Ryan Dempster (5-5, 3.67 ERA) vs. Jason Vargas (5-2, 2.88 ERA)
Dempster notched his ninth quality start in his last outing against the Athletics. He gave up two runs on eight hits over 6 2/3 innings, throwing 120 pitches. It’s the fourth time he’s thrown at least 120. Dempster also struck out seven as he won for the third time in his past five starts.
If there’s one complaint to have about Vargas this season, it’s that high pitch counts often limit how far into games he can go. That wasn’t an issue in his most recent start, in which he went 7 2/3 innings in a 2-1 win at St. Louis. That gave him 11 quality starts in 13 tries, tying him for sixth in the Majors, and he did it on 94 pitches with no walks.
Strength – Has a low-90s fastball, plus a good slider and change-up. Displays impressive poise and command. His slider can be effective against left-handed hitters. Can start or relieve.
Weakness – Is far too hittable for the big leagues. Still needs to work on a better approach to right-handed hitters, as well as his endurance.
Randy Wells (3-5, 4.92 ERA) vs. Cliff Lee (5-3, 2.55 ERA)
Wells got back on track in his last start. He held the A’s to two runs on seven hits over seven innings. The problem in his previous starts was that he was falling off the rubber. A couple of side sessions, some work with pitching coach Larry Rothschild, advice from Greg Maddux and a good look at video helped Wells figure it out. Wells has never faced the Mariners.
Lee was nothing short of brilliant in a 1-0 shutout win against the Reds on Friday. He worked out of trouble in the first and cruised the rest of the way. His ability to avoid walks has been a major key to his success, as he’s issued just four free passes while dealing 67 strikeouts. Only three other pitchers since 1900 have tallied as many strikeouts with so few walks (Bret Saberhagen, Greg Maddux and Ben Sheets) in a 10-start period, and Lee’s the only one to do it in his first 10 outings of the year.
Strength – Has a four-pitch arsenal featuring low-90s heat, a nasty slider, curve and change. Has a fluid, sometimes sneaky delivery. Works quickly and efficiently and yields very few walks. Is durable.
Weakness – A bit of a late bloomer, he can lose his focus from time to time–which used to set him back even more early on in his career. Will give up his share of hits because he’s around the plate so much.
Carlos Silva (8-2, 3.01 ERA) vs. Felix Hernandez (5-5, 3.39 ERA)
This will be a different Carlos Silva than the one the Mariners had for two seasons. Silva is coming off his second straight loss, but it was his team-leading 10th quality start. In two years with the Mariners, he was 5-18. He won his first eight decisions with the Cubs and has dropped two in a row, although he has pitched well enough to win both. If he goes deep, he’s tough. Silva has a 2.07 ERA when he throws at least six innings.
Hernandez has taken four of his past five starts through at least eight innings, and his most recent outing was his best yet. He followed up Cliff Lee’s shutout with a one-run complete game, walking one and striking out nine. That was a point of pride for Hernandez, who wasn’t happy about having to leave his previous start after 8 2/3 innings. To say the least, he and Lee make a formidable pair. There’s just no telling how much longer it will last.
Strength – His fastball can reach 97 m.p.h., and he adds a devastating curve and a very strong change-up to his impressive arsenal. Induces plenty of groundballs, since his fastball has a ton of movement and sinking action. Has amazing command and poise.
Weakness – Can get a little flustered with runners aboard and struggles to keep them at bay. Also gets first-inning jitters on occasion. Left-handed hitters show a little more power against him.