Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Niese, Iwakuma square off in series opener

The Mariners and Pirates open a two-game series at Safeco Field on Tuesday night. Seattle leads Pittsburgh all time 5-3. The Interleague series will be the fourth series between the two teams and the first since 2013.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma will take the mound for the home team in his 16th start of the season. He and Nathan Karns are the only Mariners on their injury-ridden pitching staff with 15 starts under their belts.
"He's a very good competitor," manager Scott Servais said of Iwakuma. "You can even see it, if he gets off to a rough start in a game he will make an adjustment, and he will really ramp it up and compete. Because he knows that's his job, to give us six innings and make it competitive."
Pittsburgh will send left hander Jonathon Niese to the hill. Niese is looking to snap his two-game losing streak. In his past two starts combined, Niese allowed 12 runs on 17 hits over 10 2/3 innings. The 29-year-old has not lost three consecutive games since May 2015.
• There's a chance the Pirates could recall a position player from Triple-A Indianapolis for the series if they send down right-hander Chad Kuhl, who was added to the roster to make a start Sunday against the Dodgers. They also could use the DH spot this series with John Jaso, David Freese and Jung Ho Kang, or to rest outfielders Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco.
•The Mariners will likely put switch hitter Ketel Marte at the top of the order against Niese and move left-handed batter Leonys Martin to the eight hole. Martin leads all players with at least 50 at-bats as the leadoff hitter, batting .400 in that spot. Even so, the Mariners often lead off with Marte against left-handed pitchers to pressure them with right-handed hitting from the get-go. Servais said he thinks that batting order "flows better."
•The Mariners will not get another off-day between Tuesday's game and the All-Star break. Iwakuma's ability to work late into games will be that much more important as Seattle tries to maintain a fresh bullpen over a 13-game stretch. He is coming off of a rare 4.2-inning loss in Detroit, the first game in six starts that he lasted fewer than seven innings.

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