Tuesday's matchup between the Mariners and A's at the O.co Coliseum will feature Seattle lefty Roenis Elias and Oakland righty Jesse Chavez, two pitchers who have exceeded expectations this season and are coming off the best outings of their young careers.
A Cuban defector and a career journeyman, each has overcome more than the average Major League starter to get where he is. But each has done it their way.
Last week, Elias, a 25-year-old rookie who pitched for Double-A Jackson in 2013, quieted a raucous Yankee Stadium while giving up two runs (one earned) on six hits in seven innings while striking out a career-best 10, improving to 2-2 with a 3.09 ERA.
He was the first opposing rookie to record 10 or more strikeouts at the Cathedral in 45 years.
"That was fun to watch," outfielder Michael Saunders said after Elias shut down the Yankees. "He's done that all year long. He's just keeping the momentum going. He's definitely been one of our most consistent pitchers. To go up against a guy with the accolades of [Hiroki] Kuroda and outpitch him and outduel that Yankees lineup, that just goes to show a lot about him. This is still his first year, but he's not pitching like it."
Elias earned a rotation gig thanks to a solid Spring Training and injuries to Taijuan Walker and Hisashi Iwakuma. Since the season began, all Elias has done is continue to raise his stock.
Using mostly a 12-6 curveball and a sneaky fastball that tops out at 94 mph, Elias has solidified his spot in the back end of the Mariners rotation.
How did he get here?
In 2010, Elias, then 22, defected from Guantanamo, Cuba, taking a 30-hour voyage on a small boat to Cancun, Mexico, where he hid with other players for weeks until his paperwork came through. For a season, he played for a lower-tier team in Monterrey, Mexico. In May 2011, the Mariners signed him after he impressed scouts at an open tryout.
"They joke about it. He says he's been through a lot in his life already, so when it comes to baseball, it's all fun for him," catcher Mike Zunino said of Elias "He's a loose guy with a lot of confidence, so he just goes out there and feeds off that energy, and he's a guy that can rise to the occasion. He's got a lot of confidence in his stuff. That's the biggest thing. A guy that trusts his stuff and is willing to throw it in any count is going to have success."
Chavez, 30, had a longer, yet more conventional, journey to get to this point.
Chavez has played for five team since making his big league debut in 2008. He had stops in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Kansas City and Toronto before coming to Oakland in 2012. As he struggled, often bouncing back and forth between Triple-A and the Majors, his wife, Crystal, worked nights as a longshoreman in Los Angeles and Long Beach to help support their two daughters. She still does.
Last year with Oakland, Chavez found a niche as a long reliever, going 2-4 with a 3.92 ERA in 35 games. He supplemented that with a lights-out Spring Training, earning a spot on an Oakland staff that entered Monday with the best ERA in the American League.
Chavez (2-0, 1.89 ERA) has been part of the reason.
In last week's 12-1 over the Rangers, the 6-foot-2, 160-pounder tossed seven shutout innings, giving up one hit and a walk while striking out eight.
Said teammate Eric Sogard after: "He's been unbelievable."
Mariners: Jones excited to be back
Outfielder James Jones wasn't in the lineup Monday after being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma. That won't necessarily be the norm.
"He's a very talented young man," said Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon. "He's been touted for his defense and his ability to steal bases. I think he should be able to hit at this level. We'll find out. He's got an opportunity."
Jones replaced center fielder Abraham Almonte, who was sent down following Sunday's win over the Astros. Almonte struggled as a leadoff hitter and in the field, batting just .198 with 40 strikeouts while looking timid on defense.
McClendon said Jones will split time in center with Michael Saunders, getting periodic days off when the Mariners go against a tough lefty. When Jones is in center, Saunders can shift to right and spell Stefen Romero.
Jones rejoined the Mariners with a 1.000 career batting average in the Majors. In his first stint with Seattle, an April 18 game in Miami, he recorded a single in his first and only at-bat.
A's: Looking for some good home cooking
Oakland started a 10-game homestand Monday atop the AL West with a 19-12 record. After this four-game set against the Mariners, including a Wednesday doubleheader, they open a three-game Interleague series against the Nationals on Friday and finish with three games against the Chicago White Sox.
Despite scoring just seven runs and dropping two of three against Boston over the weekend, Oakland is pacing the AL in many offensive categories. The A's entered the series leading the Majors in walks (143) and leading the AL in on-base percentage (.344). They also ranked third in the AL in runs scored (155).
The A's had stolen 21 bases in 23 attempts. That 91.3 percent mark is best in the Majors.
"When you're swinging the bats well, you don't want to risk running into outs. We've been selective in stealing bases," said manager Bob Melvin.
• Melvin remained undecided about who will start the second game of Wednesday's doubleheader but narrowed it down to a few candidates. Teams can add a 26th player to their roster for such occasions.
"We have three guys in mind. [Josh] Lindblom and [Arnold] Leon in Triple-A and maybe something in-house like [Drew Pomeranz]," Melvin said. "Somebody will be here because we have the 26th guy, but maybe not to start."
• McClendon plans to use left-handed reliever Charlie Furbush in fewer high-leverage situations until he rights himself. Furbush is 0-3 with a 7.20 ERA in 10 innings after turning in a perfect two-thirds inning on Monday.
• A's outfielder Josh Reddick wasn't in the starting lineup Monday after being pulled from Sunday's win in Boston because of a sprained ankle. He was announced as pinch-hitter in the eighth inning but gave way to Yoenis Cespedes after Seattle made a pitching change to left-hander Joe Beimel.
Adam Lewis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.