video thumbnail

Outlook: Ackley appears ready to make jump to Majors

The Mariners and Phillies will be looking for a fitting reflection Friday, when they play the opener of a three-game series at Safeco Field. Both clubs have established themselves as early contenders in their respective divisions and will get a chance to size each other up over the weekend.

"They've got real good pitching. At times, they had some trouble offensively," said Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel. "Their ballpark's a big ballpark. It's definitely not a ballpark where it's easy to hit home runs, but at the same time, you can get a lot of hits if you hit line drives and hit the ball hard.

"Their team is built for pitching ... and it's going to be low scoring games. The first two pitchers they're throwing against us are a couple of the biggest arms in baseball as far as velocity on fastballs."

Indeed, pitching will be the top bullet point on the agenda this weekend, thanks to a cast of characters that includes hard-throwing rookie Michael Pineda and veterans Roy Oswalt, Felix Hernandez and Cole Hamels. Oswalt and Pineda will square off Friday, providing an interesting contrast in styles.

"Our rotation has been fantastic," said Seattle manager Eric Wedge of Pineda, Hernandez and Co. "Their numbers speak for themselves. Even more important to me is the way they've handled themselves and taken care of each other and way they've led this team has given us a chance to win ballgames."

The Mariners will miss Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay in this series, but they will get to see Oswalt and Hamels from a staff that many analysts have tabbed as the best in baseball. Oswalt earned a win over the Cubs in his last start and has just two career starts -- notching a 1-0 record and a 3.55 ERA -- against Seattle.

Pineda is 0-2 in his last four starts -- a stretch that includes an outing with five earned runs -- but the hulking right-hander still possesses a 2.72 ERA with 80 strikeouts. Pineda's performance, combined with the presence of Felix Hernandez, gives Seattle a claim that rivals Philadelphia's for the best staff in baseball.

"When anybody gets anointed anything, I raise an eyebrow or two," said Wedge of Philadelphia's acclaimed rotation. "If there's anything absolute about this game, it's that nothing is absolute."

The Mariners will be hoping for a boost from highly touted rookie Dustin Ackley, the second overall selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. Ackley, a second baseman, batted .303 with nine home runs, 35 RBIs and 57 runs scored in 66 games for Triple-A Tacoma and is ready for his big league debut.

"He needed more experience at second base at the Triple-A level, but he's ready to be up here," said Wedge. "Ackley is a guy we feel strong about. ... We like his bat, and he's made tremendous strides at second base."

Phillies: In search of road success
The Phillies have now won seven straight games -- their longest streak of the season -- and are trying to find a way to bring their run of success on the road. Philadelphia is 28-12 at home this season and just 16-14 on the road, and first baseman Ryan Howard is hoping to see a more consistent run of results.

"You've got to win wherever you go, whether it's at home [or] whether it's on the road," said Howard. "The schedule's not made up of 162 home games. I'm sure a lot of people would like that."

Mariners: Ichiro returning to form?
Ichiro Suzuki endured an uncharacteristically cold month of May in which he hit just .210. He followed that up with a tepid start to June, hitting only .236 through 13 games. However, the right fielder may finally be turning a corner. With another two hits Wednesday night, Ichiro has recorded five consecutive multihit games.

Suzuki, who has never batted below .300 since his introduction to the Majors in 2001, is on pace for his lowest career numbers in average (.269), on-base (.320) and slugging (.325). The veteran has shown little or no split over the life of his career, batting .333 before the All-Star Game and .323 after it.

Worth noting
• The Phillies are 10-5 this month and are hoping for their first winning record in June since 2007.

• Philadelphia got a two-hit shutout from Lee on Thuesday, and its bullpen has thrown 10 straight scoreless innings.

• Seattle's bullpen has allowed 14 earned runs in its last 28 games, posting a 1.91 ERA over that span. Brandon League recorded his league-leading 19th save -- his 10th in his last 13 appearances -- on Wednesday.

• Domonic Brown is the first Philadelphia rookie since Pat Burrell in 2000 to have a multihomer game. Comments