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Marlins, Mariners ready for rare matchup

Sportsnaut
Apr 20, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Mariners third baseman Ty France (23) hits an RBI single against the Texas Rangers during the fifth inning at T-Mobile Park. Mandatory Credit: Lindsey Wasson-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Lindsey Wasson-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in five years, the Seattle Mariners are set to play the Miami Marlins.

The Marlins will host the Mariners on Friday in the opener of a three-game series, marking Seattle’s first visit to Miami since the Marlins swept three games in April 2014.

The teams faced off again in April 2017 at Seattle, where the Mariners took two of three.

On Friday, Miami will start right-hander Elieser Hernandez (1-1, 5.87 ERA), who has never faced Seattle. Hernandez’s career ERA at home (3.60) is much better than his road mark (6.05).

Seattle will counter with right-hander Matt Brash (1-1, 4.20 ERA), a rookie with three career appearances, all starts, none of them against Miami. Brash has yet to pitch past 5 1/3 innings.

Aside from the rarity of this weekend’s matchup, the Marlins and Mariners share a common bond as two young teams on the rise.

The Mariners, despite losing their past two games, each by one run to the Tampa Bay Rays, are 11-8. The Marlins are 10-8 and are riding a five-game win streak.

Miami completed a three-game road sweep of the Washington Nationals with a 3-2 win on Thursday.

“You have to be able to string together wins if you’re going to go anywhere, and that shows you, hopefully, that our club’s getting ready to play every day,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said.

Seattle lost the final two games of a three-game at Tampa Bay, including a 2-1 setback on Thursday. Still, the Mariners, who have not made the postseason since 2001 — the longest drought in any of the country’s major pro sports league — have looked like a playoff team so far this season.

First baseman Ty France has been a rock in the middle of Seattle’s lineup, batting .365 with a team-high five homers and a team-best 21 RBIs.

“Ty has put us on his back,” Seattle outfielder Jesse Winker said.

The Mariners have also gotten good production from shortstop J.P. Crawford, who is batting .343 with three homers, and catcher Tom Murphy, who is hitting .417.

Seattle’s youth is most evident in the outfield, where Julio Rodriguez, 21, and Jarred Kelenic, 22, have received enormous hype.

Rodriguez, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound center fielder, has unique opposite-field power and the makings of a superstar. It’s been a rough start at the plate for Rodriguez, who is batting .194, but he has a major-league-high eight stolen bases.

Kelenic, the New York Mets’ first-round pick in 2018 before getting traded in the Robinson Cano deal, has also struggled.

The lefty-swinging Kelenic made his major league debut last year, hitting .181 with 14 homers. This year, he is starting in right field and batting .140 with two homers.

Brash, 23, is part of Seattle’s youth movement, too. He has a high-90s fastball and a nasty slider that generated 142 strikeouts in 97 1/3 minor league innings last season. In the majors this year, he has 13 punchouts in 15 innings.

Miami has its own young players. Center fielder Jesus Sanchez, a 6-3, 220-pounder who rivals Rodriguez in size, swings from the left side and is batting .284 this season. In 91 career games, he has hammered 17 homers, and the Marlins believe Sanchez, 24, will mature into a 30-dinger player.

Miami second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr., 24, has 24 homers and 29 steals in 160 career games. He is hitting .308 with four homers, four steals and a 1.029 OPS this year, giving the Marlins visions of Chisholm becoming a 20-20 or 30-30 All-Star perhaps as soon as this season.

–Field Level Media