Scratch that projected marquee matchup Monday in Houston between Felix Hernandez and Astros ace Dallas Keuchel, who share the American League lead with 15 victories.
The Mariners plan to skip Hernandez on the next cycle through their rotation in what manager Lloyd McClendon calls an effort “to freshen him up” for the stretch run.
Lefty swingman Vidal Nuno will start in place of Hernandez, who is 15-8 with a 3.66 ERA in 26 starts. Keuchel is 15-6 and 2.28 in 26 starts.
“I did the same thing last year,” McClendon said. “I freshened my pitchers up, and Felix had the best September of his career. Everybody thought I was nuts when I did it. I’ll do it again because it’s the right thing to do.”
That’s mostly true.
The Mariners never actually skipped Hernandez a year ago, but they did give him extra rest on several occasions — and he compiled a 1.66 ERA in six September starts en route to leading the AL in earned-run average.
Injuries in the rotation made it harder this year for McClendon to find those extra days. So Hernandez will simply skip a cycle, which puts him in line to start next weekend in Oakland.
“My plan is to skip (Taijuan) Walker a turn at some point and freshen him up,” McClendon said. “Ideally, you’d like to be able to freshen guys up twice during the course of a year.
“For various reasons, the injuries that we had, it wasn’t possible.”
START FOR OLMOS
Sure, left-hander Edgar Olmos is pumped — “Absolutely!” — about getting his first major league start Sunday when the Mariners close out their four-game weekend series against the Chicago White Sox.
“Pretty exciting, huh?” he said. “Awesome. I couldn’t be any happier.”
Olmos, 25, is replacing a struggling Mike Montgomery, who has an 8.33 ERA over his past nine starts.
“I want to give Monty a break and let him regroup a little bit,” McClendon said. “And Olmos threw the ball extremely well in his long outing.”
Olmos pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings this past Tuesday in a 6-5 comeback victory over Oakland at Safeco Field. Overall, he has logged 7 2/3 scoreless innings over four games since his Aug. 16 recall from Triple-A Tacoma.
“He’s built (in terms of endurance),” McClendon said. “I would hope he’s able to give us five (innings), 75 to 80 pitches.”
A starting assignment marks the high point in a roller-coaster year for Olmos, whom the Mariners acquired in a Nov. 14, 2014 waiver claim from Miami.
The Mariners lost him to Texas in a waiver claim just prior to the start of spring training, but Major League Baseball voided the transaction when the Rangers discovered a shoulder injury in a routine examination.
That injury sidelined Olmos until late May, when he returned to action at Tacoma. He was 1-1 with a 3.55 ERA in 20 outings, including two starts, prior to his recall.
Those two starts are key.
“It got my pitch count up to 75,” he said. “So it helped. There was a spot start when I went four, and I had that one start when I went five (innings) and 75 pitches. So it helped.”
Former Mariners closer Fernando Rodney worked one scoreless inning Friday for the Chicago Cubs in a 4-1 loss to the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
It was his first appearance since the Cubs acquired Rodney on Thursday in a cash transaction. The Cubs agreed to pay the entire balance of Rodney’s $7 million salary.
Rodney, 38, was 5-5 with a 5.68 ERA in 54 games for the Mariners prior to be designated for assignment following a 6-3 loss to the White Sox on Aug. 22 at Safeco Field.
SEVEN TIMES 10
Franklin Gutierrez hit his 10th home run of the season in Friday’s 2-0 victory and became the seventh Mariner to reach double figures.
The only other clubs with seven or more players with 10 or more homers are Houston (nine players), the Los Angeles Dodgers (eight) and the New York Yankees (seven).
The Mariners’ double-digit homer club entering Saturday: Nelson Cruz (39), Kyle Seager (19), Robinson Cano (14), Logan Morrison (13), Mike Zunino (11), Seth Smith (10) and Gutierrez (10).
Mark Trumbo is a candidate to join. He has eight homers since joining the Mariners in a June 3 trade with Arizona. Overall, Trumbo has 17 homers this season.
It was two years ago — Aug. 30, 2013 — that Taijuan Walker, at age 21, made his major league debut by allowing one unearned run in five innings in a 7-1 victory at Houston.
Walker became the youngest Mariners starter to win his major league debut. On Friday, Walker improved to 10-7 when he pitched 6 1/3 innings in a 2-0 victory over the White Sox.
“I’m a lot different,” he said. “I know how to pitch more now. I know what pitches to use in different counts. I try to be real aggressive out there and make them put the ball in play.”
Interim general manager Jeff Kingston joined the club’s traveling party. ... Outfielder Franklin Gutierrez reported no day-after problems from getting hit Friday by a pitch on the right knee — but he is nursing a sore Achilles’ tendon, according to manager Lloyd McClendon. ... Brad Miller made his third career start in center field. ... The Mariners have won two in a row at U.S. Cellular after winning just five of their previous 29. ... Hisashi Iwakuma improved to 11-1 with a 2.02 ERA in 21 starts against American League Central opponents. ... Robinson Cano is hitting .371 (23-for-62) over his past 15 games.
The Mariners and White Sox conclude their four-game weekend series at 11:10 a.m. (PDT) Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field.
Olmos (1-0, 0.00 ERA) makes his first major league start when he faces Chicago lefty Jose Quintana (7-10, 3.63).