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Series Preview: Mariners (36-37) vs. Cardinals (38-33)

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The Mariners limp home after a disastrous road trip to face the Cardinals over the weekend.

Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

At a Glance:

Friday, June 24 | 7:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Cardinals

Mariners

RHP Carlos Martinez

LHP Wade LeBlanc

55%

45%

Saturday, June 25 | 7:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Cardinals

Mariners

RHP Mike Leake

RHP Nate Karns

49%

51%

Sunday, June 26 | 1:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Cardinals

Mariners

LHP Jaime Garcia

LHP James Paxton

51%

49%

*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Mariners

Cardinals

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

110 (2nd in AL)

117 (1st in NL)

Cardinals

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-11.0 (10th)

-18.6 (15th)

Mariners

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

107 (10th)

95 (6th)

Cardinals

Bullpen (FIP-)

92 (9th)

97 (6th)

Mariners

Welp, we’re here now. The Mariners are under .500 for the first time since April 24. The pitching staff has been decimated by injuries and ineffectiveness and the offense has been good but not good enough. With this three-game series against the Cardinals, the Mariners will wrap up a stretch of 13 games in a row. With just one off day in the past month, fatigue could be playing a large part in the team’s struggles. Of course, after the off day on Monday, they begin another 13-game stretch that takes them into the All-Star break. That respite could not come any sooner.

The Cardinals:

In any other year, the Cardinals would be in the thick of the NL Central division race. But despite being five games over .500, they’re nine games behind the division-leading Cubs. This year’s iteration of the Cardinals looks pretty similar to the one’s we’re familiar with except for one major distinction: they can’t play defense. Well, UZR thinks they can’t play defense. DRS actually has them as an above average defensive team and their defensive efficiency seventh in the majors. The reality is probably somewhere in the middle but it’s certainly contributing to a team ERA that’s higher than their team FIP. A bad homestand against the two teams from Texas dropped them precariously close to .500 but they responded by sweeping the Cubs in Chicago earlier this week.

Key Players

2B Matt Carpenter – Last year, Matt Carpenter transformed himself from a high-contact, slap hitter into a patient, power hitter. The change was quite dramatic. Between 2014 and 2015, he added 130 points to his ISO, maintained his high walk rate, and kept his batting average exactly the same. This year, he’s added another 30 points to his ISO and has cut his strikeout rate back down to his previous career norms while also walking more often. Seemingly overnight, he’s transformed himself into one of the most dangerous batters in the game and he’s only getting better.

RF Stephen Piscotty – Throughout his minor league career, Stephen Piscotty relied on a high-contact approach to fuel his offensive success. It helped him move quickly through the Cardinals organization and he found himself in the majors just three years after being drafted. The biggest question for him was whether or not his high-contact approach would translate to the majors without showing off much power. In his first taste of the majors, he was lucky enough to post a .372 BABIP while also running the highest strikeout rate of his professional career. Both his BABIP and strikeout rate have fallen this year and his slash line looks remarkably similar to last year’s in a comparable amount of playing time.

SS Aledmys Diaz – When Jhonny Peralta tore a ligament in his thumb this spring, everyone expected the Cardinals to simply get by with scraps until he could return. The emergence of Aledmys Diaz has turned that narrative on its head as he’s helped the Cardinals thrive in Peralta’s absence. He’s been so productive that when Peralta did return from his injury, the Cardinals installed him as their starting third baseman rather than move Diaz off shortstop. Diaz combines good power for a middle infielder with an aggressive, high-contact approach at the plate. In the field, he’s a little more raw—his 14 errors lead all shortstops in the majors—but the offensive production has more than made up for his defensive lapses.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Carlos Martinez

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

82 1/3

19.9%

8.2%

10.0%

57.6%

3.17

3.63

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Change

Slider

96.9 mph;

35.7%

95.3 mph;

21.8%

87.8 mph;

20.1%

85.5 mph;

22.1%

Martinez PA

Carlos Martinez broke out in a big way last year. He rode a fastball with top 5 velocity, a killer slider, and a great changeup to a top 20 strikeout rate and a top 10 ground ball rate but his year was cut short by a shoulder injury. He didn’t undergo surgery, instead hoping rest and rehab over the offseason would help him return this year fully healthy. Unfortunately, his velocity has only recently fully returned to his career norms and his whiff rates have suffered. Last year, he was able to generate a whiff rate of 43% with his changeup, seventh highest in the majors. This year, it’s fallen to 27% and his overall strikeout rate is down below 20%.

RHP Mike Leake

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

87 2/3

16.0%

3.9%

17.1%

50.5%

4.00

4.49

Pitches

Sinker

Cutter

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

91.5 mph;

50.2%

89.9 mph;

31.0%

86.1 mph;

7.3%

81.3 mph;

6.5%

79.2 mph;

4.6%

Leake PA

There are few things Mike Leake does well. He doesn’t give up many walks—and his walk rate is at its lowest point of his career this season—and he generates a healthy amount of ground balls. That’s pretty much the extent of it. He doesn’t strike many out and he allows too many home runs. The entire package adds up to a league average starter who has become one of the more consistent pitchers in the league. That consistency and durability earned Leake a huge payday this offseason. Pitchers like Mike Leake are definitely important to fill out the back end of a rotation, but they probably shouldn’t be so expensive.

LHP Jaime Garcia

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

82 1/3

19.7%

7.7%

10.5%

57.5%

3.83

3.49

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

91.3 mph;

30.2%

91.2 mph;

34.2%

82.8 mph;

17.4%

82.2 mph;

15.9%

71.5 mph;

2.3%

Garcia PA

Between all the injuries and setbacks, Jaime Garcia has been incredibly effective when he’s on the mound. Of course, that hasn’t always been guaranteed. Between 2013 and 2014, he made just 16 starts, and many had written him off heading into 2015. Well he finally overcame all the injury woes that had plagued his career and made 20 starts last year with a FIP of just 3.00! He doesn’t walk many, keeps the ball on the ground, and runs an above average strikeout rate. He uses his excellent changeup almost exclusively against right-handed batters and it’s helped him post a neutral split over his career.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Rangers

47-26

.644

-€”

W-W-W-L-W

Astros

37-36

.507

10.0

W-W-W-W-W

Mariners

36-37

.493

11.0

L-L-L-L-L

Angels

31-42

.425

16.0

W-L-L-L-L

Athletics

30-42

.417

16.5

L-L-W-L-W

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Red Sox

40-32

.556

+1.0

W-L-L-L-W

Blue Jays

40-34

.541

-€”

W-L-L-L-W

Royals

38-33

.535

0.5

W-W-W-L-L

Tigers

38-35

.521

1.5

L-W-W-W-W

Astros

37-36

.507

2.5

W-W-W-W-W

A five-game winning streak has launched the Astros into second place in the AL West and two and a half games back in the Wild Card race. They swept the Angels earlier this week and travel to Kansas City this weekend in a rematch of last year’s Division Series. The Rangers had their seven-game winning streak snapped by the lowly Reds on Tuesday. They host the Red Sox over the weekend.