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Series Preview: Mariners (15-17) at Phillies (13-17)

The Mariners make a rare trip to Philadelphia for a brief two-game series.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

At a Glance:

Mariners Phillies
Mariners Phillies
Game 1 Tuesday, May 9 | 4:05 pm
LHP Ariel Miranda RHP Jerad Eickhoff
52% 48%
Game 2 Wednesday, May 10 | 10:05 am
RHP Yovani Gallardo RHP Zach Eflin
55% 45%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Mariners (2017) Phillies (2017) Edge
Overview Mariners (2017) Phillies (2017) Edge
Batting (wRC+) 112 (3rd in AL) 96 (6th in NL) Mariners
Fielding (UZR) 4.7 (5th) 11.0 (1st) Phillies
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 99 (6th) 109 (12th) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 107 (11th) 122 (15th) Mariners

The Mariners are slowly but surely working their way up the standings. Running a 10-5 record at home definitely helps, but they’re also 5-12 on the road. This would be a great time to turn those road woes around. Beginning with this brief layover in Philadelphia, the Mariners play thirteen games in a row, six on the road and seven at home. They’ll end the month of May with a long road trip against some of the best teams in baseball so padding their record during this stretch is paramount. Luckily, the Mariners will face the rebuilding Phillies and the crumbling Blue Jays this week.

With James Paxton, Felix Hernandez, and Mitch Haniger all expected to return during the next homestand or soon thereafter, the Mariners have some reinforcements on the horizon. Until then, the offense will have to carry this patchwork pitching staff. That should be no problem. Even with the slow start during the first road trip of the year, the Mariners offense has been the third best in the league, behind the Yankees and the Astros.

The Phillies:

After a long run of dominance that included five postseason appearances and a World Series championship, the Phillies have been in the midst of a long rebuilding process. Gone are franchise icons like Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Chase Utley. In their place are a new generation of youngsters like Odubel Herrera, Maikel Franco, and Aaron Nola. They’re making some progress forward and they still have a few prospect that have yet to make an impact at the major league level, but they’re also relying on stopgap contributions from too many veteran players. The Phillies will travel to Seattle in late June to complete this split home-and-home series.

Key Players

CF Odubel HerreraOne of the most successful Rule-5 selections ever, Odubel Herrera is a well-rounded center fielder entering his third year as a member of the Phillies. Last year, he posted an impressive .286/.361/.420 slash line with 15 home runs, replicating his overall production from 2015. He was able to increase his walk rate by four points and added a little more pop to his offensive game last year. The 25-year-old left-hander will spray line drives and ground balls to all fields, helping him post a solid BABIP, but his tendency to hit to the opposite field will limit his power potential. He’s also a solid defensive center fielder, sporting a 7.7 UZR/150 for his career. His speed and high career BABIP, paired with a little pop, make him a desirable leadoff option for the Phillies.

2B Cesar HernandezSince entering the majors in 2013, Cesar Hernandez has steadily improved his production as a hitter. The soon-to-be 27-year-old second baseman posted a career high 108 wRC+ last season. His walk rate has increased every season he’s played in the majors, while his strikeout rate dropped to a career low in 2016. Much of his improvements came after a midseason benching in June of last year. Since then, he’s posted a .319/.404/.441 slash line with an excellent walk rate and some added pop in his bat. Although his strikeout rate has jumped a bit this year and his walk rate has fallen a little, Hernandez is running a career best .163 ISO through 138 plate appearances.

SS Freddy GalvisA massive jump in power last season didn’t yield a higher wRC+ for Freddy Galvis. Even after mashing a career-high 20 dingers in 2016, the 27-year-old shortstop posted a 74 wRC+, three points lower than his 2015 mark. If you thought his newfound power was a mirage, his ISO is even higher this year. However, his plate discipline stats have limited his output. His 4.7% career walk rate doesn’t look good next to a career strikeout rate of 19.1%. That said, he’s running a 16.5% strikeout rate this season, a noticeable improvement over last season. He was a two-win player in 2017, and could see that number jump if his plate discipline continues to improve.

Probable Pitchers

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Chicago Cubs

RHP Jerad Eickhoff

36 21.7% 8.6% 6.1% 37.5% 4.00 3.33

Pitch Arsenal

Pitch Type Velocity (mph) Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Pitch Type Velocity (mph) Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Four-seam 91.4 31.3% 89 84 87
Sinker 91.4 19.6% 65 148 93
Changeup 84.7 5.3% - - -
Slider 84.7 16.7% 88 19 65
Curveball 76.8 27.1% 110 85 102
*Eickhoff’s changeup does not have a large enough sample size for pitch arsenal scores.

Jerad Eickhoff is a great example of a pitcher who makes the most of every piece of his pitch arsenal. He doesn’t possess much velocity with his four-seam fastball but it gets enough “rise” to generate an excellent pop-up rate. His batted ball profile skews towards fly balls but he’s able to generate an above average number of ground balls with his sinker to help him get out of trouble with baserunners on. Both his slider and his curveball generate healthy amounts of whiffs, with his curveball being the better of the two breaking pitches. His control is good enough to run an above average walk rate. It all adds up to a pitcher whose league adjusted FIP is around 10% better than league average. With Aaron Nola, Eickhoff provides some solid pieces for the Phillies to build their rotation around.

RHP Zach Eflin

26 11.8% 2.9% 9.4% 48.2% 2.42 4.27
*None of Eflin’s pitches have a large enough sample size for pitch arsenal scores.

Zach Eflin is a pitcher built in the Martin Perez mold—a sinker-baller who has enough control to run an above average walk rate but doesn’t strike anyone out. Where Perez mixes in a good changeup with all of his sinkers, Eflin simply relies on his sinker. He possesses a changeup that looks like his sinker in shape but batters have not been fooled by it. He also throws a slider and a curveball but neither pitch is outstanding. Without dominant stuff, he has to rely on good batted ball luck to stay successful. So far this season, he’s had luck on his side. His BABIP is a miniscule .198 and he’s stranded more than 80% of the runners he’s allowed this season.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 21-11 0.656 -- W-L-W-L-W
Angels 16-18 0.471 6.0 L-L-W-L-L
Athletics 15-17 0.469 6.0 W-L-W-W-W
Mariners 15-17 0.469 6.0 W-W-L-W-W
Rangers 13-20 0.394 8.5 W-W-L-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Orioles 21-10 0.677 +4.0 W-W-W-W-W
Red Sox 17-14 0.548 -- W-L-L-W-W
Twins 15-14 0.517 1.0 W-L-W-L-L
White Sox 15-15 0.500 1.5 L-W-L-L-L
Tigers 15-15 0.500 1.5 W-L-W-L-L

The Astros were able to hold off the Angels over the weekend despite some late game drama. By taking two of three from Los Angeles, the Astros increased their lead in the division to six games. They’ll host the Braves in a brief two-game series before heading to New York for a showdown between the two best teams in the American League. The Athletics have had their share of late game drama as well, winning three walk-offs in a row, the latest one against the Angels. The AL Central—and the Wild Card race—is beginning to shake itself out. The Twins, the White Sox, and the Tigers all lost their series over the weekend. The Twins travel to Chicago to take on their division rival while the Tigers travel to Arizona.