The amazing Ichiro Suzuki and the Seattle Mariners come to town for a three-game series that starts tonight at Dodger Stadium. Ichiro is hitting .369 so far this season with a .387 wOBA, and has been particularly hot the last month and a half, hitting .403/.435/.546 over his last 45 games. Ichiro registered the 40th four-hit game of his career Thursday, and Andrew Kamholz of the Baseball-Reference blog noted that Ichiro racks up four-hit games at a higher rate than just about anybody. It's no shock that Ichiro is Seattle's best hitter, at 2.9 Wins Above Replacement (WAR).
What is a surprise is that Russell Branyan has been the Mariners' second-best hitter. At 33, he has enjoyed a career renaissance this season, hitting .301/.401/.602 with 18 home runs and a .423 wOBA, good for 2.6 WAR.
The Mariners are third in MLB in runs allowed per game (behind the Giants and Dodgers). A huge part of that is their stellar defense. All three of their regular outfielders -- CF Franklin Gutierrez (9.2 UZR, 4th in MLB), LF Endy Chavez (8.2, 7th), and RF Ichiro Suzuki (6.1, 14th) -- have outstanding Ultimate Zone Ratings, and former Dodger Adrian Beltre is 3rd among MLB third baseman with his 8.8 UZR. These guys can pick it, even with Chavez out for the year with a torn ACL & MCL.
Team ERA watch:
The Mariners are second-to-last in MLB in offense, averaging 3.87 runs per game. However, Jeff from Lookout Landing noted that over the last month or so, the Mariners offense has been much improved.
Clayton Kershaw, with his 12.2 scoreless inning streak, takes the mount for the Dodgers, a mere five-ish shutouts away from tying Orel Hershiser's scoreless inning streak. Even with his bad short start against the Padres a few weeks ago, Kershaw's ERA in May & June is a combined 2.43.
Jason Vargas, a graduate of Apple Valley High School, will start for the Mariners. After walking 4.5 batters per nine innings the first three seasons of his career, Vargas missed all of 2008 recovering from a torn labrum in his left hip, the same injury suffered this season by Alex Rodriguez. This year, he is walking only 2.2 batters per nine.
In Mariners' injury news, starting shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt was placed on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring, and catcher Kenjo Johjima was just activated from the DL and will start tonight, according to Christian Caple of MLB.com.
Dave Cameron over at Fangraphs gave his take on Juan Pierre returning to the bench upon the return of Manny Ramirez.
The Dodgers, who have lost their last two games, have not lost three straight games all season. The last time the Dodgers went this far into the season without losing three straight games was 1965. That team, which went on to win the World Series, lost games 72-74 of that season. Tonight is the Dodgers' 74th game of the season. Cue ominous music...
Pau Gasol of the Lakers will throw out a ceremonial first pitch tonight.
Get your guesses in for "She Is Gone" here.