved Kansas City Royals.  The Indians are 8-2 over their last ten, trashing the Twins, A’s and Tigers, moving past Detroit to the top spot in the A.L. Central. They finish the trip with two games against the Angels.  The Halos are 4-6 over their last ten, but did take a series from the Astros, something Seattle has yet to manage.

This will not be an easy road trip.  The Yankees’ pitching staff is ranked in the AL’s  top five, which always poses a problem to the Mariners’ improving, but still incomplete offense.  If there is any good news at all, it is that the M’s will run out both Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma to face the Bronx Bombers.  So, all the hitters should struggle. Though the Yankees are short the Alex Rodriguezs , Derek Jeters, and Mark Texeiras of yesteryear, they still have an otherworldly Robinson Cano, and the reinvigorated Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner to do plenty of damage.

The Indians are different.  Cleveland’s pitching staff is middle of the pack with an ERA+ of 100, league average.  But their offense ranks in the top third of the league.  It is first in slugging, led by catcher Carlos Quintana and Mark Reynolds at first base. Their team OPS+ is 122.

The Angels are a disappointment.  Their pitching is bad.  With their best pitcher, Jered Weaver, on the DL and an ERA+ of 85, this team, formerly built on pitching, has struggled. As you would expect, Mark Trumbo, Peter Bourjos, and Mike Trout are lighting it up, but Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton have yet to get their games going.  Their offense is a league average OPS+ of 101.

Seattle heads out on this road trip 6-4 over their last ten games. With the exception of the Saunders meltdown 10-2 at Rogers Centre last Sunday, they’ve played good ball and been in every game. They take an OPS+ of 95 and and ERA+ of 96 with them.  They have two of the hottest starters in the league in Hernandez and Iwakuma. Felix and Kuma will each get two starts. So will Aaron Harang.  They have a bit of momentum, but New York and Cleveland are not pushovers, and they are not currently struggling.  To keep things interesting, they’ll need to find a way to win five games to make this a successful trip, or four games to at least save face. The M’s cannot afford a 1-8 meltdown if they hope to stay relevant in the American League West, or, more importantly, in the minds of their slowly evaporating fan base.

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