St. Louis Cardinals: Mariner Rotation Ripe for Picking

Jun 23, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Seattle Mariners Seth Smith (7) walks off the field after the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Detroit won 5-4. in ten innings. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 23, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Seattle Mariners Seth Smith (7) walks off the field after the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Detroit won 5-4. in ten innings. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Cardinals begin a three-game series on the west coast tonight facing the Seattle Mariners.  The one-time charging Mariners have fallen upon hard times especially out of their rotation.  Is it time for the birds to feast?

I, for one, despise west coast trips for the St. Louis Cardinals as these usually spell late, late night games thanks to the time difference.  Add to this the fact that west coast teams usually pack a punch.  Enter the third place Seattle Mariners against whom the Cardinals face starting tonight.

The Mariners, losers of their last six games (going 2-8 in the last ten), were at one time a powerhouse in the AL West.  The big blow, or one of the big blows, to befall the Mariners in the last thirty days was when they were forced to place King Felix Hernandez on the disabled list with a calf injury.

With this move and the calf injury of Taijuan Walker, the wheels seemed to fall off.

This is not to say that the Mariners aren’t a good team or should be discounted from the start, but is meant to indicate that a visit to Seattle in April would look a great deal more daunting than does this visit in June.

With Hernandez out, the rotation for Seattle has had a hard time of late.  Let’s look at the Mariner remaining rotation (starting with the impending Cardinals series) to find the struggles of late.

Friday’s Starter

Seattle newcomer, Wade LeBlanc was just acquired by Seattle on June 22 from the Blue Jays.  This stopgap measure is who is slated to face the Cardinals on Friday night.  I make these statements with caution as the Mariners, as of June 23, had not made a roster move to accommodate LeBlanc’s start.

LeBlanc, in 2016, has yet to pitch a single inning in the majors.  In AAA, LeBlanc- a lefty- has held fourteen appearances across 89.2 innings and owns a 7-2 record.  In these innings, LeBlanc has allowed eighty-four hits, seventeen earned runs, three home runs, while striking out eighty-five batters for an impressive 1.71 ERA.

Looking at LeBlanc’s splits, I see no indication that Matheny should toy with his lineup as he might when facing a left-handed pitcher.  To this point, right-handed batters own a .261 batting average facing LeBlanc and left-handed batters own a .316 average.

Saturday’s Starter

After facing LeBlanc in what would be his first MLB appearance of 2016, the Cardinals will face Nathan Karns, a pitcher in his fourth year of MLB experience.  This 4.12 career ERA pitcher has fallen on rough times of late.  In the past thirty days (five-game exposure for Karns), his ERA has blossomed to a ripe 6.12.

In these five appearances, Karns has surrendered a total of twenty-nine hits and seventeen earned runs.  In his last start, he lasted only five innings and allowed seven hits and five earned runs (a 9.00 ERA) against the Detroit Tigers.

Let us hope the Cardinals can pounce as the Tigers did.

Sunday’s Starter

Outside of the unknown of LeBlanc, Sunday’s starter- James Paxton– holds the better ERA of the arms the birds will face this weekend.  Paxton, like Karns before him, is in his fourth year of MLB experience and owns a career 3.19 ERA.  Over the past thirty days (five-game exposure for Paxton), his ERA has held fairly steady at 3.34.

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In these five appearances, while the ERA has held somewhat steady, Paxton has allowed thirty-nine hits and eleven earned runs.  In his last outing, Paxton faced the Tigers and pitched a solid 7.2 innings but surrendered four runs which saddled him with the loss.

The secret against Paxton seems to be in the number of times a batter sees him per game.  As this number increases, Paxton surrenders stronger batting averages.  In short, hit him often and he falters.  Let’s hope the scrappiness of our Cardinals appears.

General Rotation Reaction

In this review, we didn’t examine the other members of the Mariner rotation since the Cardinals aren’t facing them this weekend, but here’s a quick rundown of their struggles of late (last thirty games):

Adrian Sampson, RHP, one game, 4.2 innings, 8H, 4ER, 2HR, 7.71 ERA

Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP, six games, 39.2 innings, 44H, 20ER, 11HR, 4.54 ERA

Taijuan Walker (for whom LeBlanc is substituting in lieu of a trip to the DL), RHP, five games, 25.2 innings, 27H, 14ER, 7HR, 4.91 ERA

Next: The Randal Grichuk Saga

Let us hope the birds come hungry and are ready for some ripe pitching.  Let us hope that the bats can solve LeBlanc in his first MLB start of 2016.  Let us hope that we can tee-off on Karns and keep his bad luck flowing.  And let us hope that we can hit Paxton quickly enough to see him multiple times in the same game.