Detroit Tigers: Previewing the Seattle Mariners

TORONTO, ON - MAY 8: James Paxton #65 of the Seattle Mariners is congratulated by Mike Zunino #3 and teammates after throwing a no-hitter during MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on May 8, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - MAY 8: James Paxton #65 of the Seattle Mariners is congratulated by Mike Zunino #3 and teammates after throwing a no-hitter during MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on May 8, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Tigers (15-21) are about to get very familiar with the Seattle Mariners (20-15), facing them seven times in the next ten days.

The Detroit Tigers will take on the Mariners in a three-game set at home this weekend. After a mid-week series against the Indians, they’ll fly out to the Pacific Northwest to face them again – this time in four games.

Here’s a look at the pitching matchups for the first three-game series, starting Friday at 7:10 PM:

Friday, May 11 (7:10) Matthew Boyd vs. Marco Gonzales

Saturday, May 12 (4:10) Michael Fulmer vs. Felix Hernandez

Sunday, May 13 (1:10) Blaine Hardy vs. James Paxton

Boyd vs. Gonzales will be a battle of two soft-throwing left-handers from the Pacific Northwest. Gonzales is a Gonzaga product who was a first round pick by the Cardinals a few years back. He struggled to start out the year, but has gone 2-1 with a 3.57 ERA and a stellar 27/4 K/BB ratio in 22.1 innings in his last four starts. Boyd of course has suffered from virtually no run support, going 1-3 with a 3.00 ERA and 26 strikeouts.

Saturday’s matchup is very much an ‘old vs. new’ situation, with former ace Felix Hernandez squaring off against current ace Michael Fulmer. Felix has an ugly 5.28 ERA on the year and certainly looks like the early career wear-and-tear on his arm has finally caught up with him. If Fulmer can keep pitching the way he has been as of late, the Tigers should be able to take this one.

The Detroit Tigers then get the pleasure of facing the red-hot James Paxton who will be coming off not only his first career no-hitter against Toronto, but a ridiculous 16 strikeout game in his previous appearance. Cooling down the big Canadian will be extremely tough for Detroit. Making a spot start opposite Paxton will be left-hander Blaine Hardy, who looked lights out in Triple-A this season as a starter. He’s never made a start in the big leagues however, so it will be important for Detroit to try to limit their bullpen use in the first two games. Hardy can be counted on five innings at best, so they’ll want to have plenty of fresh arms on hand to finish that one out.

Seattle’s offense

Seattle’s offense has been their strong suit for the last couple of years, and 2018 looks no different. Acquiring Dee Gordon has helped shore up their leadoff spot, long one of their weaknesses. He is hitting .340 with 15 stolen bases on the year and will be a tough out. Jean Segura has cooled a bit since his hot start, but is still hitting .291 with five steals and a team leading 11 doubles.

The heart of the order has belonged to a trio of veterans in Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. All three are a little down this year, with Seager in particular (.235) off to a slow start. Still, they command respect and Detroit’s pitchers will need to be careful.

Mitch Haniger has been on an absolute tear this season, slashing a blistering .295/.386/.623 with 10 home runs and 29 RBI. He is Seattle’s best hitter this season, and has the potential to do some real damage if Detroit’s not careful. He feasts on left-handed pitching, so Boyd and Hardy will have their work cut out for them.

Seattle’s weakness lies in the bottom of their order. Catcher Mike Zunino has battled injuries this year and is hitting a lowly .172. Ryon Healy has not developed into the star first baseman they were hoping for, hitting just .246 with five home runs. Ben Gamel had a great 2017 season but looks lost at the plate this year. Guillermo Heredia has hit well, part of the reason the team decided to transition Ichiro into a front office role.

All in all, it’s a legit offense that could give Detroit’s pitching staff some problems, especially in the top six of the order.

What to watch out for

How Hardy Handles Starting

Blaine Hardy will be making his first big league start on Sunday. He went 3-0 with a 0.74 ERA and 0.61 WHIP at Triple-A this year, making four starts. He’s never been a regular starter in the minor leagues however, so it’s hard to know how this will pan out. I’d expect that Hardy will only be counted on to go 3-5 innings, depending how effective he is. It’s hard to have a bullpen game at the end of a series. It puts a lot of pressure on the other starting pitchers, in this case Boyd and Fulmer, to go deep into the game to preserve the pen. Don’t be surprised to see the Detroit Tigers make a roster move during the series to get a fresh arm ready for Sunday’s game.

Mikie Mahtook is Back

After Leonys Martin went to the DL, the Tigers decided to give Mahtook another shot. The right-hander didn’t swing it all that well in Toledo, but he did go 1-for-4 with a triple in his first big league game in just under a month. This series should give Tiger fans a chance to see if Mahtook is returning to the form that saw him be a surprise performer last season, or if he’s still trying to find his stroke.

Will Nicholas Castellanos Return?

Castellanos was not available during Wednesday’s loss to the Rangers. After trying to swing a bat during the game, he reported that his knee was still bothering him. Hopefully a rest day on Thursday has cleared him and he will be able to resume his spot in right field for this series. Castellanos is slashing .321/.379/.500 with 16 extra-base hits on the year and has smoked left-handed pitching with a .483 average and a .559 OBP. With a pair of lefties on the bump for Seattle, Castellanos has a chance to really do some damage this weekend.

Next: Best draft picks from each round in team history

The Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners are going to be seeing a lot of each other for the next few weeks. Hopefully, Detroit can come out on top. They’ll need to limit Seattle’s power hitters and get some runs up on Paxton – neither of which are easy tasks.

Game one is Friday at 7:05 EST.