MLB New York Yankees

New York Yankees vs. Seattle Mariners Preview: Which Team Has the Edge?

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New York Yankees-Seattle Mariners Series Preview: Which Team Has the Edge?

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees won again on Sunday, sweeping the Kansas City Royals and winning their fifth game in a row and 12th of their last 16. On Monday, they will be in Cleveland for a double header to make up two rained-out games in April, and then the team will head back home for a series against the Seattle Mariners.

The Mariners are a deceptively good team; though they are currently hanging just under .500 with an 18-20 record, they have two very good pitchers who the Yankees will see, as well as players with some pop who could be troublesome for the Yanks.

The pitching, like always, will be key in these three games. The first two games of the series will feature Seattle’s two aces, and if the Bombers can score early against them like they did in Kansas City, hopefully the pitching staff will continue to be as effective as its been and shut the pesky Mariners down.

The Yankees have been playing exceedingly well in the face of their much-discussed and analyzed injuries, and as Jayson Nix told reporters Saturday night after a well fought for win, “It’s a different guy getting it done every night.”

Luckily, the Yankees won’t be facing any starting left-handed pitching in the series, which has been a problem area for them, so their lineup will be at the fullest strength it can be without the losses its recently incurred.

Although it is still early in the season and the games aren’t do or die yet, it is still important to rack up series wins against teams that you are better than at home. It is series like these that become integral later in the year when a team is fighting for a playoff spot, so hopefully the Yankees can continue rolling and beat the M’s.

After they face Seattle, they have another tough series against the Toronto Blue Jays, who seem to have recently found their home run groove, hitting a collective five on Sunday, crushing the Boston Red Sox. If the bombers can keep up their pitching momentum while staying on their offensive game however, this homestand will be another smooth one for the team.

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Felix Hernandez vs. C.C. Sabathia

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The first pitching matchup in the Yankees-Mariners series on paper sounds like the most compelling one, as two aces of their respective staffs duel. The Yankees will be sending C.C. Sabathia to the mound to face Mariner’s star Felix Hernandez

Sabathia is 4-3 with a 3.23 ERA, and after what was a shaky start for him, he has been looking progressively better. His most recent start against Colorado was shortened due to a rain delay, but he looked dominant in the four innings he pitched.

The lefty will have to be just as good in Tuesday night’s game and hopefully go deep into the game as he usually does. With David Robertson and Mariano Rivera pitching two days in a row going into a doubleheader, the bullpen will likely be tired by Tuesday. Sabathia, if he’s pitching well, should be able to give them some welcome rest.

If the Yankees are going to get this game however, they will have to do something not many clubs have been able to do: score runs off of King Felix.

Hernandez is 5-2 with a sparkling 1.53 ERA, and is so far proving that he deserved the major contract he signed during the offseason. He has been shutting teams down and with 56 strikeouts notched already, the Yanks should be careful of his sinker.

If the Yankees are not on the top of their offensive game, this game could be problematic, even with Sabathia at his best.

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Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Phil Hughes

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

While everyone knows King Felix is the ace of the Mariner’s pitching staff, Wednesday night’s pitcher has been putting up comparatively impressive numbers this season.

Hisashi Iwakuma has had a tremendous start after a solid first season in MLB. The Japanese pitcher is 4-1 this year with a 1.74 ERA. Like Hernandez, he can also throw strikes and induce groundouts; he has struck out 51 batters thus far and has walked only eight.

Iwakuma has a very good splitter that he mixes in with his four- and two-seamers and if he is on his game against the Yanks, it will be very difficult for them to hit him.

Going up against Iwakuma is Phil Hughes, who had a rough outing in his last start against the Royals, but has otherwise been dominant as of late.

If Hughes can rebound from his last less-than-stellar start, then the Yankees will be in good shape. When Hughes locates his fastball, he can get outs and hopefully quiet the Mariners' offense.

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Aaron Harang vs. Andy Pettitte

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The final pitching matchup of the series pits two veterans against each other. Aaron Harang, best known as a Cincinnati Reds hurler, has had a difficult start to the 2013 season; after being traded to the Colorado Rockies and then to the Mariners, he is 1-4 with a 7.30 ERA.

His last two outings, however, have been a glimmer of hope as he went six innings and gave up two runs in both starts. While he is by no means a sure thing, it is possible that he will have another improved performance on Thursday evening, giving the Yankees trouble.

He does pitch better against lefties, something the Yankees are replete with, with a 5.91 ERA against left-handers compared to an 8.36 ERA against righties. However, his numbers thus far indicate that he is still working to get back to his former self, and the Yankees should be able to get runs off him.

Andy Pettitte will be the other pitcher on the mound, and after two starts in which it looked as if his age was showing and he was losing the strike zone, he came back against Kansas City and pitched an impressive game, going seven innings, giving up just two runs and racking up seven strikeouts.

Pettitte is the consummate professional and his harshest critic. He no doubt looked over his two previous performances and was able to correct whatever was throwing his otherwise quality start to the season off track.

I think he will have another good start against the Mariners, anchoring the team at the back end of the rotation.

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Seattle Mariners' Offense

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Beyond the Mariners’ pitching, they have some position players who are having solid starts to the season. The first name that comes to mind is Michael Morse, who is coming off a very good season in Washington. He already has nine home runs and although his average is low, he can hit for power in big spots.

Infielders Kyle Seager and Kendry Morales have both been good for the M’s. They lead the team in hits, doubles and RBIs, and either might be a threat to have a good game against the Yankees.

Despite these players, the Mariners are a slightly anemic ball club run-wise. They have no everyday players hitting over .300, and the most RBIs any player has is 17. Unless they have an offensive explosion during this series, these will likely be some close games.

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New York Yankees' Offense

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees offense is not nearly as low scoring as the Mariners’, however they have had a penchant so far this season for playing close games.

The offense in this series will most likely be centered around Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells continuing the success they have been enjoying. The two have 10 and nine home runs respectively, and also lead the team in hits, RBIs and average. If they can remain hot, they can challenge good pitching just like they did to James Shields and Ervin Santana in the Royals series and secure wins.

But I agree with Nix in that the theme of the Yankees’ season so far has been a variety of players stepping up, and the Mariners should be wary of Travis Hafner, Lyle Overbay and even Ichiro Suzuki to have big games against them.

To put it briefly, the Yankees’ offense is in a good place right now; if everyone continues what they have been doing, they have a chance against the Mariners' pitching.

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Yankees Have the Edge

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Overall, I think the Yankees have the edge in this series. If the law of averages doesn’t choose this exact moment to catch up with the rolling Yanks, they can take at least two games against the Mariners.

I also think, however, that these games will not be easy to win. King Felix and Iwakuma are pitching at their best right now and they might be able to quiet the Yankee bats. If so, the Yanks will have to rely on their starting pitching and solid bullpen to back them up like they did in Colorado.

With the staunch starting pitching and the Mariners’ low scoring club (they are 27th in the major league in runs scored), the games will most likely be low scoring as well. Luckily, this Yankees club is used to eking out wins.

While I have faith in the Yankees, there is one last reminder: don’t forget about Raul Ibanez or even Jason Bay, who can both tie up a game at any time with a clutch hit.