clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Series Preview: Mariners (34-29) at Rays (29-32)

New, 4 comments

The Mariners head out on a big East Coast road trip, beginning with a three-game series against the Rays.

Mike Carlson/Getty Images

At a Glance:

Tuesday, June 14 | 4:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

Rays

RHP Taijuan Walker

RHP Jake Odorizzi

47%

53%

Wednesday, June 15 | 4:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

Rays

RHP Nate Karns

LHP Drew Smyly

48%

52%

Thursday, June 16 | 10:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

Rays

LHP James Paxton

LHP Blake Snell

47%

53%

*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Mariners

Rays

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

113 (2nd in AL)

106 (5th in AL)

Mariners

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-10.6 (13th)

-4.9 (9th)

Rays

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

104 (8th)

101 (6th)

Rays

Bullpen (FIP-)

91 (9th)

107 (13th)

Mariners

*Text appearing in italics has appeared in a previous series preview.

After a much-needed off day, the Mariners head off on a long East Coast road trip, beginning with a three-game series in Tampa. Normally, a long road trip like this would be cause for concern but this year things are different. The Mariners still hold the best road record in the American League and a +37 run differential away from Safeco Field. With a month until the All-Star break, they’re not in a terrible position and have a chance to gain some ground in the Wild Card race with their series in Boston this weekend. FanGraphs and FiveThirtyEight have the Mariners' playoff odds sitting just below 50% while Baseball Prospectus has them sitting just above a coin flip.

The Rays:

The last time the Mariners faced the Rays, they swept them at home and pushed their record to 21-13. Since that series, the Rays have gone 14-15, but more importantly, lost their most valuable player Kevin Kiermaier to a broken hand. That’s had a huge impact on their defense, forcing Desmond Jennings over to center and Corey Dickerson into left field. Their offense has come around and much of its led by a resurgent Logan Morrison. Since the calendar flipped over to May, he’s slashed .322/.426/.539 with seven home runs. The Rays helped the Mariners last weekend by winning two of three against the Astros and are 7-3 over their last 10 games.

Key Players

1B Steve Pearce – After a huge breakout year in 2014 at the ripe age of 31, Steve Pearce disappointed last year, leading many to believe that 2014 was just a fluke. Well he’s picked up right where he left off in 2014 this year. Much of his struggles last year could be attributed to his .232 BABIP and an increased strikeout rate. He’s pushed his strikeout rate to a career low and his BABIP has rebounded to .363 this year. He’s continued to hit for power, he’s always been able to take a walk, and he plays multiple positions competently. Entering the year, he was supposed to be Logan Morrison’s platoon mate, but he’s played himself into semi-regular playing time at second base and designated hitter.

RF Steven Souza – Steven Souza owns one of the lowest contact rates in the majors, along with other sluggers like Miguel Sano, Chris Carter, and Chris Davis. His strikeout rate is the second highest in baseball and he possesses enough discipline to run an above average walk rate (though his walk rate is well below his career norms this year). But unlike those sluggers, his ISO sits just below .200. He has a decent amount of power but it doesn’t look like he’ll be hitting 30 home runs a year, limiting his upside. He does run well and plays good defense in the outfield corners.

2B Logan ForsytheLogan Forsythe has quietly improved almost every aspect of his offensive profile over the last two years to become one of the best second basemen in the league. Much of his success last year looked like it was driven by an abnormally high BABIP but he’s taken his success even further this year. He’s hitting for more power than ever, is posting the highest walk rate of his career, and is hitting a line drive more than a quarter of the time he puts a ball in play. After a slight dip last year, his strikeout rate is back up over 20%, but it doesn’t matter too much when everything else is going so right.

3B Evan LongoriaThe best of Evan Longoria may be in the past but he’s still just 30 years old. His elite defense has slipped to simply above average and his offensive peripherals are trending the wrong way. He’s striking out much more often and is walking at the lowest rate of his career. His contract makes him an incredible value for the Rays despite his diminishing performance but he’s clearly no longer one of the best third basemen in the league.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Jake Odorizzi

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

72 2/3

22.0%

7.8%

11.9%

40.3%

3.47

4.06

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Cutter

Splitter

Slider

Curveball

92.3 mph;

51.9%

92.6 mph;

5.7%

87.4 mph;

4.5%

85.9 mph;

22.8%

83.3 mph;

9.9%

72.0 mph;

5.1%

Odorizzi PA

Despite being a right-hander, the Mariners should treat Jake Odorizzi as though he’s a southpaw. He relies primarily on two pitches, an excellent fastball and a good split-change. But because he doesn’t have a decent breaking ball to keep same-handed batters honest, they’ve hit him very hard. For his career, righties have a .322 wOBA against him while holding lefties to just a .284 wOBA—that reverse-split is even more pronounced this year (.336/.221). He developed a slider last year to supplement his cutter and has talked about using his curveball against righties more often. None of those pitches have proven to be very effective.

LHP Drew Smyly

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

71

25.9%

6.4%

14.0%

31.1%

4.94

4.35

Pitches

Four-seam

Cutter

Changeup

Curveball

91.2 mph;

55.4%

84.7 mph;

18.0%

81.1 mph;

7.2%

77.0 mph;

19.3%

Smyly PA

Since joining the Rays in 2014, Drew Smyly has struck out 27% of the batters he’s faced. That’s a five point increase over his previously established norms with the Tigers. That huge strikeout rate has helped him post the third highest strikeout-to-walk ratio in the majors this year. Smyly’s fastball has the fourth highest "rise" and the third highest whiff rate in the majors. By elevating his fastball, he’s been able to leverage his natural advantage against batters and it’s paid off. Pitching up in the zone means more fly balls, and the home run has given him some problems, especially recently.Since facing the Mariners back on May 10, Smyly has allowed 21 runs in 26 innings, including 7 home runs.

LHP Blake Snell (Triple-A)

IP

K%

BB%

ERA

FIP

63

33.3%

10.4%

3.29

2.58

Blake Snell raced through the Rays organization last year and made his way up prospect lists everywhere. He began last year in High-A and didn’t give up a run until he was in Double-A. The local product (Go Thunderbirds!) features a rising fastball with excellent velocity, a good changeup, and a big curveball. It’s an extremely small sample size but his fastball had the highest average vertical movement of any fastball thrown this year. Like Smyly, he elevates the pitch to generate a huge amount of whiffs and a ton of fly balls. He began the year in Triple-A but made a major league spot start back on April 23. He pitched five innings against the Yankees, struck out six, walked one, and gave up just two hits.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Rangers

39-25

.609

-€”

W-L-W-W-L

Mariners

34-29

.540

4.5

W-L-W-L-L

Astros

30-35

.462

9.5

W-L-L-W-L

Athletics

27-36

.429

11.5

L-L-L-W-W

Angels

27-37

.422

12.0

L-L-W-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Orioles

36-26

.581

+2.5

W-W-L-L-L

Red Sox

36-26

.581

+2.5

W-L-W-W-L

Mariners

34-29

.540

--

W-L-W-L-L

Blue Jays

35-31

.530

0.5

L-W-W-W-L

Royals

33-30

.524

1.0

L-L-W-W-W

The Rangers got off to a poor start to the week after losing 14-5 to the Athletics yesterday. Oakland had lost seven straight before snapping that streak on Sunday against the Reds. The Angels have won just two of their last ten games and have fallen into last place in the AL West. They lost two of three to the Indians over the weekend and lost to the Twins yesterday. The Blue Jays have quietly raced up the standings in the AL East and the Wild Card race. They took three of four from the Orioles over the weekend but couldn’t maintain that momentum against the Phillies yesterday.