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Series Preview: Mariners (89-70) vs. Angels (75-84)

The Mariners head into the final weekend of the season with three to play against the Angels and a playoff spot on the line.

Oakland Athletics v Seattle Mariners Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Here we go. The Mariners have three games left to play and they control their destiny. Everything has seemingly conspired to open a window to earn their first playoff appearance since 2001. And compared to 2014 or ‘16, this window is thrown wide open. In those previous seasons, the Mariners were hoping beyond hope that they’d be able to win their final series of the season and get some help from other teams around the league. This year, they’re entering the final weekend of the regular season tied for the second Wild Card spot. FanGraphs gives them a 29.6% chance of making it to the postseason; FiveThirtyEight has their odds as high as 42%. Win, and they’re in the playoffs; lose, and things get pretty complicated.

At a Glance

Angels Mariners
Angels Mariners
Game 1 Friday, October 1 | 7:10 pm
LHP José Suarez LHP Marco Gonzales
39% 61%
Game 2 Saturday, October 2 | 6:10 pm
LHP Jhonathan Diaz RHP Chris Flexen
42% 58%
Game 3 Sunday, October 3 | 12:10 pm
TBD LHP Tyler Anderson
45% 55%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Angels Mariners Edge
Overview Angels Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 95 (9th in AL) 94 (10th in AL) Angels
Fielding (OAA) -26 (13th) -5 (9th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 98 (8th) 111 (12th) Angels
Bullpen (FIP-) 97 (7th) 89 (3rd) Mariners

Before we get into their opponent this weekend, let’s breakdown the various scenarios to get the Mariners to the playoffs:

  • If the Mariners go 3-0, they’ll be guaranteed a tiebreaking Game 163 at the very least. That would require the Red Sox to win all three games in Washington against the Nationals. If the Yankees lose twice to the Rays over the weekend, the Mariners could also end up tied for a Wild Card spot with New York. And depending on what the Red Sox do, there could be three teams tied for two spots. In this scenario, the Blue Jays would be hoping that either the Red Sox or Yankees falter because they wouldn’t be able to catch the Mariners.
  • If the Mariners go 2-1, they’d need the Red Sox to lose at least once in Washington to force a tiebreaker. If the Yankees are swept by the Rays, they would fall into a tiebreaker situation with New York. This scenario also gives the Blue Jays an opportunity to force their way into a three- or four-team tiebreaking situation.
  • If the Mariners go 1-2 or 0-3, they will have to rely on the Nationals and Orioles to play spoiler against the Red Sox and Blue Jays. Losing two or three games to the Angels would be disastrous and require a bunch of miracles to get the Mariners to the playoffs.

For all the details and permutations of the various tiebreaking situations, read Jay Jaffe’s latest entry in the Team Entropy series — it also includes a fascinating examination of the Mariners playoff odds and run differential. Obviously, the easiest path for the Mariners is to just sweep the Angels, but even if they lose once, there are still multiple paths to a tiebreaker game that would be open to them. Should a tiebreaker game be necessary, the Mariners are at a significant disadvantage since they lost their season series against both the Yankees and Red Sox. They hold the advantage against the Blue Jays, but a tiebreaker against them isn’t as likely.

What a difference sequencing makes. To stare down the comparison between Anaheim and the Seattle Mariners, you’d be hard pressed to envision why this series matters to either club. The Angels have been below average across the board in the AL, but their results have hung on the health and quality of their stars and top prospects. Without Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, Justin Upton, Dexter Fowler, Jo Adell, Patrick Sandoval, Griffin Canning, Chris Rodriguez, Taylor Ward, Andrew Heaney, and plenty of other depth pieces by injury, trade, or DFA, this roster is far from the playoff contender they threatened ahead of the season, and lags behind even their season numbers in many ways. One saving grace has been Raisel Iglesias, a genuine dominant closer who should make a mint this winter, and a few decent bullpen arms in Steve Cishek, Mike Mayers, and perhaps recent arrival Austin Warren help fill out the pen with competence. Seattle has managed to keep the game out of Iglesias’ clutches in 13 of their 16 matchups with the Angels thus far, and keeping him languishing in the ‘pen for their final three would be exceptional praxis.

Angels Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Brandon Marsh CF L 250 0.413 89 3.3
Shohei Ohtani DH L 626 0.307 153 2.4
Phil Gosselin LF R 360 0.323 89 0.5
Jack Mayfield 3B R 277 0.243 78 -0.1
Jared Walsh 1B L 572 0.337 125 -1.1
Max Stassi C R 315 0.329 110 -1.6
Juan Lagares RF R 318 0.291 72 -1.0
Luis Rengifo SS S 178 0.221 54 0.5
David Fletcher 2B R 654 0.284 68 3.7

I don’t know what to tell you. This was in contention with the Astros for the scariest lineup in the division in April. The aforementioned ~five above-average hitters are done for the year. David Fletcher has completely pumpkined. Luis Rengifo is being asked to cover shortstop duties along with Jack Mayfield, something neither are well qualified for. Jared Walsh remains an excellent developmental success, and Max Stassi is always dangerous, but this lineup’s primary threat is of course the presumptive MVP, Shohei Ohtani. This is not hubris, it is matter-of-fact acknowledgement: the Angels lineup is wretched in a way Seattle’s lineup was for much of the first half of the season (now it’s perfect, don’t check FanGraphs just trust me). Any collection of big league hitters is unequivocally a dangerous one — this same group blitzed Tyler Anderson and co. for 14 runs less than a week ago! But even in the time since Seattle has last seen them, the accursed nature of Anaheim’s nature has caught two more of their number: reliable bulk arm RHP Jaime Barría and solid swinging C/3B/OF Taylor Ward will miss the series due to injury. Evade Ohtani, overcome the rest, ignore the lamentations of those wishing for one last tape-measure blast to pass ‘Ol Tungsten Arm unless they’ve built a hefty seawall that requires no Sewald.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Los Angeles Angels Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

LHP José Suarez

93 1/3 20.3% 8.6% 12.1% 48.2% 3.86 4.17
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 40.7% 92.8 2188 74 81 105
Sinker 7.1% 91.3 2023 64 49 105
Changeup 28.3% 82.2 1591 116 117 92
Curveball 23.9% 78.3 2757 91 78 112

From a previous series preview:

A former top prospect in the Angels system, José Suarez had a rough time adjusting to the majors across three seasons. Just 23 years old, he’s got plenty of time to continue to develop and it looks like the Angels have finally given him an opportunity to prove himself in the rotation for now. He has a decent fastball that he throws around half the time with his best secondary offering an above-average changeup. He also spins a good curveball that’s used more for generating weak contact on the ground rather than whiffs.

The Mariners were able to handle Suarez capably during their last series against the Angels. He allowed four runs in five innings, striking out just a single batter.

LHP Jhonathan Diaz

76 1/3 28.5% 6.2% 8.3% 49.7% 4.01 3.41
Combined Double-A and Triple-A stats

In his second major league appearance, Jhonathan Diaz held the Mariners to just a single run in a seven inning relief appearance after Jaime Barria left with an injury. Originally signed as a 16-year-old international free agent by the Red Sox, he left their organization as a free agent after last season. He signed a minor league deal with the Angels and was assigned to Double-A to start the year. He acquitted himself well, posting the highest strikeout rate of his minor league career at that level. He was promoted to Triple-A for three starts and made his major league debut on September 17. He has an above average slurvy slider and mixes in an average sinker and changeup to round out his repertoire.

LHP Reid Detmers

62 42.0% 7.4% 17.2% 35.5% 3.19 3.10
Combined Double-A and Triple-A stats

The Angels haven’t announced a starter for Sunday’s game but they’ve made it clear that Shohei Ohtani won’t be making another appearance on the mound this season. There are a bunch of options down in Triple-A who could make a final spot start for Los Angeles; Reid Detmers is the most likely candidate but Janson Junk, Packy Naughton, or even Chris Rodriguez could also be called up. Detmers was the Angels first round pick in the 2020 draft and he quickly made his way to the majors just a year after being drafted. He put up some gaudy strikeout numbers in the minors but struggled upon his first taste of the majors. He has a pair of good breaking balls but his fastball has been absolutely crushed by major league batters.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros - x 93-66 0.585 -- L-L-W-L-W
Mariners 89-70 0.560 4.0 L-W-W-W-W
Athletics 85-74 0.535 8.0 W-W-L-L-L
Angels 75-84 0.472 18.0 W-L-L-W-L
Rangers 59-100 0.371 34.0 L-W-W-L-W
x - clinched division title

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Yankees 91-68 0.572 +2.0 W-W-W-L-W
Red Sox 89-70 0.560 -- L-L-L-W-L
Mariners 89-70 0.560 -- L-W-W-W-W
Blue Jays 88-71 0.553 1.0 W-W-L-W-L

I laid out the various playoff scenarios above, but just to reiterate, the Mariners are rooting for the Nationals against the Red Sox, the Orioles against the Blue Jays, and the Rays against the Yankees.