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Series Preview: Mariners (78-68) vs. Astros (76-70)

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Grab your family and friends and anyone you see on the street, the Mariners are playing.

It's the place to be.
It's the place to be.
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

At a Glance:

Friday, September 16|7:10 PM PT

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Astros

Mariners

RHP Collin McHugh

RHP Felix Hernandez

45%

55%

Saturday, September 17| 6:10 PM PT

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Astros

Mariners

RHP Mike Fiers

LHP James Paxton

46%

54%

Sunday, September 18 | 1:10 PM PT

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Astros

Mariners

RHP Doug Fister

LHP Ariel Miranda

45%

55%

*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Mariners

Astros

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

107 (2nd in AL)

101 (7th in AL)

Mariners

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-39.8 (13th)

3.4 (6th)

Astros

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

107 (6th)

99 (12th)

Mariners

Bullpen (FIP-)

98 (5th)

78 (15th)

Mariners

Filling in for a traveling Jake, there is only so much that can be said. This is the weekend. It is, of course, hyperbolic to say that these games are must-win, and due to a schedule that sets the Mariners against Oakland four more times, Houston three more times after this series, the Twins for three, and Toronto for three as well, in the reverse order that has been listed, the M’s have wins beyond this series available to them. That is not how they can think, however. With Fangraphs still assessing their playoff odds at 29.8%, there can be no laurels resting.

The Astros:

Houston is stumbling. A glance at the playoff odds charts shows that Houston and Seattle’s odds throughout the year have been near perfect mirrors of one another, and as the M’s have risen from the ashes, the Astros have plummeted from 25% on September 1st to a mere 7% today. Despite their rapid fade, it seems unlikely the Astros will prove an easy target like the Angels and A’s this past week. Their schedule of late has been brutal, as well, with a September of two series’ against Texas, one against Cleveland, and one against the Cubs. Astonishingly, this is the first series against the Astros since the first series after the All-Star Break in mid-July, where the Mariners won 1/3 games. Houston has recently been beset by a couple major injuries, and both 2B Jose Altuve and SS/3B/OF Alex Bregman are doubtful to play Friday night, though that could change at anytime.

Key Players

2B Jose Altuve Year after year, Jose Altuve has improved far beyond what anyone might have expected. He’s turned himself into a legitimate MVP candidate by simply hitting the snot out of the ball. He’s always had elite contact skills but he’s added excellent power number to his game. At just 5’6", it’s hard to imagine him with an ISO over .200 but that’s where we are. His line drive rate is a career high, he’s chasing pitches out of the zone less often, and has seen the biggest leap in exit velocity in the past year. Right now, we’re witnessing a player completely locked in, with simply no flaws in his game.

SS Carlos Correa Carlos Correa took baseball by storm last year. He was called up at the start of June and compiled 3.3 fWAR in just four months. He showed off his power, his speed, and his hitting prowess with an offensive performance 33% better than league average. He’s just 21 years old so we should expect some ups and downs but he also has a lot of room to grow. He hasn’t even played a full season in the majors yet and he’s already one of the best shortstops in the game.

RF George Springer With Carlos Correa taking up most of the spotlight, it can be easy to overlook just how good George Springer really is. George Springer’s massive power has been on display since his debut two years ago. As a rookie, almost a third of his hits were blasted out of the park. Injuries limited his power output a bit last year, but he was able to cut almost nine points off his strikeout rate, boosting his batting average up to .276. He’s regained his power stroke and has maintained the improved plate discipline this year helping him post a career high 141 wRC+.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Collin McHugh

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

157.1

22.5

6.7

13.8

42.4

4.86

4.10

Pitches

Four-seam

Cutter

Curveball

Two-Seam

Changeup

90.2 mph;

29.9%

86.7 mph;

29.9%

72.6 mph;

29.4%

90.6 mph;

5.6%

83.7 mph;

5.3%

McHugh relies heavily on having three different planes of movement on his pitches, and has been roughly league average this year. He has regressed slightly from his performance in 2015, where he gained some national notoriety for his outrageous 19 wins, but also ran an FIP of 3.58. Most notably, and perhaps appetizingly, McHugh has been bitten by the homer bug, and is letting up 1.37 HR/9.

RHP Mike Fiers

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

151.1

17.7

5.8

15.5

41.2

4.64

4.64

Pitches

Four-Seam

Changeup

Curveball

Cutter

Slider

89.6 mph;

43.9%

82.6 mph;

19.3%

73.9 mph;

17.9%

86.5 mph;

13.6%

81.3 mph;

7%

Fiers has not fared well in Houston, with a whopping 1.49 HR/9. His xFIP of 4.29 indicates he’s been approaching league average, but the unremarkable speed differential between his non-curveball pitches results in the glut of homers allowed, even as Fiers has managed to post an impressively low walk rate.

RHP Doug Fister

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

170.1

14.7

8

10.8

45.0

4.17

4.61

Pitches

Two-Seam

Four-Seam

Curveball

Cutter

Changeup

86.8 mph;

43.8%

86.9 mph;

21.8%

70.3 mph;

14.6%

82.6 mph;

13.4%

79 mph;

6.4%

Doug Fister’s success is closely tied to the velocity of his fastball. In years where his fastball averaged over 89 mph, his average FIP was 3.34; in years where he threw slower than that threshold, his average FIP is a ghastly 4.66. Fister’s walk rate is still around average but he’s developed a home run problem as his fastball has deteriorated.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Rangers

87-60

.592

--

5-5

Mariners

78-68

.534

8.5

9-1

Astros

76-70

.520

12.5

4-6

Athletics

64-82

.438

22.5

6-4

Angels

63-83

.432

23.5

2-8

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Orioles

80-66

.548

--

6-4

Blue Jays

80-66

.548

--

3-7

Mariners

78-68

.534

2.0

9-1

Tigers

78-68

.534

2.0

4-6

Yankees

77-69

.527

3.0

6-4

Hot dang, y’all. If the Mariners win out, they will make the playoffs. More likely, however, it’ll be a tough hunt all the way. Two out of three this weekend would set them up well, though a sweep would be a very pleasant cushion. Buckle up.

Goms.