Seattle is playing its first four-game series at home this season. An extra game against the Texas Rangers could be just what the Mariners’ lineup needs to start building some confidence.
After ending a five-game skid with a breakout game at the plate, the Mariners again look to take advantage of a shoddy Rangers pitching staff when the teams meet Tuesday night.
Seattle (14-19) was tied with Texas (13-20) at the bottom of the AL West before opening this series with a 7-3 win Monday night.
The five straight losses put the Mariners among the worst teams in AL, and that rut was due mostly to a lack of production at the plate. Seattle’s seven runs versus Texas are just two fewer than it scored during its skid, when it hit .215 with six walks and 30 strikeouts.
It’s little surprise that the Mariners ended their struggles against the Rangers, who have baseball’s second-worst ERA at 5.21.
This is the first of five four-game series Seattle will play at home this season, giving it some extra at-bats this week against a Rangers staff that has allowed seven runs or more 13 times.
“Hopefully, we can get this thing started. Right now, our goal is to get to .500,” Mariners manager John McLaren said.
Right fielder Wladimir Balentien gave Seattle a spark with a three-run home run Monday, giving him three in 22 major league at-bats. He has started every game since the Mariners recalled him April 30 from Triple-A Tacoma to replace released starting right fielder Brad Wilkerson.
Now, Seattle’s lineup will face Rangers reclamation project Sidney Ponson (1-0, 1.35 ERA). The right-hander is coming off his first win in a year, giving up six hits while striking out five in eight innings as Texas beat Kansas City 2-1 on Thursday.
Ponson’s previous win was on May 1, 2007, for Minnesota against Tampa Bay. He made only two more starts for the Twins before getting released, then was signed to a minor league deal by the Rangers this spring and was recalled on April 26 to make his first start with Texas.
Ponson is 2-4 with a 4.84 ERA in 11 starts and one relief appearance against Seattle. He hasn’t faced the Mariners since July 18, 2006.
Seattle will counter with Miguel Batista (2-3, 4.41 ERA), who is 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA in two starts and one relief appearance at home this season. His one appearance out of the bullpen was against Texas on April 2 as he retired all three batters he faced in the ninth inning to earn a save in Seattle’s 4-1 win.
Batista is 4-3 with a 4.37 ERA in eighth starts and four relief appearances against the Rangers.
In his last outing, Batista allowed one run and four hits in seven innings as Seattle lost 3-2 in 11 innings to Cleveland on Thursday night.
He will be facing a Texas lineup that is expected to have center fielder Josh Hamilton back after he was given what manager Ron Washington called “a mental break” Monday. Hamilton, who leads the majors with 33 RBIs, had started every game.
“No one expected him to play the whole month of April,” Washington said.
Hamilton won a game at Seattle on April 2 with a home run in the ninth inning off closer J.J. Putz.