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Series Preview: Mariners (46-29) at Red Sox (50-26)

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The Mariners continue their East Coast road trip with a stop in Boston

Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

One of the more impressive aspects of the Mariners season so far has been their ability to avoid long losing streaks—until now that is. The longest streak before this one was a three-game swoon in April when the Astros were in town. Besides that, the Mariners have shown a remarkable ability to bounce back after tough losses. With two extremely close losses to close out their series in New York, they need to show that resilience now. The schedule lightens up a bit after this series in Boston, but first, they have to take care of business against the Wild Card leaders.

At a Glance

Mariners Red Sox
Mariners Red Sox
Game 1 Friday, June 22 | 4:10 pm
LHP Wade LeBlanc RHP Steven Wright
42% 58%
Game 2 Saturday, June 23 | 4:15 pm
RHP Mike Leake LHP Eduardo Rodríguez
39% 61%
Game 3 Sunday, June 24 | 10:05 pm
LHP Marco Gonzales LHP Chris Sale
34% 66%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Mariners Red Sox Edge
Overview Mariners Red Sox Edge
Batting (wRC+) 106 (5th in AL) 109 (3rd in AL) Red Sox
Fielding (UZR) -0.1 (11th) 8.6 (6th) Red Sox
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 99 (5th) 86 (2nd) Red Sox
Bullpen (FIP-) 90 (5th) 81 (3rd) Red Sox

The series against the Red Sox last weekend was unsurprisingly close. Three one-run games, including a late comeback in one of them, shows just how closely these two teams matchup. If you think about these seven games between these two teams like a playoff series, the four-game split is a pretty good start for the Mariners. Unfortunately, the Mariners draw Chris Sale in their game on Sunday and the Red Sox manage to avoid facing James Paxton for a second time. In between these two series, the Red Sox lost two of three to the Twins in Minnesota.

Red Sox Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Mookie Betts RF R 256 0.331 199 2.6
Andrew Benintendi LF L 323 0.316 144 3.0
J.D. Martinez DH R 308 0.358 170 -1.3
Mitch Moreland 1B L 215 0.326 140 -2.5
Xander Bogaerts SS R 259 0.307 128 0.7
Rafael Devers 3B L 302 0.283 83 3.0
Eduardo Núñez 2B R 261 0.286 66 -5.0
Christian Vázquez C R 187 0.238 43 -1.1
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF L 248 0.235 57 2.7

The Mariners managed to keep Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez relatively quiet last weekend. Most of the damage was done by Xander Bogaerts. He’s shown spurts of brilliance in his young career, but it seems like he’s finally put everything together this year. He’s hitting for more power than ever before, at the cost of his strikeout-to-walk ratio, but that increased offensive output certainly offsets a higher strikeout rate. With two left-handed starters scheduled in this series, it’s probable the Mariners will avoid seeing too much of Mitch Moreland too. He’s usually replaced by Blake Swihart, and significant step down offensively and defensively.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Steven Wright

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
36 2/3 20.3% 12.6% 3.4% 55.9% 1.23 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 9.0% 83.4 1791 (-1.73)
Knuckleball! 87.9% 75.4 N/A (???) 99 119
*Wright’s four-seamer does not have a large enough sample size for pitch arsenal scores.

The last of a dying breed, Steven Wright’s knuckleball continues to befuddle opposing batters. He lost most of last year to a knee injury and there were a lot of questions surrounding him entering this season. His health was still up in the air and it looked like he was the sixth or seventh starter on the Red Sox depth chart. But more importantly, he was suspended for a domestic violence arrest over the offseason. He served his time, and continued his rehab and rejoined the Red Sox in mid-May. Since then, he’s compiled a 25 inning scoreless streak which was snapped by the Mariners in his last start.

Wright allowed just one run in seven innings in his last start against the Mariners, but was outdueled by Wade LeBlanc. He allowed seven baserunners and struck out four. Based on his recent results, it seems like he’s got a good feel for his knuckleball but the Mariners should benefit from seeing him just a week ago.


LHP Eduardo Rodríguez

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
77 2/3 27.3% 7.3% 11.8% 41.5% 3.59 3.49

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 43.4% 93.7 2193 (-0.36) 145 92
Sinker 6.4% 93.7 2149 (-0.07)
Cutter 15.5% 89.7 2253 (-0.52) 71 124
Changeup 22.6% 88.0 2091 (1.30) 142 101
Slider 12.1% 85.7 2280 (-0.17) 74 44
*Rodríguez’s sinker does not have a large enough sample size for pitch arsenal scores.

A recurring knee injury looms large in Eduardo Rodríguez’s career. He’s lost time the last two seasons to the injury but he’s stayed fully healthy this season. And it’s been a bit of a breakout season for him too. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is the highest it’s ever been and his ERA and FIP have dropped to career bests. He’s introduced a cutter into his repertoire this year at the expense of his fastball. That may seem odd considering the excellent whiff rate he generates with his fastball but it’s given him a fourth pitch to keep opposing batters off balance. His cutter has also helped him increase his ground ball rate by seven points. His best pitch is his changeup and gets a swinging strike with the pitch over 40% of the time batters offer at it.

Rodríguez was clinical against the Mariners last weekend. He used his entire arsenal well to earn nine strikeouts in just six innings. He did allow two runs, including a mammoth Nelson Cruz home run, but he never seemed to let the game get away from him.


LHP Chris Sale

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
102 34.6% 6.7% 11.8% 43.8% 2.74 2.65

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 37.5% 95.4 2324 (0.15) 170 93
Sinker 14.1% 92.8 2188 (0.47) 189 102
Changeup 16.1% 87.7 2038 (1.27) 139 151
Slider 32.4% 80.2 2469 (1.26) 123 102

It’s hard to believe Chris Sale has yet to win a Cy Young award. He came close last season, but fell short against the Klubot. But make no mistake, last season Sale was better than ever. He upped his strikeout rate to a career high 36.2% and posted a career low FIP on his way to accumulating 7.7 fWAR. He hasn’t been as good this year—it’s hard to match a career best season—but he’s still clearly one of the best pitchers on the planet. Maybe the most remarkable thing about him has been his durability. He’s made only two trips to the disabled list in his career, and both were for minor injuries. Just looking at his mechanics, you’d expect him to be a little more fragile. His extreme sidearm delivery and lanky body recall a young Randy Johnson. That’s not a terrible comp for his pitch arsenal either. You know about the wipeout slider and the hard fastball. But Sale gets nearly as many whiffs per swing with his changeup as he does with his slider. His pitch repertoire is absolutely incredible. With his funky sidearm delivery, the horizontal and vertical movement he generates on all of his pitches is extreme—over two standard deviations more movement than the average for each pitch type.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 50-26 0.658 -- W-W-W-L-W
Mariners 46-29 0.613 3.5 W-L-L-L-L
Angels 40-35 0.527 10.0 L-L-L-W-W
Athletics 38-36 0.514 11.0 L-W-W-W-W
Rangers 32-44 0.421 18.0 W-W-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 50-26 0.658 +3.5 L-W-L-L-W
Mariners 46-29 0.613 -- W-L-L-L-L
Angels 40-35 0.527 6.5 L-L-L-W-W
Athletics 38-36 0.514 7.5 L-W-W-W-W
Tigers 36-39 0.480 10.0 W-W-W-L-L

The Astros had their 12-game winning streak snapped on Tuesday, losing to the Rays 2-1. They won the series anyway and start a three-game set against the Royals tonight. The Angels split a two-game series against the Diamondbacks earlier this week and started off a four-game series against the Blue Jays with a win last night. They’re just six games back in the Wild Card race now, as they made up some ground during the Mariners losing streak.