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Series Preview: Mariners (38-23) at Rays (28-32)

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The Mariners head to Tampa to face the Rays for the second time in a week.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Seattle Mariners Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

The MLB schedulers have developed a weird quirk the past few seasons. They’re scheduling both home and away series against a non-division opponent within a week of each other. It’s not uncommon to see divisional opponents that often, particularly in April or September, but I noticed it last year with the Twins. We saw it this year with the Tigers, and now the Rays, and will see it again with the Red Sox and the Rockies. It probably helps the Mariners scouting department as they’ll see some of the same matchups as they saw last weekend. For the fans, it might get a little stale. But then again, with the team playing so well and securing the sweep the last time these two teams faced each other, maybe it’s not such a bad thing.

At a Glance

Mariners Rays
Mariners Rays
Game 1 Thursday, June 7 | 4:10 pm
RHP Mike Leake RHP Ryne Stanek
52% 48%
Game 2 Friday, June 8 | 4:10 pm
LHP Marco Gonzales RHP Wilmer Font
52% 48%
Game 3 Saturday, June 9 | 1:10 pm
RHP Félix Hernández LHP Blake Snell
45% 55%
Game 4 Sunday, June 10 | 10:10 pm
LHP James Paxton RHP Nathan Eovaldi
56% 44%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Mariners Rays Edge
Overview Mariners Rays Edge
Batting (wRC+) 105 (6th in AL) 101 (7th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (UZR) -0.4 (10th) 0.9 (9th) Rays
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 98 (7th) 94 (5th) Rays
Bullpen (FIP-) 80 (3rd) 95 (8th) Mariners

The biggest change for the Rays since last weekend is Chris Archer’s injury. He aggravated an abdominal injury in his start on Saturday and was placed on the disabled list a few days later. That means half of the pitching matchups repeat themselves from last weekend (with Ryne Stanek replacing Sergio Romo ahead of Austin Pruitt). Earning a four-game sweep on the road would be incredibly difficult, but the Rays have lost six in a row now. They were above .500 when they played in Seattle but are now sitting four games under .500 and are slipping further back in the Wild Card race.

Rays Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Mallex Smith CF L 204 0.343 90 0.8
C.J. Cron DH R 260 0.296 118 -0.2
Joey Wendle 2B L 182 0.354 99 0.3
Wilson Ramos C R 196 0.336 118 -4.6
Matt Duffy 3B R 192 0.384 106 -3.7
Daniel Robertson SS R 199 0.327 135 0.9
Brad Miller 1B L 174 0.343 107 -0.5
Carlos Gómez RF R 196 0.229 70 0.0
Johnny Field LF R 119 0.301 101 0.5

The Rays will be reportedly calling up Jake Bauers on Thursday. He’s one of their best hitting prospects and should slot in at first base. That could mean the end of the Brad Miller era in Tampa—though the corresponding roster move has yet to be announced. Miller doesn’t really have a place on the roster with Bauers being left-handed, C. J. Cron providing right-handed power, and Joey Wendle impressing at second base. I guess it’s possible Miller moves into a utility role but he’s also one of the highest paid players on the roster right now (at just $4 million).

Probable Pitchers

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Seattle Mariners

RHP Austin Pruitt

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
36 1/3 13.5% 5.4% 10.0% 50.8% 4.21 4.19

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 46.0% 92.6 2321 (0.70) 75 77
Changeup 11.6 86.6 1860 (0.39)
Slider 27.4% 88.7 2632 (1.09) 63 99
Curveball 15.1% 83.8 2931 (2.44)
Pruitt’s changeup and curveball do not have large enough sample sizes for pitch arsenal scores.

Instead of opening with Sergio Romo like we saw in Seattle, the Rays will call on Ryne Stanek as their “starter” on Thursday. Stanek is a little miscast as an opener as he looks like one of the better relievers left in the Rays bullpen. He’s racked up strikeouts at a 30% clip over more than 30 innings in the majors, though he’s also paired that with some ugly walk rates. He’s opened twice for the Rays this year and has allowed two runs over three innings. Austin Pruitt will follow Stanek and will eat most of the innings like he did last Friday. The Mariners scored three times off seven hits against Pruitt in his five innings of “relief.”


RHP Matt Andriese

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
35 1/3 25.5% 4.3% 12.1% 46.9% 3.31 3.14

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 47.7% 93.2 2423 (1.28) 140 98
Changeup 39.9% 86.7 2166 (1.71) 110 104
Slider 6.8% 86.8 2484 (0.79)
Curveball 5.6% 81.4 2635 (0.36)
Andriese’s slider and curveball do not have large enough sample sizes for pitch arsenal scores.

With Chris Archer headed to the disabled list with a strained abdomen, the Rays will use a partnership of Wilmer Font and Matt Andriese on Friday night. Font is already pitching for his third team this season, spending time with the Dodgers and the Athletics before being claimed by the Rays a few weeks ago. He put together an outstanding season in Triple-A last year and his arsenal is intriguing enough to continue to get chances in the majors. But he just can’t continue allowing more than a run per inning. Almost all of the damage against him has come off the home run as almost a third of the hits he’s allowed this season have left the park.

Matt Andriese has thrived under the Rays opening strategy. Without a consistent breaking ball, he’s benefitted from controlled exposure to an opposing lineup. He relies primarily on a rising fastball and an excellent changeup and that combination of pitches has given him a bit of a backwards platoon split. And by reducing the usage of his breaking balls, he’s cut his walk rate almost in half while pushing his strikeout rate higher than ever.


LHP Blake Snell

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
76 1/3 29.5% 7.7% 11.4% 41.6% 2.36 3.07

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% 96.2 2352 (0.99) 112 100
Changeup 17.2% 88.5 1777 (0.18) 102 88
Slider 12.2% 88.2 2363 (-0.08) 158 71
Curveball 16.5% 81.6 2465 (-0.25) 147 162

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.

Snell completely dominated the Mariners last Sunday, collecting 12 strikeouts over six, scoreless innings. He allowed just two baserunners.


RHP Nathan Eovaldi

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
11 20.0% 5.0% 9.1% 53.3% 3.27 3.39

Nathan Eovaldi has made his way back to the majors after undergoing Tommy John surgery a couple of years ago. Back when he was with the Yankees, his average fastball velocity reached almost 98 miles per hour. That same big velocity is back in his two starts for the Rays this season. The problem is he doesn’t have much in the way of secondary pitches to work off his fastball. He had introduced a splitter into his repertoire before injuring his elbow. That pitch showed some promise and he’s throwing it around 20% of the time this season. His breaking balls are not quality pitches however. With just two reliable pitches, he might be better off getting the same treatment as Matt Andriese. For now, the Rays will trot him out as a traditional starter.


The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Mariners 38-23 0.623 -- W-W-W-W-L
Astros 38-25 0.603 1.0 W-L-L-L-W
Angels 35-28 0.555 4.0 L-W-W-W-W
Athletics 31-31 0.500 7.5 W-L-W-L-L
Rangers 27-37 0.422 12.5 L-W-L-W-W

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Yankees 40-18 0.690 +4.5 W-W-L-W-W
Astros 38-25 0.603 -- W-L-L-L-W
Angels 35-28 0.555 3.0 L-W-W-W-W
Athletics 31-31 0.500 6.5 W-L-W-L-L
Rays 28-32 0.467 8.5 L-L-L-L-L

Because of the draft on Monday, most teams had that day off with two-game series following during the week. The Angels were one of the few teams to play a three-game series this week and they swept away the Royals at home. They’re off today and travel to Minnesota this weekend for a three-game series. The Astros make the short trek across Texas to face the Rangers for four games over the weekend. The Rangers are coming off a two-game sweep of the Athletics.