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Series Preview: Mariners (57-74) vs. Blue Jays (52-78)

Seattle’s got the Blues

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays
We meet again, Mr. Smoak
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It goes without saying that the worst weekend of the year at T-Mobile Park is when the Blue Jays come to town. Worse than when the Yankees visit, worse than when the Red Sox visit, worse than when the Giants visit. The three days that our neighbors to the north spend treating our ballpark and its immediate surroundings like some spring break destination are the best three days each year for Seattlites to go out of town themselves, to just AirBnB the whole city and face the wreckage upon return. Blue Jays fans do not “visit,” they storm the mf’n gates. Having spent seven years of my life working at a bar a block from the stadium, the above meetup suggestion posted by a fan on Bluebird Banter strikes fear into my very soul. Is this fan the Blue Jays fan who stood on a table and poured out his beer while singing “I’m a Little Teapot?” Probably not. The man who was removed from the restaurant for repeatedly lifting his tutu in the direction of a bachelorette party? I doubt it. The woman who dumped her water on a few wrinkled one dollar bills and left without paying for her bar tab when she was not allowed to order an additional entree as a substitute for the fries that came with her steak sandwich? Again, probably not. But this weekend, more than any threat of snow, sends me running to the store to fight for bottled water, canned beans and boxed wine with the intent of not coming out until it’s all over.

This is not to say anything bad about Canada, its people or its baseball team - simply a plea that those who “invade Seattle” for this series remember that us Mariners fans are people too, our team is bad too, and we can all celebrate our bad teams together if we all just observe the golden rule, which of course is “treat our city like you would want 35,000 just-in-town-for-the-weekend Mariners fans to treat yours.”

Photo: AP

Anyway, on to baseball things.

At a Glance

Blue Jays Mariners
Blue Jays Mariners
Game 1 Friday, August 23 | 7:10 pm
RHP Trent Thornton LHP Justus Sheffield
46% 54%
Game 2 Saturday, August 24 | 6:10 pm
TBD RHP Félix Hernández
50% 50%
Game 3 Sunday, August 25 | 1:10 pm
TBD LHP Marco Gonzales
45% 55%

Team Overview

Overview Blue Jays Mariners Edge
Overview Blue Jays Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 91 (11th in AL) 105 (6th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (DRS) 1 (7th) -66 (14th) Blue Jays
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 104 (9th) 113 (13th) Blue Jays
Bullpen (FIP-) 106 (12th) 112 (14th) Blue Jays

The Blue Jays aren’t quite as bad in any area as the Mariners, but also they aren’t quite as good as the Mariners at anything. That’s about where we stand here. The Mariners remain toward the very bottom of the American League in starting pitching, bullpen and fielding, but their offense - thanks, Kyle Seager! - has improved every so slightly this past month. The Mariners’ mediocre offense should do well against Toronto’s pitching, but Toronto’s underwhelming offense will likely also do well against Seattle’s pitching, so if this goes the way numbers say it should - and it never really does, does it? - we could be in for a few high-scoring games.

It’s worth noting that the Blue Jays will likely tumble in the starting pitching ranks during the remainder of the year, as they traded their best starter, talented righty Marcus Stroman, to the Mets just before the deadline. They also sent struggling starter Aaron Sanchez to the Astros, leaving them with very few options. Sanchez and Stroman were two of just three Blue Jays pitchers to have thrown more than 46 innings this year. As of this morning, Saturday and Sunday are still TBD.

Toronto’s top reliever, closer Ken Giles, owner of 16 saves and a 1.80 ERA, was placed on paternity leave prior to Thursday’s game, but will be back by Sunday’s game at the latest.

Projected Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Bo Bichette SS R 107 0.379 162 -2.4
Cavan Biggio 2B L 300 0.273 88 3.4
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 3B R 396 0.311 121 -4.4
Randal Grichuk RF R 503 0.285 91 -2.0
Justin Smoak DH S 424 0.227 107 -3.5
Teoscar Hernández CF R 360 0.269 91 0.7
Brandon Drury 1B R 372 0.266 72 1.5
Derek Fisher LF L 109 0.233 80 0.5
Danny Jansen C R 336 0.233 72 -0.5

From last week’s series preview:

This is a pretty interesting lineup, both for its young potential star power and its true feast-or-famine nature. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (admittedly currently hurt), Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Cavan Biggio is about as neat of a 1-4 as you could get in baseball these days, non-Trout category. And then there’s the back end. Justin Smoak? Brandon Drury? Yikes. There’s some other marginally interesting guys here—Derek Fisher and Randal Grichuk may have lost some prospect sheen, but there’s a lot of underlying talent there still—but you can see how this offense has mostly sat in the AL’s cellar with the bad midwestern wines, especially after shipping Eric Sogard to the Rays.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Trent Thornton

120 2/3 21.1% 9.5% 13.5% 30.7% 5.30 4.83
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 43.9% 93.4 2381 106 106 96
Cutter 15.5% 88.3 2713 104 140 94
Splitter 8.1% 83.7 1488 65 73 95
Slider 29.7% 80.5 3093 75 100 78
MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Detroit Tigers Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

From last week’s series preview:

Trent Thornton is 25. That’s about the most interesting thing I can find on him, as he’s relatively young and putting up relatively good results in a big-league rotation. Not that good, though: the fWAR may be 1.3, but the FIP and xFIP indicate that that’s basically a Leake-esque innings eating number. The former Astros fifth rounder potentially has more good things to come: the stuff is pretty good, and so is the command, but he needs to harness them more consistently. This one worries me a little, as it feels like the Mariners always struggle against guys with a good slider/curve combo, and Thornton has that.

After Thornton it’s just TBD all weekend. So in lieu of any actual information about our opposing pitchers, here is a photo of the pitcher the Mariners will send out Saturday, who a few of you may recognize:

MLB: Seattle Mariners at San Diego Padres Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 82-47 0.636 -- W-W-W-L-W
Athletics 74-53 0.583 7.0 W-L-W-W-W
Rangers 63-66 0.488 19.0 W-L-W-W-L
Angels 63-67 0.485 19.5 W-L-W-L-L
Mariners 54-74 0.422 27.5 W-W-W-W-L

AL Wild Card

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Athletics 74-53 0.583 -- W-L-W-W-W
Rays 75-54 0.581 -- W-L-L-W-W
Cleveland 74-54 0.578 0.5 L-W-L-L-L
Red Sox 68-61 0.527 7.0 W-W-W-L-L
Rangers 63-66 0.488 12.0 W-L-W-W-L

It seems likely that the Astros will win the AL West.

The AL Central remains up for grabs between Minnesota and Cleveland, with the second-place finisher currently sitting just outside of a wildcard spot.

2020 Draft Order

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Tigers 38-87 0.304 -- L-L-L-W-L
Orioles 41-87 0.320 1.5 L-L-W-W-L
Royals 45-83 0.352 5.5 L-L-W-L-L
Marlins 45-81 0.357 6.5 L-L-L-L-L
Blue Jays 52-78 0.400 11.5 L-L-L-L-L
Pirates 52-75 0.409 13.0 L-L-W-L-L
Mariners 54-74 0.422 14.5 W-W-W-W-L
Rockies 58-70 0.453 18.5 W-L-L-W-L
White Sox 58-69 0.457 19.0 L-W-L-W-W
Padres 59-67 0.468 20.5 W-W-W-L-L

The Mariners have been hogging all the board’s W tiles, and now hardly any of the other teams can play such high-scoring words as “wow,” “waw,” “wows,” “waws,” “whew” and “wowf” (supposedly an actual word). All this winning - thanks, Kyle Seager! - has cost the Mariners two spots in the draft order in the past week.