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From A’s to Z’s - Athletics (95-63) at Mariners (66-92)

The end of one team’s journey, with another fighting desperately to continue theirs.

Seattle Mariners v Oakland Athletics
Remember literally this year
Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

The worst season of Mariners baseball since 2011 has reached its final series. The Mariners and Athletics met in the Tokyo Dome 190 days ago - over half a calendar year - and Seattle came away with a pair of surprising victories. Just three members of the starting lineups for those games are even able to play in tonight’s game for the Mariners - Omar Narvaez, Dee Gordon, and Domingo Santana. With back tightness removing Gordon last night and Santana unable to throw, it’s not out of the question that only Narv takes the field in the season-ending rematch series. Oakland, on the other hand, may possibly run out the exact same combination of players as they did in the season’s second game. That health and consistency is what puts them in the Wild Card 1 position at the outset of this final four-game set.

At a Glance

Athletics Mariners
Athletics Mariners
Game 1 Thursday, September 26 | 7:10 pm
LHP Sean Manaea RHP Félix Hernández
64% 36%
Game 2 Friday, September 27 | 7:10 pm
RHP Mike Fiers LHP Justus Sheffield
60% 40%
Game 3 Saturday, September 28 | 7:10 pm
LHP Brett Anderson LHP Marco Gonzales
56% 44%
Game 2 Sunday, September 29 | 12:10 pm
RHP Tanner Roark RHP Justin Dunn
58% 42%

Team Overview

Overview Athletics Mariners Edge
Overview Athletics Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 108 (4th in AL) 99 (7th in AL) Athletics
Fielding (DRS) 34 (4th) -90 (14th) Athletics
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 103 (9th) 113 (13th) Athletics
Bullpen (FIP-) 90 (5th) 109 (14th) Athletics

Oakland’s formula for success in 2019 is similar to the one they used in 2018 - clobber the ball, field it well, get to the bullpen, keep moving past the rotation, nothing to see here. Though the bullpen hasn’t been AS dominant thanks to regression from Blake Treinen, their pitching staff has outperformed their peripherals significantly, aided in part by a pop-up heavy staff and athletic infielders who range into the Coliseum’s caverns and return with a bounty of outs. Oakland’s 52-29 home record is led only by the Astros, Dodgers, and Yankees, who have all eclipsed 100 wins already. Despite their numbers, they’ve had uneven performances, failing to feast on mediocre teams with quite the same regularity as the 2018 crew. They’re just 7-8 against the Mariners, and went 0-6 against the Blue Jays, somewhat mitigating their strong records against the AL Central.

Projected Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Marcus Semien SS R 732 0.300 138 1.6
Matt Chapman 3B R 656 0.267 123 0.2
Matt Olson 1B L 534 0.301 135 -0.3
Mark Canha CF R 489 0.311 148 -1.3
Ramón Laureano RF R 468 0.347 128 4.9
Khris Davis DH R 523 0.263 81 -1.9
Chad Pinder LF L 359 0.280 85 -1.6
Sean Murphy C R 49 0.308 160 1.0
Jurickson Profar 2B S 508 0.217 88 1.7

In place of Houston’s preponderance of greatness, Oakland has merely a plethora of very goods. The Matt Pack of Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, and Mark “Matt” Canha have made life difficult for pitchers, and despite a dramatic downturn from Khris Davis, they’ve managed to continually out-hit their opponents.

Probable Pitchers

Oakland Athletics v Texas Rangers
Say it with your chest
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

LHP Sean Manaea

23 2/3 28.1% 7.9% 10.7% 36.4% 1.14 3.90

Left shoulder surgery threatened to keep Sean Manaea out for the entire season after he hit the DL in late 2018 with an impingement. He was activated off the IL with the September callups however, and has looked sharp in four outings thus far. His velocity has been at a career-low - just a hair under 90 miles per hour - but he’s lined up all the same to be the A’s Wild Card Game starter if they so choose. Despite a brilliant start highlighted by a no-hitter in 2018, Manaea has not shown ace-like proclivities. On a team whose best pitcher this season (Liam Hendriks) typically throws an inning per outing, Manaea’s best still might be the team’s best option.

RHP Mike Fiers

179 2/3 16.6% 7.0% 14.2% 39.3% 3.91 5.04
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 31.6% 90.9 2322 65 96 105
Sinker 20.2% 90.5 2257 57 75 109
Changeup 12.3% 84.4 1936 79 56 102
Curveball 17.3% 74.3 2780 78 95 109
Slider 18.5% 86.2 2483 122 58 95

From a previous series preview:

Mike Fiers increased the usage of his four-seam fastball and his big 12-6 curveball when he joined the A’s last year and he’s still using both of them as his primary pitches. When he’s able to command his fastball at the top of the zone, like he did against the Reds when he spun a no-hitter, he can be very effective. But as soon as that command slips, that fastball becomes extremely prone to leave the park. He’s also struggled to replicate the same kind of whiff rates with his fastball he enjoyed earlier in his career, making his no-hitter even more of a curiosity.

Speaking of no-hitters from non-aces, Mike Fiers! He of the Flipendo-facial hair has diligently devoured innings for Oakland this year, and will make his club-leading 33rd start Friday night. No pitcher better represents what Oakland has done this year than Fiers, with a massive gap between the ERA (3.91) and FIP (5.04) that speaks volumes of the quality of defense (and good fortune) Oakland has displayed.

LHP Brett Anderson

171 12.0% 6.6% 13.6% 54.4% 4.00 4.64
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 18.6% 89.8 2025 27 66 115
Sinker 43.1% 91.0 1795 81 95 94
Changeup 13.5% 82.9 1480 106 89 94
Curveball 5.6% 76.0 2392 102 54 133
Slider 19.1% 82.2 2384 71 72 104

Big ol Brett Anderson is a potential aspirational figure for Justus Sheffield, as the veteran lefty has made it through 11 years in MLB thanks to his knack for getting ground balls and keeping runs off the board. Though health has often been a bugaboo for Anderson, he’ll tie his career-high of 31 starts Saturday evening. Facing off against Marco Gonzales, he’ll see a kindred spirit in the art of grounder-getting curveballs.

RHP Tanner Roark

160 1/3 21.9% 7.0% 15.7% 36.9% 4.32 4.66
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 25.0% 92.5 2145 114 129 78
Sinker 30.5% 92.3 2087 83 114 96
Changeup 9.9% 84.4 1707 104 95 107
Curveball 12.9% 76.1 2744 79 96 83
Slider 21.8% 86.7 2253 127 62 104

Tanner Roark very well might be Mike Fiers in, well, not a moustache. Despite an abysmal HR/FB% and only a fastball that tends to miss bats, Roark has been outrunning his peripherals his entire career, and little has changed since joining The Land. By Sunday there’s a great chance Oakland will know if they are in or out, or simply where they stand on in the Wild Card hunt, but we may see Oakland use a wide range of arms over the weekend.

AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 104-54 0.658 -- W-L-W-W-W
Athletics 95-63 0.601 9.0 W-W-L-L-W
Rangers 75-83 0.475 29.0 L-L-W-L-L
Angels 71-87 0.449 33.0 L-W-L-W-L
Mariners 66-92 0.418 38.0 L-W-L-L-L

AL Wild Card

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Athletics 95-63 0.601 +0.5 W-W-L-L-W
Rays 95-64 0.597 -- W-L-W-W-W
Cleveland 93-65 0.589 1.5 W-L-W-W-L

The AL Wild Card is suddenly the only race remaining. While the Nationals, Brewers, and Cardinals will jockey for the WC 1, WC 2, and NL Central crown, all three teams have clinched a playoff spot. No such luxury exists for the AL’s final contenders, as the Twins have locked up their division and should join the Astros and Yankees in the 100-win club this weekend. The Mariners could play spoiler to Oakland, helping sneak Cleveland into the Fall Festivities or at least give the Rays a home field advantage privilege.

2020 Draft Order

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Tigers 46-111 0.293 -- L-L-W-L-L
Orioles 52-107 0.327 5.0 L-W-L-W-L
Marlins 55-103 0.348 8.5 L-W-W-L-L
Royals 58-101 0.365 11.0 L-W-L-W-L
Blue Jays 65-94 0.409 18.0 L-L-W-L-W
Mariners 66-92 0.418 19.5 L-W-L-L-L
Pirates 67-91 0.424 20.5 L-L-L-W-W
Rockies 68-90 0.430 21.5 L-W-L-W-L
White Sox 69-88 0.439 23.0 W-W-L-L-W
Padres 70-88 0.443 23.5 L-L-W-L-L

Meanwhile, clinching comes in many forms. The Tigers have locked up the 1st overall pick in the 2020 draft, and the Orioles are just a loss or two away from certifying No. 2. Seattle slipped back into the 6th spot with a pair of losses to Baltimore and the Pirates taking a few surprise wins from the collapsing Cubs. A four-game sweep would be... frankly the pits, personally, but could open the door to sneaking up to the 5th pick if Toronto ekes out a win at some point. Meanwhile, a dead cat bounce from the M’s could still push them to the back or even out of the top-10. Tonight, at least, I think we are all hoping for a win.

Happy Félix Day, everyone. We’ll see you in the thread.