Having spent most of his 12-year Major League career in the National League, Interleague Play is no big adjustment for Aaron Harang, now that the veteran right-hander is with the Mariners.
Harang will take the mound against a familiar foe on Saturday night at Safeco Field, in the second of a three-game series against the visiting Cubs. Jeff Samardzija will start for Chicago, which blew a late lead and dropped Friday's opener, 5-4, in 10 innings.
This is Harang's second Interleague outing of the season. He pitched at Pittsburgh on May 7 and also has faced the Astros, an NL team up until this year.
"It still feels weird, because you're facing a National League team, but you're not getting to hit," Harang said. "It always feels awkward when teams come into an AL park, and you're used to hitting against them."
Of course, it's really only the uniform that's familiar.
On one hand, Harang has made 26 career starts against the Cubs, tied for his second most against any club. On the other hand, most of the players he faced in those contests are long gone. Alfonso Soriano is the only current Cub to log more than 11 plate appearances against Harang.
"We'll have our pitchers' meeting, and they've still got a young team over there, too, so there's still guys that I haven't even seen over there," Harang said. "But if I see something or know something about a guy, I'll put my two cents in once we have our meeting and kind of give them an idea."
Harang's return to the AL has been wildly inconsistent. In his two shutouts, he has allowed six hits while striking out 18. But only three of his other 10 outings have been quality starts. Harang gave up three runs in five innings on Saturday against the A's.
Samardzija has slumped a bit in June, posting a 4.54 ERA in five outings. But he was solid on Sunday against the Astros, giving up three earned runs on nine hits over seven innings and striking out five. For only the second time in his career, he didn't issue a walk or serve up a home run.
"Every big outing, he's stepped up," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said afterward. "It's the other games we have to get him to have the same intensity all the time. Having him on the mound and his mentality every day, you love playing behind a guy like that."
Cubs: Soriano thrives as DH
• Soriano is the Cubs' designated hitter during their six-game Interleague trip to Seattle and Oakland, and that seems to suit him just fine. The veteran went 2-for-4 with a home run in the Cubs' loss on Friday, as Brian Bogusevic played left field, alongside Ryan Sweeney and Nate Schierholtz.
Strong performance as a DH is nothing new for Soriano, who has taken advantage of his limited opportunities there throughout his career. Entering Friday, he was hitting .365 with seven home runs, 20 RBIs and a .743 slugging percentage in 79 plate appearances. Last season he went 9-for-25 (.360) with four homers in that role.
• Catcher Dioner Navarro smacked his eighth home run of the season on Friday, pulling him within one of tying his career high, set in 2007 with the Rays.
Mariners: Waiting on the bats
• Seattle has the American League's lowest-scoring offense, and the situation hasn't improved of late. Manager Eric Wedge wants to strike a mental balance that allows them to compete hard without pressing.
"It's just a matter of what they do with it," Wedge said. "I've always been very confident in the players we have here, even if the numbers don't add up. And I think that'll show itself in time, but you've got to be able to play this game with a certain peace, but also a sense of urgency, too."
• Shortstop Brad Miller made his Major League debut on Friday, starting in the No. 9 spot in the lineup. The 23-year-old, who will be given a shot to supplant Brendan Ryan, went 0-for-3 with a walk, a strikeout and an RBI. Miller was hitting .356 with six home runs and 28 RBIs in 26 games at Triple-A Tacoma.
• Current Mariners haven't seen much of Samardzija, with four players combining for only 14 career plate appearances against him.
• Soriano is 11-for-43 (.256) with one home run and 10 strikeouts against Harang.