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Series Preview: Mariners (35-31) at Red Sox (37-28)

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The Mariners travel to Boston to face the dangerous Red Sox.

Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

At a Glance:

Friday, June 17 | 4:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

Red Sox

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

LHP Roenis Elias

47%

53%

Saturday, June 18 | 1:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

Red Sox

LHP Wade Miley

RHP Rick Porcello

41%

59%

Sunday, June 19 | 10:35 am

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

Red Sox

RHP Taijuan Walker

LHP David Price

39%

61%

*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Mariners

Red Sox

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

112 (2nd in AL)

121 (1st in AL)

Red Sox

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-10.6 (13th)

12.9 (5th)

Red Sox

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

104 (9th)

109 (12th)

Mariners

Bullpen (FIP-)

91 (8th)

85 (5th)

Red Sox

I hope you like fireworks because the top two offenses in the American League face each other this weekend. But neither team looked this dangerous heading into the season. The Red Sox had a number of question marks around the diamond but they’ve all been answered resoundingly. Hanley Ramirez has successfully made the transition to first base. Pablo Sandoval is out for the year and capably replaced by Travis Shaw. Jackie Bradley Jr. finally figured out how to hit major league pitching. It’s all contributing to the highest team wRC+ of any team since the 1998 Astros.

With their series loss to the Rays, the Mariners have fallen out of the second Wild Card spot, 1.5 games behind the Blue Jays. A series win in Boston would go a long way towards getting their season back on track. Despite winning just a third of their games in June, the Mariners’ run differential is just -10 this month. Four of their ten losses have been by just one run and another three were by two runs. Their two losses in the series against the Rays are a perfect microcosm for their recent struggles. In one game, the bullpen coughed up a lead late in the game, and in the other, the offense couldn’t come through in the clutch despite a valiant effort by the pitching staff. The Mariners certainly aren’t as bad as their record looks this month but they desperately need to win some of these close games.

The Red Sox:

The only thing that’s held the Red Sox back from having a season like the Cubs is a thoroughly mediocre pitching staff. They’re allowing more than 4.5 runs per game but their run differential is still the highest inthe American League at +82. It’s hard to believe that they’ll continue to score almost six runs a game but they’ve been in the thick of the AL East race the entire season. They just lost two of three against their biggest rival in their division, the Orioles, pushing them a game back in the East. They currently hold the first spot in the Wild Card race.

Key Players

RF Mookie Betts – In his first full season in the majors, Mookie Betts surpassed all expectations. He accumulated almost 5.0 f WAR while slashing .291/.341/.479 and showing off great speed on the basepaths. He made the transition to right field this year but hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. The most surprising development has been his power. In the minors, his ISO surpassed .200 just once, back in High-A in 2013. This year, he’s pushed his ISO all the way up to .230 by doubling his home run per fly ball rate. He won’t continue to hit home runs at such a high rate, but it’s clear that a 20-20 season isn’t out of the question for Betts.

DH David Ortiz – David Ortiz has saved his best for last. At the ripe age of 40, he’s on pace to break the single season double’s record. More than 60% of his hits have been for extra-bases. He even stole his first base since 2013. What’s even more impressive are his extremely consistent strikeout and walk rates. As he’s grown older, his plate discipline has only grown more stable, rather than deteriorating with age. No matter what fountain of youth he’s found, he’ll only be gracing us with his presence for the remainder of this year before he calls it quits.

SS Xander Bogaerts – After a rough start to his career in 2014, Xander Bogaerts took a huge step forward last year. He increased his batting average by 80 points by focusing on making contact and hitting the ball on the ground. That type of batted ball profile he developed helped him post a .372 BABIP but his ISO fell to just .101, the lowest it’s been at any point in his professional career. This year, he’s maintained his ridiculously high BABIP, pushing it over .400, while also hitting for more power. It seems like he spent all of last year developing his hit tool at the major league level before integrating it into a rounded offensive profile.

Probable Pitchers

LHP Roenis Elias (Triple-A)

IP

K%

BB%

ERA

FIP

61

22.5%

10.1%

3.54

3.97

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Curveball

92.4 mph;

42.4%

92.4 mph;

9.8%

85.5 mph;

25.5%

79.4 mph;

22.3%

Elias PA

In a cruel twist of fate, the Mariners will face their old friend Roenis Elias on Friday. The Cuban lefty came out of nowhere in 2014 to toss 163 innings for the Mariners. He utilizes a decent fastball mixed with a very good curveball and an average changeup. He’ll often change his arm angle to get a different look on his curveball depending on the count or handedness of the batter. That deception helped him run a decent strikeout rate. After being traded to the Red Sox in the Wade Miley deal, he’s been serving as depth in Triple-A, making just one relief appearance in the majors this year.

RHP Rick Porcello

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

82 2/3

21.4%

5.0%

14.0%

46.3%

3.81

4.13

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

92.7 mph;

16.2%

90.3 mph;

48.2%

82.0 mph;

12.6%

85.0 mph;

11.6%

74.4 mph;

11.4%

Porcello PA

In the first half of 2015, Rick Porcello experimented with throwing his four-seam fastball more often than his signature sinker. It was a disaster. Through June of 2015, his ERA was an ugly 5.90 and his FIP wasn’t much better at 4.52. He switched back to throwing his sinker in the second half and has looked like the type of pitcher the Red Sox were hoping for when they signed him to a four-year, $82 million extension. Since July of 2015, and including all of this season, his ERA is down to 3.68 and his FIP has followed to 3.87. His strikeout rate has slowly climbed to the highest point of his career to go along with his elite walk rate. The only thing holding him back from becoming a top-tier pitcher is his elevated home run rate.

LHP David Price

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

91 2/3

26.9%

6.3%

15.2%

44.0%

4.52

3.56

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Cutter

Changeup

Curveball

93.5 mph;

18.4%

93.3 mph;

29.0%

88.9 mph;

21.3%

84.6 mph;

23.5%

78.6 mph;

7.9%

Price PA

By simply looking at David Price’s ERA, one might come away with the idea that the Red Sox’s big signing this offseason has turned out to be a bust. But then you might look at his strikeout rate which is the highest it’s ever been in his career; or his xFIP which is right in line with his career norms. He’s been burned by the long ball and most of the damage has come in Fenway park. When pitching at home, opposing batters are running a .327 wOBA compared to a .262 wOBA on the road. The other concern has been the loss of velocity this year. He’s lost more than a mile per hour off his average fastball velocity, though it’s been trending upwards as the season has gone on. Still, he’s striking out more than a quarter of the batters he’s faced. That doesn’t seem like a pitcher who has lost his edge.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Rangers

42-25

.627

­-€”

W-L-W-W-W

Mariners

35-31

.530

6.5

L-L-L-L-W

Astros

32-35

.478

10.0

L-W-L-W-W

Angels

29-37

.439

12.5

W-L-L-W-W

Athletics

27-39

.409

14.5

W-W-L-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Red Sox

37-28

.569

+1.0

W-L-L-W-L

Blue Jays

38-31

.551

-€”

W-L-W-W-W

Royals

35-31

.530

1.5

W-W-W-W-L

Mariners

35-31

.530

1.5

L-L-L-L-W

Tigers

34-32

.515

2.5

W-L-W-L-W

After being blown out 14-5 in their first game against the Athletics, the Rangers came back and won the next three in Oakland. Texas is now tied with the Nationals for the second best record in the majors. They head to St. Louis to face the Cardinals this weekend. The Astros just finished a two-game sweep in St. Louis and will host the Reds this weekend. A very hot Blue Jays team has moved up into the second Wild Card spot after winning three of four against the Phillies; they travel to Baltimore this weekend. The Royals have oscillated between hot and cold the last few weeks: a six-game win streak at the end of May was followed by an eight-game losing streak and then a five-game win streak. That most recent stretch was snapped yesterday against the Tigers in the first game of a four-game series over the weekend.