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Series Preview: Mariners (63-45) vs. Blue Jays (48-59)

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The Mariners host the Blue Jays—and all of Canada—for four-games this weekend.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Oakland Athletics John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time since May 17, the Mariners do not hold a playoff spot outright. They enter play today in a virtual tie with the Athletics. It’s as much a result of the Mariners prolonged slump as it is the brilliance of the Athletics over the last few months. They’ll play each other 10 times in the next two months. No matter what happens in the other 40-ish games they’ll play, those 10 games will likely determine the winner of the second Wild Card spot.

At a Glance

Blue Jays Mariners
Blue Jays Mariners
Game 1 Thursday, August 2 | 7:10 pm
TBD RHP Félix Hernández
44% 56%
Game 2 Friday, August 3 | 7:10 pm
LHP Ryan Borucki LHP Marco Gonzales
41% 59%
Game 3 Saturday, August 4 | 7:10 pm
RHP Marco Estrada LHP James Paxton
37% 63%
Game 4 Sunday, August 5 | 1:10 pm
RHP Sam Gaviglio RHP Mike Leake
40% 60%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Mariners Blue Jays Edge
Overview Mariners Blue Jays Edge
Batting (wRC+) 102 (8th in AL) 98 (9th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (UZR) -2.9 (11th) -19.2 (14th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 98 (6th) 104 (8th) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 90 (4th) 103 (12th) Mariners

After going 10-13 in July with the least number of runs scored in the majors, the Mariners begin August with a four-game set against the Blue Jays. Like so many of the other middle-class teams in the American League, the Blue Jays have endured their share of bad injury luck and poor performance, pushing them lower and lower in the standings. They entered the year with decent odds to challenge for the second Wild Card spot but quickly saw those odds dwindle to 0% by the beginning of July.

Like the Rangers and the Angels, they were in a weird position at the trade deadline where they weren’t exactly sellers. Sure, they moved J.A. Happ and a number of their relievers, but they also have enough talent on the roster to believe they can just retool this coming offseason. Their biggest looming problem is what to do with Josh Donaldson. He’s a free agent after this season but has dealt with a variety of lower body injuries this season. It’s possible he’ll be an August waiver trade candidate.

Blue Jays Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Curtis Granderson RF L 302 0.313 107 -3.2
Randal Grichuk CF R 272 0.240 100 0.0
Justin Smoak 1B S 419 0.305 127 -6.8
Kendrys Morales DH S 319 0.293 108 -1.6
Yangervis Solarte 3B S 445 0.238 86 -6.7
Teoscar Hernández LF R 372 0.296 107 -0.7
Russell Martin C R 281 0.224 91 -2.8
Aledmys Díaz SS R 274 0.248 87 -1.0
Brandon Drury 2B R 74 0.208 43 -1.7

After an extremely slow start to the year, Kendrys Morales has completely turned his season around the last two months. In June and July, he posted a 141 wRC+. He hasn’t really made any adjustments, he’s just finally being rewarded for posting one of the highest hard hit rates in the majors (55.8%). The last time the Mariners faced the Blue Jays, Teoscar Hernández was in the midst of a breakout. His production has slowed down significantly since then. The first two months of the season, he was running a strikeout rate around 22% but it’s jumped up over 30% in the summer months. He managed to post a 130 wRC+ in June because of a .375 BABIP but he cratered in July.

Probable Pitchers

LHP Ryan Borucki

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
35 18.3% 7.2% 0.0% 45.5% 2.83 2.51

Pitch Arsenal

Pitch Type Frequency Velocity (mph) Spin Rate (z-score) Whiff+ BIP+
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity (mph) Spin Rate (z-score) Whiff+ BIP+
Sinker 60.7% 92.2 2247 (0.70) 72 116
Changeup 25.2% 84.0 2064 (1.48) 132 101
Slider 14.2% 77.4 2253 (0.01)
Borucki’s slider does not have a large enough sample size for pitch arsenal scores.

Despite a lengthy injury history that includes a Tommy John surgery almost immediately after being drafted out of high school in 2012, Ryan Borucki has burst into the majors with six solid starts for the Blue Jays. Mostly healthy for the past few years, he jumped from High-A to Triple-A last year and made his major league debut in late June. His calling card is a nasty changeup with tons of arm-side run to it. Opposing batters are whiffing 37.8% of the time they swing at it, fifth highest mark from a left-handed starter. He limits the usage of his changeup almost exclusively to right-handed batters, leaving him a sinker and slider to deal with lefties. Neither pitch is nearly as good as his change, though he hasn’t run a reverse platoon split like you might expect with his repertoire.


RHP Marco Estrada

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
93 2/3 17.6% 7.1% 9.9% 25.3% 4.90 4.79

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 50.5% 89.5 2317 (0.85) 109 94
Cutter 6.4% 86.0 2524 (1.20) 111 38
Changeup 36.2% 77.7 2025 (0.14) 106 112
Slider 6.9% 77.6 2598 (0.46) 11 180

During the offseason, Marco Estrada opened up about his struggles last year. He had posted a 3.38 FIP through May but the stress and uncertainty of the upcoming trade deadline derailed the rest of his season. That’s a refreshingly honest look at the ups and downs players deal with throughout the season. This year, Estrada has been plagued by a completely different set of problems. He’s lost the feel for his changeup at times, which means he’s had to lean on his four-seam fastball more often. That’s not ideal since his fastball is so home run prone. He needs both pitches working to really survive. With an ineffective changeup, his strikeout rate has also dropped to the lowest it’s been since his rookie year in 2008.


RHP Sam Gaviglio

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
72 1/3 20.9% 7.5% 17.3% 48.2% 5.10 4.81

Pitch Arsenal

Pitch Type Frequency Velocity (mph) Spin Rate (z-score) Whiff+ BIP+
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity (mph) Spin Rate (z-score) Whiff+ BIP+
Sinker 58.9% 88.8 2317 (1.04) 84 115
Changeup 10.0% 83.2 2025 (1.18) 84 111
Slider 25.7% 83.5 2524 (1.17) 117 77
Curveball 5.2% 78.3 2598 (0.63)
Gaviglio’s curveball does not have a large enough sample size for pitch arsenal scores.

Remember Sam Gaviglio? One of the 40 pitchers the Mariners threw out there last season, he’s bounced around the league the past year, from the Mariners to the Royals and now to the Blue Jays. But in Toronto, he’s actually found some sustained success. He’s pushed is strikeout rate up to 20.9% and lowered his walk rate to 7.5%. Most of that is due to a focus on his slider as his primary out pitch. Even though it works well with his sinker, his raw stuff is still rather mediocre. Opposing batters have hit his sinker extremely hard, launching nine home runs off the pitch. His changeup and curveball just aren’t good enough to hold left-handed batters at bay so they’re sitting on his sinker and crushing it. So despite the improved strikeout-to-walk ratio helping him shave a full run off his FIP, he’s seen his ERA jump up over five.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 69-41 0.627 -- L-L-L-W-W
Mariners 63-45 0.583 5.0 L-W-W-L-L
Athletics 64-46 0.582 5.0 L-L-W-W-W
Angels 54-55 0.495 14.5 W-W-L-L-L
Rangers 46-63 0.422 22.5 W-W-W-W-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Yankees 68-38 0.642 +6.0 L-W-W-W-L
Mariners 63-45 0.583 -- L-W-W-L-L
Athletics 64-46 0.582 -- L-L-W-W-W
Rays 55-53 0.509 8.0 L-L-L-W-W
Angels 54-55 0.495 9.5 W-W-L-L-L

After struggling to score runs in Colorado, the Athletics exploded for 24 runs in their three-game sweep against the Blue Jays. They’re off today and will host the Tigers over the weekend. The Astros travel to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers for three interleague games.