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Series Preview: Mariners (56-32) vs. Rockies (44-43)

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

New York Mets v Colorado Rockies Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

With their latest series win against the Angels, the Mariners have pushed the gap between them to 12 games. They’ll play each other six more times this month, all of them in Anaheim. In the meantime, the Mariners will face one of their interleague rivals six times. With the unbalanced interleague schedule, the annual Seattle-San Diego series is a thing of the past. In its place is a rotating “rivalry” of the Rockies, the Diamondbacks, and the Padres. The Mariners played the Rockies four times last year and will play them more than any other National League opponent this year.

At a Glance

Rockies Mariners
Rockies Mariners
Game 1 Friday, July 6 | 7:10 pm
RHP German Márquez RHP Félix Hernández
41% 59%
Game 2 Saturday, July 7 | 1:10 pm
LHP Kyle Freeland LHP James Paxton
37% 63%
Game 3 Sunday, July 8 | 1:10 pm
RHP Antonio Senzatela LHP Wade LeBlanc
40% 60%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Mariners Rockies Edge
Overview Mariners Rockies Edge
Batting (wRC+) 108 (5th in AL) 89 (15th in NL) Mariners
Fielding (UZR) 2.5 (10th) -4.5 (9th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 96 (5th) 96 (5th) Rockies
Bullpen (FIP-) 89 (5th) 102 (12th) Mariners

The extreme parity in the National League means the Rockies are will within reach of both their division and a Wild Card spot. They held the division lead as recently as a month ago but a poor stretch of play in June has pushed them into third place in the NL West. With so many teams vying for every playoff slot in the National League, the path to the postseason for the Rockies is pretty murky. They’re not exactly in a position to buy but they’re close enough that selling doesn’t really make sense either.

A surprise Wild Card berth last season led them to spend a ton of money upgrading their bullpen this offseason. They brought in Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw and resigned Jake McGee for a total outlay of $106 million spread across three-years. Unfortunately, their bullpen hasn’t been a strength for them. The revitalization of Adam Ottavino has given them some support, but McGee and Shaw have posted a combined 6.65 ERA. Davis has been passable as their closer but hasn’t been able to replicate the dominance he showed in Chicago or Kansas City.

Rockies Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
DJ LeMahieu 2B R 290 0.304 91 -1.0
Charlie Blackmon CF L 366 0.306 105 -1.5
Nolan Arenado 3B R 356 0.333 149 -1.1
Carlos González RF L 244 0.327 81 1.1
Trevor Story SS R 370 0.341 116 -0.2
Gerardo Parra LF L 265 0.352 92 0.7
Ian Desmond 1B R 332 0.244 80 -0.4
Chris Iannetta C R 203 0.304 94 -1.4

The biggest problem for the Rockies is their offense. Their home ballpark hides a pretty weak lineup that’s exposed on the road. At home, they’re scoring 5.25 runs per game but that mark drops to 4.17 on the road. Nolan Arenado seems to be the only batter capable of thriving no matter where he’s hitting. He’s posting his best offensive season this year, hitting for more power, and walking more often than ever before. His supporting cast hasn’t been as impressive. Charlie Blackmon has always benefitted from the Coors Field effect, but this year, he’s struggling to hit at home. That’s had a huge impact on his overall production.

Probable Pitchers

Colorado Rockies v Los Angeles Dodgers

RHP German Márquez

91 23.0% 8.7% 16.3% 43.1% 5.14 4.49

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 48.8% 96.0 2205 (-0.45) 102 99
Sinker 8.1% 94.5 2147 (-0.74) 67 155
Changeup 7.6% 86.4 1737 (-0.04) 54 83
Slider 14.8% 85.7 2180 (-0.62) 120 125
Curveball 20.7% 81.3 2630 (0.27) 119 61

With the Rockies pitching staff, context is king. Because of the extreme nature of their home ballpark, simply looking at an unadjusted pitcher slash line can only provide so much information. For German Márquez, his park and league adjusted xFIP sits just under league average. A pretty decent strikeout-to-walk ratio is the main reason behind that, though even that stat is a little misleading. After adjusting for their extreme park factors, the next step is to look at home/away splits. And Márquez excels away from Coors Field. His home-run-per-fly-ball rate drops to just 12.8% on the road and his strikeout-to-walk ratio gets even better. With a pair of excellent breaking balls and a fastball that can reach up to 99 mph, his repertoire definitely plays up away from the thin air in Denver.

LHP Kyle Freeland

105 1/3 19.5% 7.7% 11.8% 49.2% 3.25 3.98

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% 92.3 2246 (0.26) 78 128
Sinker 14.4% 91.2 2210 (0.51) 66 134
Changeup 13.6% 86.4 1410 (-1.38) 99 84
Slider 24.8% 85.9 2221 (-0.33) 116 111
Curveball 9.8% 81.9 2239 (-1.15) 95 112

Kyle Freeland possesses the type of repertoire that should play well in Coors Field. He relies on a mid-90s sinker and a breaking ball that’s a little more cutter-ish than slider. Both pitches generate ground ball contact at an above average rate helping him keep the ball in the park. The unfortunate side effect is a lack of whiffs and a correspondingly low strikeout rate. But with good command and a little batted ball luck, Freeland has been able to succeed in Colorado despite his modest repertoire. Like the rest of the Rockies pitching staff, Freeland significantly benefits from pitching away from home. His home-run-per-fly-ball rate drops to 8.6% and his walk rate drops three points to 6.4%. That’s helped him post a 2.89 road ERA backed by a 3.46 FIP.

RHP Antonio Senzatela

24 1/3 17.1% 5.7% 8.3% 54.4% 4.44 3.55

Pitch Repertoire

Pitch Type Frequency Velocity (mph) Spin Rate (z-score) Whiff+ BIP+
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity (mph) Spin Rate (z-score) Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 67.7% 95.3 2148 (-1.08) 103 132
Slider 25.2% 84.5 2200 (-0.79) 80 122
Curveball 3.7% 79.2 2356 (-0.51)
Senzatela’s curveball does not have a large enough sample size for pitch arsenal scores.

Antonio Senzatela made the jump from Double-A to the majors last season, splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen. With a two-pitch repertoire, he’s probably stretched a little too thin as a starter. But he gets the most out of those two pitches, a sinking four-seam fastball and a slider. Like Freeland, he generates a ton of ground ball contact and manages to limit walks fairly well. His slider plays up away from Coors Field, getting a little more break away from the thin air. That translates to more whiffs on the road and a higher strikeout rate. With Jon Gray demoted to Triple-A for some baffling reason, Senzatela has been inserted back into the Rockies rotation. His first start of the year was a gem, as he threw seven scoreless inning against the Giants at home, allowing just three hits and striking out four.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 58-31 0.652 -- L-L-W-W-W
Mariners 56-32 0.636 1.5 W-W-W-L-W
Athletics 48-39 0.552 9.0 W-W-L-W-W
Angels 44-44 0.500 13.5 W-L-L-W-L
Rangers 39-49 0.443 18.5 W-L-L-L-W

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Yankees 56-28 0.667 +2.0 L-W-L-W-W
Mariners 56-32 0.636 -- W-W-W-L-W
Athletics 48-39 0.552 7.5 W-W-L-W-W
Angels 44-44 0.500 12.0 W-L-L-W-L
Rays 43-43 0.500 12.0 W-W-L-W-L

While the Mariners are playing the Rockies, the Angels are “hosting” the Dodgers over the weekend. The Astros swept a brief two-game series against the Rangers and won the first game in a four-game series against the White Sox. They’ve now won three straight after losing three straight last weekend, but each of those three wins has been extremely close. The Athletics swept their two-game series against the Padres and will travel to Cleveland this weekend, hoping to keep pace with the Mariners and the Astros.