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Series Preview: Mariners (18-17) at Dodgers (18-17)

The Mariners have something to look forward to after this short two-game series against the Dodgers.

Los Angeles Dodgers v Los Angeles Angels Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

With the news breaking that Jarred Kelenic will be making his major league debut in Seattle on Thursday, this brief two-game series in Los Angeles feels a bit like a cruel purgatory. Kelenic is that carrot dangling at the end of the tunnel, but first, the Mariners must overcome this little trial in Southern California.

At a Glance

Mariners Dodgers
Mariners Dodgers
Game 1 Tuesday, May 11 | 7:10 pm
LHP Yusei Kikuchi RHP Walker Buehler
30% 70%
Game 2 Wednesday, May 12 | 7:10 pm
RHP Justin Dunn LHP Julio Urías
33% 67%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Dodgers Mariners Edge
Overview Dodgers Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 112 (1st in NL) 91 (12th in AL) Dodgers
Fielding (OAA) -6 (13th) 8 (2nd) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 79 (2nd) 120 (15th) Dodgers
Bullpen (FIP-) 105 (8th) 95 (5th) Mariners

It’s wild that the Mariners have posted the same record as the Dodgers so far this season. Remember, Los Angeles started off the year with a 13-2 record, but they’ve won just five games over their last 20 games played. One of those wins came against the Mariners in Seattle during the two-game series in mid-April. They were struggling with some injury issues then but they’ve been really exacerbated now. They have 11 players currently on the Injured List and their biggest loss was Dustin May. He’s slated for Tommy John surgery and will miss the rest of the season.

Their injury issues have certainly caused plenty of issues throughout the roster, but their biggest effect has been on their bullpen. With six different relievers on the shelf, the Dodgers have had to rely on relief arms miscast in high-leverage roles. To make matters worse, their long-time closer Kenley Jansen has looked extremely rough ever since the 2020 postseason. Six of their losses have come in extra innings and a number of others have been given away by the bullpen.

Dodgers Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Mookie Betts RF R 137 0.292 134 1.2
Corey Seager SS L 152 0.317 130 -1.0
Justin Turner 3B R 142 0.365 170 -0.1
Max Muncy 1B L 142 0.273 138 0.4
Will Smith C R 110 0.260 120 -0.5
Chris Taylor CF R 130 0.362 152 1.4
AJ Pollock LF R 99 0.317 108 0.1
Gavin Lux 2B L 93 0.281 44 -0.1

The Dodgers lineup is missing some of their flexibility after Zach McKinstry and Edwin Ríos were sidelined with injuries. That’s pushed Chris Taylor into an everyday role in the outfield, instead of the super utility role he’s filled the last few years. He’s responded by putting up the best offensive season of his career. With Taylor getting regular reps on the grass, Gavin Lux has been the regular second baseman but he’s really struggled to put his talent to use in the majors. He’s now accumulated just under 250 major league plate appearances across three seasons and has a 64 wRC+ to show for it. At some point, the Dodgers are going to have to decide what to do with their talented but troubled second baseman.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

Los Angeles Dodgers v Chicago Cubs Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

RHP Walker Buehler

37 1/3 26.9% 1.4% 13.5% 43.6% 3.13 2.99
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 51.6% 95.2 2640 148 113 101
Sinker 6.8% 95.3 2509
Cutter 14.8% 91.7 2814 124
Curveball 17.4% 80.4 3062 132 119 123
Slider 9.4% 86.0 2937 121
Buehler’s cutter and slider do not have large enough sample sizes for pitch arsenal scores.

Walker Buehler’s career has gotten off to a fantastic start with a phenomenal rookie season and a solid followup in 2019. Last year, his batted ball profile skewed a bit too fly ball heavy and his home run rate spiked as a result. The average vertical location of his fastball dipped a quarter of an inch in 2020, a significant difference after he so capably elevated his heater during the previous two years. This year, he’s elevating his fastball again and the home run issues have almost disappeared. He’s also seriously improved his command, issuing just two walks so far this season. His zone rate is 49.1%, the fifth highest in the majors among all qualified pitchers — his rotation-mate Julio Urías has the second highest zone rate. He’s able to thrive with so many pitches in the zone because his stuff is just so unhittable.

LHP Julio Urías

42 2/3 27.2% 3.6% 14.0% 42.5% 3.59 3.34
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 50.4% 94.2 2513 121 104 92
Changeup 17.0% 87.4 1962 72 112 76
Curveball 31.6% 81.8 2915 107 93 116

From a previous series preview:

The Dodgers have been extremely careful with Julio Urías ever since he made his major league debut as a 19-year-old back in 2016. He did struggle through a significant shoulder injury in 2017 and 2018 so it’s not like their concern was unwarranted. But the kid gloves came off last season as they ran him out as a regular member of their rotation. He rewarded their patience with a fantastic season and an incredible postseason performance. His arsenal is good but it doesn’t have a true swing-and-miss pitch to drive a high strikeout rate. Instead, he uses all four pitches in his repertoire to severely limit hard contact against him. As a fly ball pitcher, that contact management thread is extremely narrow and could be seriously affected by whatever ball Major League Baseball decides to use at any given moment. It worked for him the last two years when the ball was extremely prone to leaving stadiums, so it should continue to work as MLB tries to deaden the ball.

Urías out-dueled Marco Gonzales in a mid-April, 1-0 victory, holding the Mariners scoreless over seven innings. He allowed just two baserunners and struck out 11.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Athletics 21-15 0.583 -- L-L-W-W-L
Astros 18-17 0.514 2.5 W-W-L-W-L
Mariners 18-17 0.514 2.5 W-L-W-L-L
Rangers 18-19 0.486 3.5 W-L-W-W-L
Angels 16-18 0.471 4.0 L-W-L-W-W

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Cleveland 18-14 0.563 +1.0 W-W-W-L-W
Yankees 18-16 0.529 -- W-L-L-W-W
Rays 19-17 0.528 -- W-W-L-L-W
Blue Jays 17-16 0.515 0.5 W-W-L-W-L
Astros 18-17 0.514 0.5 W-W-L-W-L

After winning their weekend series against the Rays, the A’s travel to Boston to start a three-game series against the best team in the American League. The Angels and Astros began a three-game set in Houston last night. The Angels won the first game and are hoping to work their way out of their early season swoon. The Rangers lost the first game of their short series in San Francisco last night.