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Series Preview: Mariners (39-39) vs. Phillies (24-51)

The Mariners host the Phillies to complete their home-and-home interleague series.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

At a Glance

Phillies Mariners
Phillies Mariners
Game 1 Tuesday, June 26 | 7:10 pm
RHP Aaron Nola LHP James Paxton
31% 69%
Game 2 Wednesday, June 27 | 12:40 pm
RHP Mark Leiter Jr. RHP Felix Hernandez
34% 66%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Phillies Mariners Edge
Overview Phillies Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 85 (14th in NL) 105 (4th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (UZR) 6.6 (7th) 12.6 (2nd) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 109 (11th) 119 (14th) Phillies
Bullpen (FIP-) 106 (14th) 111 (13th) Phillies

Note: Text appearing in italics has appeared in a previous series preview.

Heading into the All-Star break, the Mariners will play just three games on the road and nine more at home. They’ll face the Phillies, the Angels, the Royals, and the Athletics—the worst team in the National League, two weak Wild Card contenders, and the last place team in the AL West. Winning is always important (duh) but this stretch is hugely important. Because after the All-Star break, the Mariners schedule gets very, very difficult. The Mariners face consecutive series against the Astros, the Yankees, and the Red Sox the week after the All-Star game and have just seven home games in all of August.

The last time the Mariners faced the Phillies, they scored 21 runs on their way to reaching .500 for the first time this season. Since that brief two-game series in Philadelphia, the Phillies have won just 11 games and now possess the worst record in the National League.

The Phillies:

After averaging a respectable 4.5 runs per game in April, the Phillies offense has completely dried up in the two months since then. In May and June, they’ve averaged just 3.5 runs per game and that’s the biggest reason for their misery. Promising youngsters like Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera have been mired in season long slumps. Their top prospect, shortstop J.P. Crawford, is posting just a 67 wRC+ in Triple-A this season. A year after taking some steps forward in their rebuild, the Phillies look like they’ve given back all of those gains and then some this year.

Key Players

LF Aaron Altherr – The lone bright spot among the Phillies youngsters, Altherr has posted a 126 wRC+, matching his breakout year in 2015. A wrist injury derailed his season last year but he looks fully recovered after struggling through his return towards the end of the season. He combines excellent power with decent speed giving him 20/20 upside. He’s increased his hard hit rate all the way up to 38.3% this year and that’s helped him post a BABIP of .348.

CF Odubel Herrera – One of the most successful Rule-5 selections ever, Odubel Herrera is a well-rounded centerfielder 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. As impressive as his season was a year ago, it’s been just as frustrating this year. He’s given up all of his plate discipline gains from last year, as his walk rate has dropped from 9.6% to just 4.9% and his strikeout rate has jumped up to 23.3%. He’s also a solid defensive centerfielder, 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.

SS Freddy Galvis – A 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 15.6% stirkeout 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

RHP Aaron Nola

58 1/3 22.5% 7.4% 13.7% 49.1% 4.32 3.79

Pitch Arsenal

Pitch Type Velocity (mph) Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Pitch Type Velocity (mph) Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Four-seam 92.9 28.7% 183 71 146
Sinker 92.1 25.4% 61 96 73
Changeup 84.1 15.0% 118 136 124
Curveball 77.8 31.0% 116 108 113

Aaron Nola has been one of the bright spots on the rebuilding Phillies. A first round draft pick in 2014, he quickly moved through the organization and made his major league debut a year later in 2015. He doesn’t possess overpowering stuff, instead he keeps hitters off balance with some impressive movement on all of his pitches. He throws his sinking fastball around 91-93 mph and can command it very well. His two secondary pitches are outliers as well. His curveball has the most horizontal movement of any curveball in the majors and his changeup drops more than almost any other changeup in the majors. He was unlucky to post such a high ERA last year, he only stranded 60% of the baserunners he allowed and his BABIP was an elevated .334. He missed around a month of this season with a back issue. Between his injury issues and a FIP that’s jumped up by almost a full run, this year hasn’t been as impressive. But Nola is still a key piece for the next great Phillies team.

RHP Mark Leiter Jr.

25 16.4% 14.4% 9.5% 53.5% 3.60 4.62

Pitch Arsenal

Pitch Type Velocity (mph) Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Pitch Type Velocity (mph) Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Four-seam 91.8 42.6% -1 140 46
Sinker 91.0 12.2% - - -
Cutter 88.8 5.4% - - -
Splitter 84.5 28.0% 80 97 86
Slider 82.9 8.0% - - -
Curveball 73.0 3.9% - - -
*Leiter’s sinker, cutter, slider, and curveball do not have large enough sample sizes for pitch arsenal scores.

The son of a former major league pitcher, Mark Leiter Jr. has worked his way through the Phillies organization after being drafted in the 22nd round back in 2013. He doesn’t possess overpowering stuff either, rather his repertoire is a smorgasbord of pitches that he can call on at any time. He mainly relies on a 90 mph fastball and a decent splitter. Both pitches are used to keep the ball on the ground and that’s been his one outstanding skill in the majors. In the minors, his walk rate was excellent but that command has escaped him this year. After spending the first half of the season in the bullpen, he made his first start of the year last week and held the Diamondbacks scoreless across six innings.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 52-25 0.675 -- W-W-L-W-W
Angels 41-39 0.513 12.5 W-L-W-W-W
Mariners 39-39 0.500 13.5 W-W-W-L-L
Rangers 38-38 0.500 13.5 W-L-W-W-L
Athletics 34-42 0.447 17.5 L-L-W-W-W

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Red Sox 42-33 0.553 +2.0 W-L-W-L-W
Twins 39-35 0.527 -- L-W-W-W-L
Rays 40-38 0.513 1.0 W-W-W-L-L
Angels 41-39 0.513 1.0 W-L-W-W-W
Mariners 39-39 0.500 2.0 W-W-W-L-L

The Rangers started off their series against the Indians with an embarrassing loss yesterday—after gaining a 9-2 lead, they allowed thirteen unanswered runs to take a 15-9 loss. The Angels continue to impress without the presence of Mike Trout, winning two of three from the Red Sox over the weekend and shutting out the Dodgers last night. The Astros host the Athletics for three games beginning tonight.