clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Series Preview: Mariners (72-60) vs Nationals (75-57)

New, 36 comments

The Mariners take on the best team in the NL, the Washington Nationals, over the weekend.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Patrick Smith

At a Glance:

Date

First Pitch

Away Team

Probable Pitcher

Home Team

Probable Pitcher

Friday, August 29

7:10pm

Nationals

RHP Jordan Zimmermann

Mariners

RHP Felix Hernandez

Saturday, August 30

6:10pm

Nationals

RHP Stephen Strasburg

Mariners

RHP Chris Young

Sunday, August 31

1:10pm

Nationals

RHP Tanner Roark

Mariners

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

Mariners

Nationals

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

92 (13th in AL)

105 (4th in NL)

NATIONALS

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

19.2 (5th)

8.3 (8th)

MARINERS

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

99 (5th)

90 (1st)

NATIONALS

Bullpen (FIP-)

81 (1st)

82 (1st)

MARINERS

After a disappointing series against the Rangers, the best team in the National League comes to town for a three-game series which will be the last interleague matchup of the year. The Washington Nationals have been one of the better teams in the senior circuit for the last two years and, this year, many were picking them to be the National League representative in the World Series. They haven't disappointed as they hold the best record in the NL right now.

The Nats are built on pitching, pitching, and more pitching. Their rotation is very deep and their bullpen has been lights out. Their offense is also ranked in the top 5 in the NL despite having to rely on some of their organizational depth due to injuries to star players like Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper. This will be a difficult series for the Mariners as they face the National's top two pitchers. The Mariners will counter with their own top three pitchers. If you like low scoring games with high quality pitching, this weekend is for you.

The Nationals:

The Nationals have lost three straight after being swept by the Phillies (see, even good teams lose to bad teams sometimes). Prior to that, however, the Nationals were one of the hottest teams in all of baseball. In the thirteen games between the 12th and the 24th, they went 12-1 including a ten-game win streak and five walk off wins. They sit atop the NL East, six games ahead of the Braves.

Key Players

3B Anthony Rendon - It's been a big sophomore season for Anthony Rendon. He's split his time between second and third base this year with Ryan Zimmerman's injury woes and he's proven that he can field both positions very well. But what has truly helped him stand out as the Nationals' WAR leader is his bat. This year, he's sporting a 121 wRC+ and he's been able to cut his strikeout rate be three points while adding power and speed to his repertoire. He's only 24-years-old so he should be a cornerstone for the Nationals for years to come.

RF Jayson Werth - Back in 2011, Jayson Werth was coming off three straight years with an average WAR of 4.8 with the Phillies. The Nationals famously signed him to a massive contract -- 7 years/$125 million which at the time seemed like a contract that Washington just couldn't afford. His first two years as a National were pretty disappointing but he posted 4.6 WAR in 2013 and is on pace to post 4+ WAR this year. He may not end up being werth worth the huge contract when it's all said and done but he's been part of the core of this team since they've broken out of their organizational doldrums.

LF Bryce Harper - Bryce Harper entered the league in 2012 as a nineteen-year-old with massive expectations. Two years later, he's known more for plays that keep him off the field than for his exceptional play on the field. His all-out style of play has forced him to miss over 100 games the past two years with injuries to his left knee and his left thumb. When he has been on the field, his raw skills are readily apparent but he's yet to develop them into a complete package. Still, he's just twenty-one so he has plenty of time left to develop into the offensive monster many have predicted.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Jordan Zimmermann

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

159 2/3

21.7%

3.7%

7.1%

42.3%

2.93

2.80

Pitches

Four-seam

Slider

Curveball

Changeup

93.9 mph;

68.4%

87.4 mph;

19.2%

79.0 mph;

8.6%

86.6 mph;

3.7%

The first thing you'll notice with Jordan Zimmermann's is his miniscule walk rate. His pinpoint control has helped him become one of the best pitchers in the National League. He leans on his four-seam fastball and uses it to get ahead quickly -- he's second in the majors in first strike percentage. Once he's ahead, he'll go to his wipe-out slider against righties and his curveball and changeup against lefties. Something I noticed in his pitch usage: he never uses his changeup against righties so our right-handed bats have one less pitch to worry about. This year, his strikeout rate has jumped over 21% after three years of a strikeout rate right around 19%.

RHP Stephen Strasburg

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

175 1/3

27.9%

5.5%

14.4%

45.2%

3.59

3.13

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Slider

Curveball

Changeup

95.5 mph;

57.4%

94.8 mph;

2.6%

87.2 mph;

1.7%

80.5 mph;

17.4%

88.8 mph

20.5%

Considering how hyped Stephen Strasburg was after being selected No. 1 in the 2009 draft, some have called his major league pitching performance disappointing. That's what happens when you're called the best pitching prospect ever. If you cut through the hype and disappointment, you'll find an excellent pitcher with excellent stuff who has become one of the best pitchers in the National League. This year, he's managed to keep his strikeout rate very high while cutting his walk rate to just over five percent. If there's one thing to critique, it's his penchant for giving up home runs. These home runs have mostly come off his fastball -- batters have a .188 isolated power mark against that pitch this year.

RHP Tanner Roark

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

166 2/3

17.9%

5.5%

7.2%

43.5%

2.81

3.48

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Slider

Curveball

Changeup

91.1 mph;

15.1%

91.0 mph;

50.3%

83.2 mph;

14.0%

73.7 mph;

9.7%

82.1 mph;

10.6%

In a recurring theme, Tanner Roark has become a mainstay in the Nationals' rotation because of his pinpoint control. He seemingly came out of nowhere and was excellent in just over fifty innings towards the end of the year last year. His transformation began when he decided to almost completely abandon his four-seam fastball in favor of a two-seamer. That pitch has become his bread and butter and he'll use it in almost any count. It doesn't get very many whiffs, for that he relies on all of his secondary pitches which are all above average offerings.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Angels

80-53

.602

-

W-L-W-W-W

Athletics

78-55

.586

2.0

L-W-L-W-L

Mariners

72-60

.545

7.5

W-W-L-W-L

Astros

57-78

.422

24.0

L-L-W-L-W

Rangers

52-81

.391

28.0

W-W-L-W-L

The Angels and the Athletics resumed their battle for the AL West title last night and the Angels extended their lead in a dramatic ten-inning battle. They'll play three more over the weekend.

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Athletics

78-55

.587

+6.0

L-W-L-W-L

Mariners

72-60

.545

-

W-W-L-W-L

Tigers

72-60

.545

-

W-W-W-L-W

Yankees

69-63

.523

3.0

W-W-L-W-L

Indians

68-64

.515

4.0

W-W-W-L-W

After losing two of three against the Rangers, the Mariners find themselves in a tie for the second Wild Card spot with the Tigers. Detroit finished a three-game series against the Yankees with a walk off win yesterday. The Tigers face the White Sox over the weekend; the Yankees will travel to Toronto who continue to plummet in the standings. The Indians continue to surge back into the Wild Card race with four wins in their last five games and four straight series wins. They'll take on the AL Central leading Royals over the weekend.

Editor's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $18,000 Fantasy Baseball league tonight, and you can win up to $2,000. Join today!