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Series Preview: Mariners (68-58) at Red Sox (56-71)

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The Mariners start a three-game, weekend series against the reigning World Champions, the Boston Red Sox.

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Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

At a Glance:

Date

First Pitch

Away Team

Probable Pitcher

Home Team

Probable Pitcher

Friday, August 22

4:10pm

Mariners

RHP Felix Hernandez

Red Sox

RHP Joe Kelly

Saturday, August 23

10:35am

Mariners

RHP Chris Young

Red Sox

RHP Brandon Workman

Sunday, August 24

10:35am

Mariners

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

Red Sox

RHP Allen Webster

Mariners

Red Sox

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

91 (13th in AL)

89 (14th in AL)

MARINERS

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

19.3 (5th)

37.4 (3rd)

RED SOX

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

98 (5th)

104 (9th)

MARINERS

Bullpen (FIP-)

82 (1st)

87 (2nd)

MARINERS

The Mariners wrap up their brief East Coast tour with a weekend series against the reigning World Champions, the Boston Red Sox. And look at how far they've fallen from their throne. In many ways, the Red Sox represent everything that could have gone wrong for the Mariners this year. Both teams started the year with a few veterans holding key positions on the team and a number of young, talented, but unproven players surrounding that core. For the Red Sox, it seems like the youth movement was started a year early as a number of their youngsters have faltered.

For the second series in a row, the Mariners will hold the advantage in a majority of the team components, including offense. They'll send out their top three starters for this series, starting with Felix tonight. Whenever I think about Felix pitching in Boston, I can't help but think of the one-hitter he threw two days after he turned twenty-two, while on national television, and facing off against an overhyped Daisuke Matsuzaka. We can point to that game, more than any other single game, and say that was the arrival of The King.

The Red Sox:

The Red Sox haven't done us any favors recently as they were just swept in four games by the Angels. They've now lost five straight and seven of their last ten. At the trade deadline, they were the biggest sellers, trading away three-fifths of their starting rotation, Jake Peavy, Jon Lester, and John Lackey, as well as shortstop Stephen Drew. However, it's pretty clear that with those trades, the Red Sox are retooling for next year and not the distant future.

The big news for the Red Sox today involves Cuban free agent, Rusney Castillo. He agreed to a seven-year, $72 million contract which is $4 million more than what the White Sox agreed to pay Jose Abreu and doubles what the Dodgers agreed to pay Yasiel Puig. The Mariners were rumored to be interested in Castillo but, since the bidding got this high, I'm glad the Mariners weren't one of the finalists for his services. This does give the Red Sox a number of different options in their outfield and allows them to potentially trade away some of their young outfielders this offseason.

Key Players

2B Dustin Pedroia - Dustin Pedroia has become synonymous with Red Sox Nation. This year, he's suffered through a down year by his standards. He's striking out more than ever, his walk rate (8.5%) has dipped, and his power (.092 ISO) has completely escaped him. All of that adds up to a league average batting line (99 wRC+). Despite this disappointing batting line, his overall WAR of 3.7 is buoyed by his excellent fielding -- both DRS and UZR see him as the best second baseman in the league this year.

LF Yoenis Cespedes - Since I talked about every other recent Cuban import above, I'll talk about the only one I didn't mention, Yoenis Cespedes. Last night, Cespedes nailed another runner at home, and it was against the Angels to boot (I think that's three Angels he's thrown out on the base paths this year). His arm has become legendary but his bat hasn't followed suit. He blasted onto the scene in 2012 with a 137 wRC+ but in the two years since, his batting line has been just above league average.  His walk rate has dropped each year since entering the league and he strikes out too often to run a decent batting average. Still, he's probably one of the most entertaining players to watch in the league.

SS Xander Bogaerts - Xander Bogaerts is just 21-years-old and entered the year with a huge amount of hype surrounding him. He's extremely talented and he'll probably be a core piece for the Red Sox for years to come, he just wasn't ready this year. He started off well enough but, as soon as the calendar turned to June, the wheels fell off. Observe his batting line since June 1: .158/.202/.250 (AVG/OBP/SLG). Woof. He's yet to make the necessary adjustments to major league pitching but most players playing at this level at his age have struggled too.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Joe Kelly

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

52

14.7%

10.0%

11.9%

52.4%

4.67

4.58

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Slider

Curveball

Changeup

94.8 mph;

10.2%

94.3 mph;

55.2%

85.7 mph;

6.0%

78.7 mph;

17.9%

83.8 mph;

10.7%

Joe Kelly was an unsung hero for the Cardinals last year during their run to the World Series. He stepped into the rotation in July and held that spot all the way into the postseason. He must have impressed Boston after he beat them in Game 3 of the World Series because they acquired him at the trade deadline this year. He mainly relies on his two-seam fastball/sinker and it shows in his groundball rate. He uses his curveball and changeup against lefties and his four-seam fastball mainly against righties. For someone with such high velocity, he doesn't have a high whiff rate and, this year in particular, batters have been able to be patient leading to a spike in his walk rate.

RHP Brandon Workman

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

69 2/3

18.2%

9.3%

11.0%

39.3%

4.26

4.50

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Cutter

Knuckle Curve

Changeup

90.5 mph;

50.4%

90.2 mph;

4.5%

86.5 mph;

17.1%

76.6 mph;

20.8%

84.8 mph;

7.2%

Brandon Workman was a mid-tier prospect for the Red Sox who got his start in the bullpen last year. This year, he's been moved to the rotation to patch the many holes the Red Sox have had to deal with. He uses his fastball and cutter to establish the zone and uses his knuckle curve as his out pitch. In the bullpen last year, he struck out more than a batter an inning. In the rotation this year, batters are making contact with his pitches much more often and are swinging and missing less often. That and his control issues have led to a pretty mediocre showing so far.

RHP Allen Webster

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

26 2/3

11.2%

15.5%

3.3%

46.3%

4.73

5.01

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Slider

Changeup

93.1 mph;

48.7%

91.9 mph;

13.2%

84.3 mph;

17.2%

84.0 mph;

21.0%

Allen Webster was ranked ninth in the Red Sox system on FanGraphs's top prospects list after an excellent year at Triple-A last year where he struck out almost 27% of the batters he faced. This year, his strikeout rate at Triple-A dropped under 20% and his average velocity has dropped a few miles per hour. He isn't getting as many whiffs off his fastball and has started throwing his slider more often at the expense of his excellent changeup. All the pieces are there for him, he just has to put them all together. He was called up after the Red Sox gutted their rotation and will be making his sixth start of the year against the Mariners.

The Big Picture:

After some comments to my last series preview, I've changed the way I've listed each team's Recent Form. You'll now see it with the most recent game on the right (like a calendar). I've also noted this on the header to ensure there is no more confusion.

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form (Recent on right)

Angels

76-50

.603

-

L-W-W-W-W

Athletics

74-52

.587

2.0

L-L-L-W-L

Mariners

68-58

.540

8.0

L-W-L-W-L

Astros

54-74

.422

23.0

L-W-W-W-L

Rangers

49-77

.389

27.0

L-L-W-L-W

As I mentioned above, the Angels just completed a four game sweep of the Red Sox and have propelled themselves into first place in the AL West. The Athletics will attempt to retake the lead as these two teams face each other seven times over the next ten days including three games this weekend. After the Mariners have finished playing in the morning/afternoon, I'd recommend tuning in to these two teams battle it out over the division lead in the evening.

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form (Recent on right)

Athletics

74-52

.587

+5.5

L-L-L-W-L

Tigers

68-57

.544

-

W-L-W-W-L

Mariners

68-58

.540

0.5

L-W-L-W-L

Yankees

64-61

.512

4.0

W-W-L-L-W

Blue Jays

65-62

.512

4.0

L-W-L-L-W

The Detroit Tigers reclaimed the second Wild Card spot after they took two of three from the Rays. They play the Twins four times over the weekend as they have a doubleheader on Saturday. In fact, they are scheduled to play eleven games in the next ten days because they have doubleheaders scheduled on consecutive Saturdays. The Astros were able to beat the Yankees twice in their three-game series and Toronto wasn't able to do any better against the Brewers. The Yankees will face the White Sox over the weekend while the Blue Jays take on the Rays.

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