clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Series Preview: Mariners (82-73) vs. Astros (82-74)

New, 23 comments

The Mariners need to win a series against a division rival to stay in the playoff race. The season will be decided by these three games.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

At a Glance:

Monday, September 26 | 5:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

Astros

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

RHP Collin McHugh

46%

54%

Tuesday, September 27 | 5:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

Astros

RHP Felix Hernandez

RHP Mike Fiers

47%

53%

Wednesday, September 28 | 11:10 am

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

Astros

LHP James Paxton

RHP Doug Fister

50%

50%

*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Mariners

Astros

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

106 (2nd in AL)

100 (7th in AL)

Mariners

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-24.5 (13th)

18.4 (5th)

Astros

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

108 (10th)

98 (4th)

Astros

Bullpen (FIP-)

97 (11th)

77 (1st)

Astros

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

Over the course of this season, it feels like the Rangers and the Astros have over and over been the insurmountable opponent keeping the Mariners from turning a corner. I can remember series in June, July, August, and now September where the Mariners had built some positive momentum only to falter against these AL West rivals. It’s only fitting, then, that their playoff hopes could hinge on their ability to defeat one of these foes. The rotation has lined up perfectly. The offense has shown signs of breaking out of its funk. Anything less than a series win would spell the end of their season. Go hecking Mariners.

The Astros:

The Astros are playing for the same Wild Card spot as the Mariners except they need a sweep to truly stay in the race. After these three games, they only have three more (rather than the four the Mariners have) to make up ground. They face long odds to make the playoffs for the second year in a row and they’re suffering through a spate of injuries to key players. Alex Bregman is out with a strained hamstring. Colby Rasmus is out with an undisclosed injury. Noted Mariner killer Luis Valbuena is out for the year. And on top of it all, the Astros were almost swept by the Angels in four games over the weekend.

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 SpringerWith 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

170

22.5%

6.8%

12.4%

41.3%

4.61

3.97

Pitches

Four-seam

Cutter

Changeup

Curveball

91.1 mph;

33.8%

87.4 mph;

29.5%

84.5 mph;

5.3%

73.3 mph;

29.4%

McHugh

In 2014, Collin McHugh came out of nowhere to strikeout more than a quarter of the batters he faced across 25 starts for the Astros. Last year, his strikeout rate fell to just under 20% and batters learned to key in on his cutter—he allowed a .309 batting average off the pitch—driving his ERA up by more than a run. Despite all the hits he was allowing, he was able to keep the ball in the yard, helping him keep his FIP at a very good level. He’s pushed his strikeout rate back up to 21.2% this year but his home run rate has followed suit. His curveball is as good as ever but he’s lost a tick off his average fastball velocity. He’s still generating an above average amount of whiffs with the pitch but it’s no longer the weapon it used to be.

RHP Mike Fiers

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

163 2/3

18.4%

6.0%

15.5%

42.2%

4.40

4.52

Pitches

Four-seam

Cutter

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

90.5 mph;

38.5%

87.1 mph;

14.2%

83.3 mph;

19.5%

82.2 mph;

6.1%

74.9 mph;

19.1%

Fiers PA

Despite a fastball that averages right around 90 mph, Mike Fiers was able strikeout almost a quarter of the batters he faced between 2012 and 2015. His strikeout rate of 24.2% was 17th highest in baseball during that period. That excellent strikeout rate has dropped significantly this year, dropping all the way to 18.4%. Batters are chasing his pitches out of the zone less often and all of his secondary pitches have lost their effectiveness. He is running one of the lowest walk rates of his career so it’s not all doom and gloom, but without the strikeouts, he’s just a league average starter.

RHP Doug Fister

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

179

14.7%

7.9%

11.4%

45.3%

4.42

4.68

Pitches

Sinker

Cutter

Splitter

Slider

Curveball

87.7 mph;

60.7%

84.7 mph;

5.2%

79.8 mph;

6.8%

82.4 mph;

7.6%

71.1 mph;

14.7%

Fister PA

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. As the season has gone on, he’s raised his average fastball velocity from 86 mph to 87 mph. That slight increase in velocity has helped him recover some of his effectiveness but his FIP is still driven up by more walks and more home runs.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

x-Rangers

92-64

.590

-€”

W-L-W-W-L

Mariners

82-73

.529

9.5

L-W-W-L-W

Astros

82-74

.526

10.0

W-L-L-L-W

Angels

69-87

.442

23.0

W-W-W-W-L

Athletics

67-88

.432

24.5

L-L-L-L-W

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Blue Jays

86-69

.555

+1.5

W-L-W-W-W

Orioles

85-71

.545

-€”

L-L-W-W-W

Tigers

83-72

.535

1.5

W-W-W-L-L

Mariners

82-73

.529

2.5

L-W-W-L-W

Astros

82-74

.526

3.0

W-L-L-L-W

Both the Blue Jays and the Orioles were able to sweep their opponents over the weekend extending their lead in the Wild Card race. Now they face each other in Toronto to decide who will claim the first Wild Card spot. Since the Blue Jays already have a one and half game lead over the Orioles, the Mariners should be rooting for them to extend their lead and hope that they can catch the Orioles for the second Wild Card spot. Of course, if the Blue Jays lose this series, they have to travel to Boston to end the year, so there’s room for them to falter there too. The Tigers cooperated by losing their series against the Royals over the weekend. They’re hosting the Indians for four games to start the week. They’ve won just two games against Cleveland this year and must win to have any hope of staying in the race.