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New York Yankees vs. Seattle Mariners: Series preview

Can the Yankees wrap up their road trip on a good note?

MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

After an extra innings win on April 11th, the Mariners were 13-2 and already had a four-game lead in the AL West. Since then, things have gone, um, not great for Seattle. In the months since their first 15 games, the Mariners have a .364 winning percentage, and are now 28.5 games behind and firmly in last in the AL West.

Now the Yankees come to town to wrap up their west coast road trip. Back in May, the Yankees took three of four against Seattle. That was right about when they started to turn things on, and the Mariners started to really fall off. The Yankees have even acquired one of Seattle’s best players in the meantime. As the teams get ready to meet again starting tonight, let’s take a look at the pitching matchups that we’ll see.

Monday: J.A Happ vs. TBD

As mentioned, the Mariners haven’t been great this season. However, what they can still do is hit home runs, seeing as they’re fourth in the AL. That doesn’t seem like the best matchup for Happ. In his last seven starts, Happ has allowed 11 home runs, and that even includes a game where the Orioles didn’t hit one. Several of Seattle’s players with 10 or more home runs will not play: Edwin Encarnacion is a Yankee, Domingo Santana and Mitch Haniger are injured, etc. That being said, there are still some people around who could do damage against the HR-prone Happ.

The Mariners will be using an opener for the first game of the series.

Tuesday: Masahiro Tanaka vs. Yusei Kikuchi

You would think Tanaka would be another to have the same home run issues in this series as Happ, but he’s been pretty good on that front lately. (Just three allowed in his last 29.2 innings across five starts.) Problem is, he hasn’t been great in that time. He had two good to great starts against Toronto and Cleveland earlier this month, but they’re bookended by two others where he was hit around for five runs apiece. He was solid against the Mariners back in May, allowing two runs in 6.1 innings, one of which was a home run by aforementioned current Yankee Encarnacion.

Kikuchi’s rookie season has not been the best. He was good through his first nine starts, but has an ERA over six since then. On the other hand, he’s coming off a two-hit, complete game shutout of the Diamondbacks in his most recent start.

Wednesday: James Paxton vs. Justus Sheffield

Pound for pound, Friday was arguably Paxton’s best start as a Yankee. Yes, there was also the eight inning shutout against Boston, but 11 strikeouts and zero walks against the Dodgers is no joke. Now he returns to Seattle where he’ll pitch against his former team for the first time. (He was on the IL during the prior series.) Much has been made of his home vs. away splits, but does that hold up in his former home where he has an ERA under three?

Paxton’s opponent will be none other than the key piece the Yankees traded for him: Justus Sheffield. It’s will be just his third appearance of the season and the sixth of his major league career. Neither his numbers in the majors or in Triple-A this season inspire much confidence that he can shut down the Yankees’ lineup. However, the takes if he does and beats Paxton are going to be something to behold.