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Series Preview: Mariners (60-53) vs. Athletics (51-64)

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The Mariners hope to continue their six-game wining streak in Oakland this weekend.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

At a Glance:

Friday, August 12 | 7:05 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

Athletics

LHP Ariel Miranda

LHP Sean Manaea

51%

49%

Saturday, August 13 | 6:05 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

Athletics

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

RHP Kendall Graveman

56%

44%

Sunday, August 14 | 1:05 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

Athletics

LHP Wade LeBlanc

RHP Zach Neal

52%

48%

*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Mariners

Athletics

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

108 (2nd in AL)

91 (12th in AL)

Mariners

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-24.2 (13th)

-51.8 (15th)

Mariners

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

105 (9th)

112 (13th)

Mariners

Bullpen (FIP-)

94 (11th)

93 (9th)

Athletics

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

The Mariners were finally able to do what they couldn’t against the Rangers and Astros: win a critical series against a playoff rival. Per FanGraphs, their sweep of the Tigers added ten points to their playoff odds and their six-game winning streak has pushed their odds all to way up to 37.6%. Baseball Prospectus is even more optimistic, giving them a 42% chance of making the playoffs. With their lone off-day of the month behind them, the Mariners will play 20 games in a row to finish the month, beginning with a seven-game roadtrip down the coast. The combined win percentage of the six teams they’ll face during this stretch (OAK, LAA, MIL, NYY, CHW, TEX)? .482. If the Mariners keep playing inspired baseball, they should make up a lot of ground these next few weeks before rosters expand.

The Athletics:

With any hope of making the playoffs shot long ago, the Athletics made a few trades at the deadline to restock their farm system. Gone are Josh Reddick, Rich Hill, and Billy Burns. In are pitching prospects Frankie Montas, Grant Holmes, and Jharel Cotton and center fielder Brett Eibner. Like we’ve seen every few years, the A’s are reloading their system with young, cost-controlled players who can contribute in the near future. They may not be a good team right now, but they’re laying the foundation for the next run up the standings.

Key Players

3B Ryon HealyPart of the Athletics’ youth movement, Ryon Healy has impressed in his first month of play in the majors. He started the year in Double-A but quickly moved up the organization chart after posting a 194 wRC+ in Midland. The most encouraging development in Double-A was a huge increase in his walk rate but that hasn’t followed him to Triple-A or the majors. He has continued to show off decent power and an ability to spray line drives across the field. He may not be an impact player for the Athletics but could be a decent role player if he can stick at third base.

3B Danny ValenciaSince the beginning of 2015, Danny Valenica has slashed .290/.343/.493 in 733 plate appearances. That’s an incredible improvement from a 31-year-old who many expected to be just a platoon player for the rest of his career. Over his career, Valencia has absolutely mashed left-handed pitching to the tune of a 142 wRC+. Last year, he continued to destroy southpaws but ended the year with a reverse split. It isn’t a matter of improved plate discipline either, it’s simply Valencia making quality contact with power against left-handers and right-handers now. With the Athletics looking towards the future, Valencia has been on the outside looking in despite being the best hitter on the team.

LF Khris Davis Since his debut in 2013, Khris Davis has posted an ISO of .245, a mark better than Miguel Cabrera, Josh Donaldson, and Jose Abreu. And like you’d expect from any power hitter, his strikeout rate is very high. It’s not prohibitively high but it definitely limits his ceiling. Last year, he was able to almost double his walk rate which made him a much more rounded threat at the plate but that patience has disappeared this year. After a slow start to the year, he’s rounded into form and is on pace to hit more than 35 home runs this year.

C Stephen Vogt Last year, Stephen Vogt posted an offensive line 15% better than league average, the best mark for a catcher in the American League. But if you look a little closer, it was a tale of two halves. Prior to the All-Star break, Vogt posted a Posey-esque slash line of .287/.374/.498. In the second half of the season, he completely collapsed and his offensive production fell well below league average. Neither his outstanding first half nor his terrible second half is reflective of his true talent level. His offensive line has settled in right around league average. For a catcher, that’s completely acceptable. His poor defense and advancing age doesn’t bode well for his future with the club.

SS Marcus SemienWhen the Athletics acquired Marcus Semien from the White Sox in exchange for Jeff Samardzija, he was a second baseman who had an impressive offensive résumé. The A’s decided to try him out at shortstop where his offense would be a huge asset. Instead, he committed more errors than any other player and cost the Athletics almost a full win on defense per UZR. He worked intensively with infield guru Ron Washington during the year and his defensive play improved as the year went on. An average defender at short combined with an above average offensive line makes for a very valuable piece.

Probable Pitchers

LHP Sean Manaea

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

98 1/3

19.9%

6.0%

14.4%

41.4%

4.58

4.38

Pitches

Four-seam

Changeup

Slider

93.4 mph;

57.3%

86.0 mph;

27.1%

81.0 mph;

15.6%

Manaea PA

Sean Manaea was acquired by the Athletics in the Ben Zobrist trade last year and immediately leapt to the top of the organization’s prospect lists. Across three levels in 2015, he was able to post a 2.95 ERA with an excellent strikeout rate at every stop. He was aggressively assigned to Triple-A to start this year and rewarded the A’s with three excellent starts for Nashville. He made his major league debut towards the end of April and has shown a lot of promise. His best pitch is his fastball, which can reach up to the mid-90s. His two secondary pitches have greatly improved this year with his slider truly standing out as a plus pitch.

RHP Kendall Graveman

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

128

14.1%

6.5%

13.3%

52.8%

4.29

4.49

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Cutter

Changeup

Curveball

93.1 mph;

4.4%

93.2 mph;

54.0%

89.0 mph;

25.2%

85.6 mph;

8.8%

79.9 mph;

7.3%

Graveman PA

Kendall Graveman came over in the Josh Donaldson trade and quickly established himself as a back end starter for the Athletics last year. He’s able to combine a great ground ball rate with good command to drive his ERA lower than you might expect. Much of that is driven by the heavy sinker he throws a majority of the time. Unfortunately, he just doesn’t have the weapons in his arsenal to maintain a high strikeout rate. His cutter generates a decent amount of whiffs, and he’s throwing it more often this year, but it’s his only true swing-and-miss pitch. Despite keeping the ball on the ground often, he’s been plagued by a case of dinger-itis which has left his career FIP around 4.50.

RHP Zach Neal

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

29 1/3

9.6%

0.9%

17.2%

55.3%

4.60

4.69

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

91.1 mph;

26.9%

90.6 mph;

32.6%

82.8 mph;

15.9%

86.3 mph;

21.7%

74.7 mph;

2.9%

With all of the roster churn and injuries the Athletics have dealt with, they’ve had to turn to pitchers like Zach Neal to fill out their rotation. He made a spot start against the Mariners the last time these two teams met and only returned to the rotation last week. Never one to post elite strikeout rates in the minors, he’s simply been unable to strikeout batters at the major league level. His 9.6% strikeout rate is tied for the lowest in the majors among pitchers who have thrown a similar amount of innings. Not to be outdone in extremes, he’s only given up a single walk this season, the lowest walk rate in the majors in that same sample. He’ll be making his third start of the season on Sunday.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Rangers

68-48

.586

-€”

W-W-W-W-L

Mariners

60-53

.531

6.5

W-W-W-W-W

Astros

60-55

.522

7.5

L-L-W-W-W

Athletics

51-64

.443

16.5

L-W-W-W-L

Angels

49-65

.430

18.0

L-L-L-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Orioles

64-50

.561

+2.5

W-L-L-L-W

Red Sox

61-52

.540

-€”

L-L-W-L-L

Tigers

61-53

.535

0.5

W-L-L-L-L

Mariners

60-53

.531

1.0

W-W-W-W-W

Astros

60-55

.522

2.0

L-L-W-W-W

The Astros were able to snap out of their funk by scoring 33 runs against the Twins across four games. They’ll face a stiff challenge this weekend in Toronto, taking on the AL East leading Blue Jays. The Rangers just continue to find ways to win, taking three of four from the Rockies to start the week. They’ll host the reeling Tigers over the weekend. The Red Sox hold a tenuous one game lead over the Mariners in the Wild Card race after dropping two of three against the Yankees. They’ll look to keep pace with the other AL East team as they host the Diamondbacks this weekend.