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Series Preview: Mariners (34-22) vs. Rays (28-27)

The Mariners wrap up their long homestand with a three-game series against the Rays.

Tampa Bay Rays v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Mariners bullpen was bound to have a bad game or two after a long stretch of excellence. It’s unfortunate that they ran into two of them in a row against the Rangers. The win to secure the series split was one of the more comfortable games in May, with the Mariners leading from the first inning on. They ended the month with a 17-10 record and an overall record of 34-22. Because the rest of the Wild Card contenders struggled in May, the Mariners have pushed their playoff odds over 40%. FiveThirtyEight uncharacteristically brings up the rear of the three major projection systems, giving them a 45% chance of securing the second Wild Card. FanGraphs (46%) and Baseball Prospectus (49%) are clustered pretty closely together ahead of that.

At a Glance

Rays Mariners
Rays Mariners
Game 1 Friday, June 1 | 7:10 pm
RHP Sergio Romo RHP Mike Leake
45% 55%
Game 2 Saturday, June 2 | 7:10 pm
RHP Chris Archer LHP Marco Gonzales
47% 53%
Game 3 Sunday, June 3 | 1:10 pm
LHP Blake Snell RHP Félix Hernández
50% 50%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Mariners Rays Edge
Overview Mariners Rays Edge
Batting (wRC+) 106 (6th in AL) 105 (7th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (UZR) -1.0 (10th) -0.2 (9th) Rays
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 99 (6th) 97 (5th) Rays
Bullpen (FIP-) 82 (4th) 97 (9th) Mariners

The recent deal between the Rays and the Mariners was a bit of a surprise. At the time the Rays were three games under .500 and behind four teams in the Wild Card race. But their record hid a team that was playing pretty good baseball. In the week since making the trade, they’ve pushed their record over .500 and have leapfrogged two teams in the standings. Acquiring pitching talent that’s close to the majors will certainly help them this year and into the future. Moore in particular could benefit from the Rays innovative “opener” strategy they’ve started employing the past few weeks.

Rays Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Brad Miller 1B L 160 0.319 100 -0.5
C.J. Cron DH R 239 0.313 125 0.7
Joey Wendle 2B L 163 0.362 110 0.5
Wilson Ramos C R 178 0.360 134 -3.6
Matt Duffy 3B R 172 0.390 107 -3.9
Mallex Smith CF L 186 0.357 103 2.0
Daniel Robertson SS R 182 0.317 139 1.4
Carlos Gómez RF R 177 0.240 73 0.8
Rob Refsnyder LF R 79 0.244 104 -1.8

The Rays haven’t scored that many runs, but almost everyone in their lineup has produced an above average, park adjusted offensive line. It’s anchored by a couple of underappreciated veterans in C.J. Cron and Wilson Ramos. Cron was acquired from the Angels during the offseason in an odd move that bumped Corey Dickerson from the roster. Cron has blossomed in Tampa but Dickerson has been just as good in Pittsburgh so it looks more like a move that gave them some minor cost savings. Daniel Robertson has emerged as their surprise breakout this season. Excellent plate discipline combined with decent power from the utility infielder gives him a profile similar to Ben Zobrist.

Probable Pitchers

Tampa Bay Rays v Oakland Athletics

RHP Sergio Romo

21 1/3 27.7% 9.9% 17.4% 36.7% 6.33 4.62

Sergio Romo has been the talk of the baseballing world for the past few weeks. As you’ve probably heard by now, the Rays have started employing him as an “opener” in lieu of a traditional starter. Since he has such strong platoon splits, there are clear benefits to starting the game off with him against lineups stacked with lots of right-handed batters. He’s started four games in the past two weeks, two against the Angels and two against the Orioles. He performed as expected against the Angels, holding Mike Trout and co. scoreless across two and a third innings. Against the Orioles, the experiment backfired at bit, as he allowed four runs in just an inning of work. The amazing thing is that he also converted a save the other day too. Austin Pruitt should follow Romo, though Vidal Nuño could also see some work too. Pruitt has decent command of his four pitch arsenal but has struggled to strikeout many out of the bullpen this season.

RHP Chris Archer

71 1/3 23.5% 8.1% 13.2% 42.8% 4.29 3.89

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 45.9% 95.4 2180 (-0.85) 84 101
Changeup 10.5% 88.1 1726 (-0.31) 116 95
Slider 43.3% 88.6 2555 (0.68) 116 108

After posting elite strikeout rates over the last three years, Chris Archer has had trouble replicating them this year. The whiff rates on his fastball have dropped significantly this season. With a limited repertoire, Archer needs every single whiff he can get. The average velocity on his pitches hasn’t discernably changed but opposing batters have had a much easier time making contact this year. And when they do make contact, they’re hitting his fastball very hard, to the tune of a .235 ISO. He’s never really gotten comfortable with his changeup so his repertoire is mostly limited to his fastball and slider. When one of those pitches isn’t working, his whole approach breaks down.

LHP Blake Snell

70 1/3 27.3% 8.3% 11.6% 40.1% 2.56 3.42

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 54.1% 96.1 2354 (1.00) 116 96
Changeup 17.7% 88.5 1778 (0.19) 101 90
Slider 11.4% 88.1 2366 (-0.07) 163 68
Curveball 16.8% 81.5 2465 (-0.25) 137 162

After struggling through a season and a half in the majors, Blake Snell finally realized his potential in the second half of last season. A mechanical adjustment helped him reign in his poor control. He posted an 8.0% walk rate after the All-Star break and has matched that rate early this season. He’s also posting the highest strikeout rate of his career. Both of his breaking balls generate elite whiff rates, though he limits the use of his slider to just left-handed batters. Against right-handed batters, he’ll use his excellent curveball and a decent changeup. With the adjustments he made last season and a dangerous arsenal, Snell looks like he’s on the verge of breaking into the elite tier of pitchers in the American League.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 36-22 0.621 -- L-W-L-L-W
Mariners 34-22 0.607 1.0 W-W-L-L-W
Angels 30-27 0.526 5.5 L-L-W-L-L
Athletics 29-28 0.509 6.5 W-L-L-L-W
Rangers 24-35 0.407 12.5 L-L-W-W-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Yankees 35-17 0.673 +3.0 L-W-L-W-W
Mariners 34-22 0.607 -- W-W-L-L-W
Angels 30-27 0.526 4.5 L-L-W-L-L
Rays 28-27 0.509 5.5 W-W-W-W-L
Athletics 29-28 0.509 5.5 W-L-L-L-W

The Angels didn’t have a very good week after losing a four-game series to the Tigers, wrapping up a 4-6 road trip. They return home this weekend, hosting the Rangers for a three-game series. The Astros lost their series in New York earlier this week but started off a four-game series against the Red Sox with a win last night. The Athletics staved off a four-game sweep by beating the Rays yesterday afternoon. They’ll travel to Kansas City this weekend.