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Series Preview: Mariners (52-51) vs. Red Sox (57-46)

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The dog days of August are upon us as the Mariners return home to host the Red Sox.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

At a Glance:

Monday, August 1 | 7:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Red Sox

Mariners

LHP Eduardo Rodriguez

LHP James Paxton

47%

53%

Tuesday, August 2 | 7:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Red Sox

Mariners

LHP David Price

LHP Wade LeBlanc

56%

44%

Wednesday, August 3 | 7:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Red Sox

Mariners

RHP Rick Porcello

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

51%

49%

Thursday, August 4 | 7:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Red Sox

Mariners

LHP Drew Pomeranz

TBD

50%

50%

*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Mariners

Red Sox

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

109 (2nd in AL)

118 (1st in AL)

Red Sox

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-23.2 (13th)

12.6 (7th)

Red Sox

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

106 (9th)

104 (8th)

Red Sox

Bullpen (FIP-)

95 (11th)

89 (5th)

Red Sox

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

Despite the disappointing end to the series in Chicago in front of a national TV audience, the Mariners are somehow just a hot streak away from closing the gap in the Wild Card race. That also means the Mariners are a cold streak away from falling well out of the playoff race. Which is why Jerry Dipoto has been so bipolar the last few days. Trading away Wade Miley and receiving such a pittance in return is confusing, especially considering the pitching woes the team has struggled through this year. The best explanation is it was a salary dump so that Dipoto could go out an acquire someone else (like Zach Cozart maybe). But even Cozart is a piece that helps the team in the near future at a relatively low cost when Miley’s salary was the most palatable. With all of that in mind, and a long, late night of travel, the Mariners begin the month of August with a long home stand against two of their Wild Card rivals.

The Red Sox:

The Red Sox have been engaged in a three way battle for the AL East lead for the entire season. A bad month of June left them five and half games out of first in the East but they’ve made up most of that in July. Unfortunately, the Blue Jays and the Orioles have been playing just as well as the Red Sox and all three teams sit within a game and a half of each other right now. Boston’s offense has been the class of the American League and they’ve added Drew Pomeranz and Brad Ziegler to their beleaguered pitching staff. After being swept by the surging Tigers, the Red Sox split a four game series against the Angels in Boston.

Key Players

RF Mookie BettsIn 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 OrtizDavid 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 BogaertsAfter 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.

CF Jackie Bradley Jr – His defense in center field is elite so the question surrounding Jackie Bradley Jr. for most of his career has been, "Can he hit?" After three years of mostly terrible hitting, JBJ’s bat has finally come alive. The power he’s able to generate with his slight frame is impressive and it’s one of the main reasons why he’s been so good this year. He’s also pushed his strikeout rate under 20% but it’s not because he’s become more disciplined. His whiff rate is just as high as it’s been when he was running strikeout rates over 25%, he’s simply making contact more often on pitches he can handle.

Probable Pitchers

LHP Eduardo Rodriguez

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

47

17.1%

8.5%

16.4%

29.3%

6.51

6.07

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Cutter

Changeup

Slider

94.0 mph;

58.5%

93.5 mph;

4.9%

89.8 mph;

6.2%

87.3 mph;

16.7%

85.6 mph;

13.8%

Rodriguez PA

Despite the impressive velocity on his fastball, Eduardo Rodriguez just hasn’t had the results follow. In his debut season last year, both his strikeout rate and walk rates were fairly pedestrian. He began this year on the disabled list but hasn’t looked good after coming back healthy. His strikeout rate and walk rate are trending the wrong directions and his batted ball profile is out of whack. Among all starting pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched, Rodriguez’s groundball rate ranks third lowest. That’s led to a huge increase in home runs and an ERA that’s almost twice as high as last year.

LHP David Price

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

143 2/3

25.1%

5.2%

13.6%

45.3%

4.26

3.28

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Cutter

Changeup

Curveball

93.7 mph;

18.8%

93.6 mph;

30.4%

88.9 mph;

18.9%

85.0 mph;

23.7%

78.9 mph;

8.2%

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. 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.

RHP Rick Porcello

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

135

20.1%

4.4%

9.9%

45.8%

3.47

3.60

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

92.5 mph;

18.2%

90.0 mph;

45.0%

81.4 mph;

12.1%

85.3 mph;

11.8%

74.0 mph;

13.0%

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 3.74 and his FIP has followed to 3.71. 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 Drew Pomeranz

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

116 1/3

27.3%

9.9%

11.1%

46.9%

3.09

3.48

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Cutter

Changeup

Curveball

91.9 mph;

35.3%

89.9 mph;

3.3%

86.8 mph;

12.2%

87.0 mph;

8.9%

80.2 mph;

39.6%

Pomeranz PA

As a reliever with the Oakland Athletics, Drew Pomeranz leveraged his two plus pitches to great success. But as a starter, relying on just two pitches makes success much more difficult to attain. Prior to this year, Pomeranz had an ugly 4.60 ERA as a starter but a sparkling 2.14 ERA out of the bullpen. But his untapped potential led the Padres to install him in their rotation this year and he’s broken out in a big way. He’s added four points to an already impressive strikeout rate and has pushed his FIP to a career low. Much of the improvement can be traced back to adding another plus pitch to his repertoire, a cutter. He’s generating an above average amount of whiffs with the pitch and it’s become a weapon against both lefties and righties.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Rangers

62-44

.585

-€”

L-W-W-W-W

Astros

55-49

.529

6.0

L-W-L-L-L

Mariners

52-51

.505

8.5

W-L-L-W-L

Athletics

47-58

.448

14.5

W-W-L-L-L

Angels

47-58

.448

14.5

L-W-L-W-L

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Blue Jays

59-46

.562

+1.0

W-L-W-W-L

Red Sox

57-46

.553

-€”

L-L-W-L-W

Tigers

57-48

.543

1.0

W-W-W-W-W

Astros

55-49

.529

2.5

L-W-L-L-L

Mariners

52-51

.505

5.0

W-L-L-W-L

The Tigers continue to make a strong push for a Wild Card spot. After sweeping the Red Sox in Boston, they swept the Astros over the weekend to move within one game of the second wild card spot. They’ll host the White Sox for three games beginning tomorrow. The Astros will look to bounce back against the Wild Card leading Blue Jays who just took two of three from the Orioles over the weekend. Meanwhile, the Rangers swept the Royals in four games over the weekend and travel to Baltimore to start this week.