With Jack Wilson hitting .250/.282/.288 on the season, it’s almost time.
Dustin Ackley, the second overall pick in the 2009 draft and the Mariners’ No. 1 prospect, has rebounded from a poor April to hit .359/.475/.594 with three homers 13 RBI and a 7/15 K/BB ratio in 64 at-bats this month for Triple-A Tacoma.
The Mariners actually have gotten decent production from second base overall, but that’s mostly Adam Kennedy and he can play first and third as well. The Mariners have been holding out hope that Wilson would play well enough to bring back a prospect before the deadline, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. By the time June 1 rules around, releasing him and moving on to Ackley is going to be the obvious move, particularly since waiting that long should guarantee that Ackley won’t be a super-two arbitration eligible after 2013.
Ackley isn’t likely to be a star right away. It took him time to adjust to Triple-A, and the jump to the majors will be even more difficult. Plus, there are still questions about whether the former first baseman and center fielder will last at second defensively.
The 23-year-old Ackley is ready for his first opportunity, though. He possesses 15-homer power, and with his on-base skills, he could be the solution in the two hole the Mariners thought they were getting when they signed Chone Figgins. The Seattle lineup is badly in need of a boost, and while Franklin Gutierrez’s return should help some, Ackley is their best hope of providing it.
The Yankees and Astros are set for Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, and neither team will hold back as they seek a World Series berth. The Astros are prepared to back starter Charlie Morton with any able-bodied pitcher in their ranks — including Justin Verlander, though A.J. Hinch said it would be a “dream scenario” to get anything more from his ace — while the Yankees are prepared to utilize all but a few of their arms. One pitcher you won’t see? Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who last took the hill for the Yankees during their Game 5 shutout on Wednesday.
Tanaka expended 103 pitches over seven scoreless innings in his last start, fending off the Astros with three hits, a walk and eight strikeouts. He hasn’t pitched on fewer than three days of rest all year, and even with a do-or-die scenario facing the Yankees on Saturday night, manager Joe Girardi doesn’t want to compromise his starter’s ability to stay rested and ready for the World Series.
Girardi will also play it safe with fellow right-hander Sonny Gray, who dominated in a five-inning performance in Game 4. All other pitchers should be available and ready to go, though the club is hoping for a lengthy outing from veteran starter CC Sabathia. Sabathia is no stranger to the postseason: over eight separate playoff runs, he touts one championship title and a collective 4.24 ERA in 123 innings. He held the Astros scoreless in his Game 3 start, blanking them over six innings on three hits, four walks and five strikeouts for an eventual 8-1 win.
Even without Tanaka or Gray likely to take the mound for Game 7, the Yankees will enter the series finale with history on their side. Per MLB.com, they have a 4-3 road record in Game 7s and are 6-7 in all 13 Game 7 finales to date. The Astros, on the other hand, dropped their first and only Game 7 clincher back in 2004, when the Cardinals capped the NLCS with a 5-2 win in St. Louis. The teams are scheduled to face off for the first-ever Game 7 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday at 8:00 PM ET.