Hisashi Iwakuma is scheduled to start on Saturday, with the rest of the rotation in flux after that.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Coming off his best outing of the season, James Paxton will start the Mariners’ first game after the all-star break on Friday to open a “big series” against the Astros at Safeco Field.
Paxton allowed two runs in eight effective innings on Thursday night against the Royals. The left-hander is 2-3 with a 3.91 ERA in eight starts.
Hisashi Iwakuma is slated to start the second game of that series on Saturday, Mariners manager Scott Servais announced Sunday.
“Obviously, with the Astros coming out of the break, a big series for us, get off to a good start there and then the White Sox come in,” Servais said.
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After Saturday, the rotation is in flux a bit.
Felix Hernandez — set to make his first rehab start this afternoon in Everett — will return to the Mariners for a July 20 start against the White Sox.
When and how the Mariners uses left-handers Wade LeBlanc, Wade Miley and, potentially, Mike Montgomery remains to be seen.
Catching up with ‘Z’:
Mike Zunino hit a three-run home run in the first inning and added a two-run blast in the ninth Saturday night in Sacramento to lead Tacoma to a 5-3 victory.
Since being sent back down last week to Class AAA for the chance to play every day, Zunino is 5 for 15 with two strikeouts, two walks and those two home runs in four games.
Zunino hit two home runs in his Mariners’ season debut on July 2, and he’s expected to be recalled to Seattle soon — perhaps in time for Friday’s series opener against Houston.
He could split catching duties in the second half with veteran Chris Iannetta, who is on pace to catch more innings than ever.
Of the Mariners’ 786.1 innings through 88 games, the 33-year-old Iannetta has caught 591.1 of those. He set a career high with 943.2 innings caught with Colorado in 2011.
“I feel great,” Iannetta said. “I train really hard in the offseason for this. You never know what the season’s going to entail — if you’re going to play a lot or how you’re going to perform. But I prepared to play a lot of games and I’m getting the opportunity to do.”
Offensively, Iannetta had his worst season in the majors last year with the Angles, hitting just .188 in 92 games. He’s had a small resurgence in his first year with the Mariners, posting a .222 average with seven homers and a .671 OPS.
“I’ve swung the bat a lot better than the numbers show,” he said. “Hopefully I can keep that up and a few more hits will fall down the stretch.”
Servais plans to ease Iannetta workload in the second half.
“He’s been durable for us,” Servais said. “He has been streaky with the bat, which has kind of been his history. I think he’s had some pretty good runs. He’s hit some home runs that have certainly helped. Second half, how much does he play? He probably does not stay on the same pace he is now, because he is running at a career high. I think we knew that when we broke camp, what we were going to ask of him knowing that we might have some other guys help out in the second half.”
Kyle Seager hit his fifth three-run home run of the season in Saturday’s loss to the Royals, and he overtook Nelson Cruz (58) for the team lead in RBI, with 59.
Seager carries a 12-game hitting streak into Sunday’s series finale. Since June 24, he is hitting .407 with 11 runs, 10 doubles, three home runs, 11 RBI and 8 walks (10 strikeouts) — a slash line of .407/.484/.759 over that stretch.
He’s gotten a lot of big hits, there’s no doubt, and driven the ball in big spots,” Servais said. “He stays aggressive at the plate (and has) a pretty good idea of what he’s looking for.
“He’s had a really good first half — after a horrific start. He was really scuffling to get a hit (in early April). To turn it around the way he did and you look at where he’s at during the break — pretty impressive.”
Dae-Ho Lee sits:
Dae-Ho Lee left Saturday’s game after two at-bats because the contusion (bruise) in his right hand continues to bother him, but he said afterward that he’s confident he’ll be back in the lineup Friday.