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Series Preview: Mariners (27-19) at Athletics (25-22)

The Mariners make a quick trip down the coast for a three-game series in Oakland.

Oakland Athletics v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

The Mariners head into this series in possession of the second Wild Card spot, a game and a half ahead of the Angels. They’ve lost just three series all season and only one of those was on the road. Winning or splitting a series may seem like an arbitrary benchmark, but it’s a good indicator of resilience. It might feel better to string together a long winning streak but I think a steady stream of series wins is less volatile. The longest winning streak this team has put together this season was just four games long but they haven’t lost more than three in a row either. The way the Mariners are built, I doubt there will be many winning or losing streaks longer than that this year.

At a Glance

Mariners Athletics
Mariners Athletics
Game 1 Tuesday, May 22 | 7:05 pm
RHP Mike Leake RHP Trevor Cahill
47% 53%
Game 2 Wednesday, May 23 | 7:05 pm
LHP Marco Gonzales TBD
45% 55%
Game 3 Thursday, May 24 | 12:35 pm
RHP Félix Hernández TBD
47% 53%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Mariners Athletics Edge
Overview Mariners Athletics Edge
Batting (wRC+) 108 (3rd in AL) 108 (4th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (UZR) -4.8 (10th) 6.4 (3rd) Athletics
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 104 (8th) 104 (9th) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 90 (5th) 105 (12th) Mariners

The Athletics are coming off a very successful East Coast swing. They lost two of three in New York to start but then earned a series win in Boston and then swept the Blue Jays in four games over the weekend. That stretch has pushed their record to three games over .500 and they’re just a game behind the Angels in the standings.

They did lose two members of their rotation to injuries last week. Both Andrew Triggs and Brett Anderson were placed on the disabled list and their turns in the rotation will come up during this series against the Mariners. No official announcements have been made about their replacements but it’s likely Daniel Gossett and Kendall Graveman will be called up to make spot starts on Wednesday and Thursday.

Athletics Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Marcus Semien SS R 223 0.331 99 0.3
Matt Joyce LF L 157 0.236 99 -1.4
Jed Lowrie 2B S 203 0.366 156 -0.6
Matt Olson 1B L 190 0.314 105 -0.1
Matt Chapman 3B R 194 0.318 128 0.2
Mark Canha DH R 116 0.292 110 -0.2
Jonathan Lucroy C R 142 0.327 101 -2.5
Stephen Piscotty RF R 156 0.290 83 -1.7
Dustin Fowler CF L 34 0.200 90 0.2

The Athletics offense continues to fire on all cylinders, carrying the team through their road trip. They’ve scored six runs per game during their last ten games but will have to find a way to continue scoring without Khris Davis. He strained his groin on Sunday and it’s possible he’ll need a trip to the disabled list to recover. Even if he’s just day-to-day, it’s unlikely he’ll make much of an impact during this series. Mark Canha will likely take his spot at designated hitter for now. Canha was displaced from center field when the A’s called up one of their top prospects, Dustin Fowler. He was acquired from the Yankees in the Sonny Gray trade and has been recovering from a nasty knee injury he suffered in his major league debut last season. He’s got great speed and some pop in his bat but needs to refine his plate discipline to really make an impact.

Probable Pitchers

Oakland Athletics v Boston Red Sox

RHP Trevor Cahill

29 28.6% 6.3% 20.0% 61.4% 2.79 3.01

Pitch Arsenal

Pitch Type Frequency Velocity (mph) Spin Rate (z-score) Whiff+ BIP+
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity (mph) Spin Rate (z-score) Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 6.4% 92.9 2231 (0.02)
Sinker 36.1% 92.1 2242 (0.65) 113 119
Changeup 28.7% 85.2 1481 (-0.90) 159 135
Slider 13.8% 87.6 2219 (-0.46)
Curveball 14.9% 80.2 2977 (1.57)
*Cahill’s four-seam, slider, and curveball do not have large enough sample sizes for pitch arsenal scores.

After spending most of the previous two years in the bullpen, Trevor Cahill showed enough effectiveness for another shot at the starting rotation in San Diego last year. He thrived in 11 starts for the Padres before being sidelined with a shoulder injury. He was traded to the Royals before returning from the disabled list and was definitely not himself once he started pitching in Kansas City. Oakland signed him to a minor league deal this spring and he made his way back to the majors in mid-April. During his successful stretch with the Padres, Cahill was throwing his excellent curveball around a quarter of the time. He’s been able to generate whiff rates around 45% with that pitch and it’s become a true weapon for him. With Oakland, he’s actually turned to his changeup more often. With good reason too because he’s added an inch and half more drop to the pitch, increasing its whiff rate to the highest it’s been in his career. That added depth has also helped him keep the ball on the ground at an elite rate. The only question is whether or not he’ll be able to stay healthy.

Since the Athletics haven’t officially announced the starters for Wednesday and Thursday, I figured I’d quickly review the possible options they have in the minors. Daniel Gossett was scratched from his start on Monday so it’s likely he’ll be starting one of those two games. The former second-round pick has bounced between the majors and minors for the past two seasons. Last year, in 18 starts, he allowed a home run on a whopping one of every five fly balls. In Triple-A this year, he’s posted an excellent 26.9% strikeout rate to bolster his 1.63 ERA and his home run rate is a much more palatable 3.7% (against minor league competition).

The other candidate to start one of the two games is Kendall Graveman. The A’s Opening Day starter has fallen from grace quickly. He was sent to Triple-A to work on his stuff after allowing 28 runs and seven dingers in just 28 innings. The Mariners faced him back on April 14, scoring five runs on eight hits and two walks in just four innings.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 30-18 0.625 -- W-W-W-L-W
Mariners 27-19 0.587 2.0 L-L-W-W-W
Angels 26-21 0.553 3.5 L-L-L-L-W
Athletics 25-22 0.532 4.5 L-W-W-W-W
Rangers 18-31 0.367 12.5 L-W-L-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Red Sox 32-15 0.681 +4.5 W-W-L-W-W
Mariners 27-19 0.587 -- L-L-W-W-W
Angels 26-21 0.553 1.5 L-L-L-L-W
Athletics 25-22 0.532 2.5 L-W-W-W-W
Rays 22-23 0.489 4.5 W-W-W-W-L

In a battle of elite pitching staffs, the Astros took two of three from Cleveland over the weekend, pushing the AL Central leader’s record below .500. The Astros host the Giants for a pair of games before traveling to Cleveland for a rematch. The Angels barely managed to avoid a four-game sweep by the Rays, winning the last game of the series. They’ll travel to Toronto this week. The Rays had won six in a row before their loss on Sunday, pushing them into the fringes of the Wild Card race. They’ll host the Red Sox this week.