MLB Odds: Back Mariners In Interleague Series Opener At Reds

Friday, May 20, 2016 11:17 AM GMT

The Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds open an interleague series in Cincinnati on Friday night. The Mariners are -128 favorites on MLB odds with a total of 8½.

What You Need To Know
For what it's worth, Seattle leads the Reds 10-2 all-time. They last played in 2013 in Cincinnati and the Mariners won two of three.

Really the only major link between these franchise I can generate off the top of my head would be Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. -- who will be inducted into the Hall at Cooperstown on July 24. Griffey Jr. was one of the best Mariners ever. He was drafted by the team and spent his first 11 major-league seasons with Seattle. But in 1999, he became unhappy with the franchise and requested a trade.

The Mariners originally agreed on deals to send him to the Mets and Braves, but Griffey had veto power and he used it on both. Finally, on Feb. 10, 2000, the Mariners traded Griffey the Cincinnati Reds, the team his father spent much of his career with. What did the Mariners get back? Mike Cameron, Jake Meyer, Antonio Perez and Brett Tomko.

Cameron is the only one who amounted to much. Meyer never even reached the majors. Griffey was never the same dominant force with the Reds largely due to injury. He ended his career back in Seattle in 2010 and will go into the Hall of Fame as the first player to wear a Mariners cap. Back in January, Griffey was elected with 99.3 percent of the votes, the highest percentage ever.

On paper, this series looks like a mismatch. The Mariners are a pleasant surprise in leading the AL West Division and with one of the best run differentials in the majors. The Reds are terrible, in full-blown rebuild mode, last in the NL Central and probably only better than the Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins this season. In fact, Cincinnati is dead last in run differential in baseball.

Remember that Seattle will lose the designated hitter for this series. That's usually slugger Nelson Cruz, who was second in the AL last season with 44 homers and is having another good season, if not quite as strong as 2015. He is hitting .282 with eight homers and 27 RBIs. The Mariners don't want to lose his big bat so Manager Scott Servais says that he plans to use  Cruz in right field for this series. Thus usual right fielder Seth Smith will head to the bench or move to left field.

 

Probable Pitchers
Seattle starts presumed No. 2 pitcher, Japanese right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, but he hasn't pitched  like a No. 2 much this season. He originally signed a $45 million  free-agent deal this offseason with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but L.A. scuttled that deal due to Iwakuma's physical. So the Mariners took him back on a one-year deal with options for 2017 & '18. Maybe Iwakuma isn't healthy as he's just 1-4 with a 4.38 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in his fifth season in the majors. His career ERA is 3.25 and his WHIP is 1.10.

The Dodgers have to be glad it didn't work out. Iwakuma allowed four runs and nine hits over 6.1 innings on Saturday against the Angels in his most recent start. His lone win was May 3 in Oakland. Iwakuma has never faced the Reds and this will be his first interleague start of the season. He will thus bat in the NL park. Seattle is 16-5 on MLB odds in Iwakuma's past 21 starts vs. teams with a losing record.

The Reds go with journeyman right-hander Dan Straily (2-1, 3.05), a potential trade candidate for the Reds if he keeps pitching well. Straily comes off his best start of the season, shutting out the Phillies on six hits over five innings, although it was somewhat misleading as Straily left runners in scoring position in each inning. But the Reds have won his past three starts. Straily likely won't be going deep in the game so expect the Reds to need their bullpen plenty.

That's not good. Cincinnati's bullpen ERA is approaching 6.50, the worst by a huge margin in baseball. The modern-day record for the highest bullpen ERA in a season is 6.16 by the 2007 Tampa Bay (then Devil) Rays. The 'over' is 10-4 on MLB picks in the Reds' past 14 series openers.

Straily pitched from 2012-14 with Oakland, so he has some history with Seattle hitters. Cruz is 2-for-9 off him with a solo homer and a double. Robinson Cano is 4-for-11 with an RBI. Chris Iannetta is 2-for-9 with a double, homer and three RBIs. Adam Lind is 3-for-6. Kyle Seager is 3-for-9 with a solo homer and three walks.

Mariners and 'over.' Seattle has won seven of its past eight series openers. The Reds are 1-4 in their past five interleague home games vs. teams with a winning record. The 'over' is 8-3 in Iwakuma's past 11 series openers. The over is 10-3-2 in the Reds' past 15 games at home. 

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Free MLB Pick:  Mariners -144 & Over 8½ +100
Best Line Offered:  at Heritage & Pinnacle