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Series Preview: Mariners (73-62) at Athletics (78-58)

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The Mariners head to Oakland to face the division rival Athletics to start the last month of the season.

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Otto Greule Jr

At a Glance:

Date

First Pitch

Away Team

Probable Pitcher

Home Team

Probable Pitcher

Monday, September 1

1:05pm

Mariners

RHP Chris Young

Athletics

RHP Jason Hammel

Tuesday, September 2

7:05pm

Mariners

LHP James Paxton

Athletics

RHP Sonny Gray

Wednesday, September 3

12:35pm

Mariners

RHP Felix Hernandez

Athletics

LHP Jon Lester

Mariners

Athletics

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

92 (13th in AL) 105 (4th in AL) ATHLETICS

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

19.4 (5th) 14.4 (6th) MARINERS

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

102 (6th) 105 (12th) MARINERS

Bullpen (FIP-)

83 (1st) 93 (6th) MARINERS

Well, here we go. It's September and the Mariners are playing meaningful baseball. From here on out the Mariners' schedule gets much harder. Since Major League Baseball has been back loading divisional play into September, the Mariners will play the A's six times, the Angels seven times, with the Astros, Rangers, and Blue Jays filling out the rest. Even more alarming is the single off day during the month. The Mariners are in the midst of a thirteen-game stretch and finish off the season with seventeen straight.

The baseball operations department for the Athletics has become legendary (thanks Brad Pitt) and Billy Beane has spent the past three years building a deep, deep team. I was surprised to find that the A's rotation was ranked twelfth in the AL. In my mind, every component of their team has been a strength for them this year. The more you know... If there's one phase where they've stumbled recently, its their offense. Their overall mark is ranked fifth in the American League but, in the month of August, their team wRC+ was a paltry 88.

The Athletics:

The Athletics just wrapped up a four-game series against the Angels. They were swept. August was not a good month for them. Their record last month was 12-17 and they dropped to five games behind the Angels. A few of their key role players have been sidelined with injuries recently -- Jed Lowrie, Nick Punto, Coco Crisp, Sean Doolittle, and John Jaso have all spent time on the DL in the past month. Their trade of Yoenis Cespedes has opened up a pretty sizable hole in their lineup. On Sunday, they traded for Adam Dunn to try and alleviate some of their offensive woes.

Key Players

3B Josh Donaldson - Let me present two player lines side by side:

Player A - .257/.348/.471, 26 HR, 88 RBI, 11.3 BB%, 18.7 K%, 134 wRC+, 5.5 WAR
Player B - .275/.343/.467, 20 HR, 82 RBI, 8.3 BB%, 18.0 K%, 130 wRC+, 5.1 WAR

Player A is Josh Donaldson who is enjoying another excellent season. However, Player B is Kyle Seager who is sporting a remarkably similar line to Donaldson. Now, he's become the heart of the A's lineup and has become an elite defender at third.

1B Brandon Moss - Once a top prospect who disappointed for three teams before finding his way to Oakland, Brandon Moss is the perfect example of how the A's are able to develop excellent value out of seemingly broken players. His previous teams wanted him to develop into a complete hitter but his huge platoon split prevented that from happening. The A's were able to take Moss as he was and maximize his strengths -- mashing right-handed pitching.

C Derek Norris - Another success story for the A's player development group, Derek Norris has enjoyed a breakthrough campaign this year. He has an incredible understanding of the strike zone and has been able leverage that command of the zone into a 127 wRC+. The A's have also controlled his playing time by using him with Stephen Vogt and John Jaso in a three-headed catching hydra.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Jason Hammel

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

147 2/3

21.5%

6.7%

12.8%

40.8%

3.72

4.09

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Slider

Curveball

Changeup

92.3 mph;

31.9%

92.1 mph;

26.5%

82.9 mph;

30.4%

76.7 mph;

7.2%

85.2 mph;

3.7%

The Athletics traded for Hammel in July before the trade deadline and he has pitched pretty poorly for them. Hammel has vacillated between very effective years and really ineffective years. This year, he's fallen on both sides. Since joining the A's, he's lost the control that was driving his success. His slider usage with Cubs was much higher but its steadily dropped since joining the A's in favor of his fastball. It could be that he's falling behind more often so he's turning to his fastball more often. Whatever the reason, he's not the same pitcher as he was earlier this year.

RHP Sonny Gray

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

178

20.2%

8.4%

8.3%

54.4%

3.03

3.38

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Slider

Curveball

Changeup

93.1 mph;

34.5%

92.8 mph;

22.2%

86.0 mph;

7.1%

81.2 mph;

28.3%

85.9 mph;

6.8%

In just his second year in the majors, Sonny Gray has established himself as a key piece of the Athletics' future. He's already thrown more innings than he's ever thrown in a season and he started to break down in August. His FIP jumped up to 4.10 in August as his walk rate and strikeout rate both moved the wrong direction. I wouldn't be surprised if the A's shut him down in September to save him for the postseason. His signature pitch is his curveball and he'll use it against both lefties and righties.

LHP Jon Lester

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

183 2/3

25.0%

5.4%

6.7%

42.7%

2.55

2.67

Pitches

Four-seam

Cutter

Sinker

Curveball

Changeup

91.5 mph;

42.0%

87.5 mph;

25.2%

91.5 mph;

14.8%

75.2 mph;

15.1%

85.0 mph;

2.9%

Jon Lester was the A's big ticket acquisition at the trade deadline and they're hoping he'll guide them past the Division Series, deeper into the playoffs. This year, Lester's strikeout rate has spiked over 25% and he's been more effective than ever -- his FIP is a career best 2.67. His pitch selection has driven this improvement. He's throwing his sinker less often in favor of his cutter which has been his most effective pitch according to his pitch values.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Angels

83-53

.610

-

W-W-W-W-W

Athletics

78-58

.574

5.0

W-L-L-L-L

Mariners

73-62

.541

9.5

W-L-L-L-W

Astros

59-79

.428

25.0

L-W-L-W-W

Rangers

53-83

.390

30.0

W-L-W-L-L

The Angels are running away with the AL West after their sweep of the A's over the weekend. They have an off day today and then play two against the Astros in Houston.

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Athletics

78-58

.574

+4.0

W-L-L-L-L

Tigers

74-62

.544

-

W-W-L-W-L

Mariners

73-62

.541

0.5

W-L-L-L-W

Indians

70-64

.522

3.0

W-L-W-W-W

Yankees

70-65

.519

3.5

W-L-W-L-L

The Mariners lost just a half a game in the Wild Card race because the Tigers split four games with the White Sox over the weekend. They're starting a four-game series with the surging Indians today. Cleveland just swept the Royals over the weekend and are now just three and a half back in the Central and just three back in the Wild Card race.

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