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Series Preview: Mariners (27-27) vs. Athletics (31-24)

The Mariners wrap up their homestand with a three-game set against a familiar opponent.

Los Angeles Angels v Oakland Athletics Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

A week ago, the Mariners were heading into a series in Oakland having lost six in a row, dropping to a season-low five games under .500. A week later, they’ve won six of their last seven and have managed to get back to even on the season. Seattle will look to continue their run of solid play against these same A’s they soundly defeated last week. The return of Ty France has given the lineup a touch more respectability and Marco Gonzales is scheduled to make his return from the Injured List on Tuesday. This team is getting healthier at the right moment in their schedule as they continue their tour of AL West opponents.

At a Glance

Athletics Mariners
Athletics Mariners
Game 1 Monday, May 31 | 1:10 pm
RHP James Kaprielian RHP Logan Gilbert
53% 47%
Game 2 Tuesday, June 1 | 7:10 pm
RHP Chris Bassitt LHP Marco Gonzales
53% 47%
Game 3 Wednesday, June 2 | 7:10 pm
LHP Sean Manaea RHP Chris Flexen
57% 43%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Athletics Mariners Edge
Overview Athletics Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 105 (7th in AL) 86 (13th in AL) Athletics
Fielding (OAA) 10 (4th) 2 (9th) Athletics
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 97 (6th) 116 (14th) Athletics
Bullpen (FIP-) 92 (6th) 91 (5th) Mariners

The Mariners weren’t exactly dominant against the A’s last week — they won the first two games by a total of three runs — but they felt like they were in control of each of those games. This stretch has been marked by excellent pitching from both the rotation and the bullpen. The offense has continued to be rather meager, but they’ve managed to score just enough runs to eke out a string of wins.

After losing their series against the Mariners, the A’s split a four-game series against the Angels. Like Seattle, Oakland has been playing a bunch of really close games recently. They’ve scored just four runs per game and have allowed 3.2 over their last ten. Their run differential for the season is still in the negative but they’re leading the division by a game and a half over the Astros.

Athletics Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Mark Canha LF R 233 0.288 148 1.1
Matt Olson 1B L 202 0.240 146 -0.3
Ramón Laureano CF R 205 0.305 136 1.6
Seth Brown RF L 120 0.221 115 0.7
Jed Lowrie 2B S 200 0.296 105 0.7
Mitch Moreland DH L 115 0.288 105 -1.2
Matt Chapman 3B R 215 0.288 96 0.7
Sean Murphy C R 162 0.266 102 -1.8
Elvis Andrus SS R 180 0.246 42 -0.2

The A’s lineup got a bit healthier over the weekend as Mitch Moreland came off the Injured List to take up the regular designated hitter duties. The A’s best player this year — Ramón Laureano — was sidelined for most of the weekend with a groin issue. Kate mentioned it in the series preview last week, but it’s absolutely wild that Jed Lowrie is a middle-of-the-order contributor this year. After playing in just nine games in two years for the Mets, Lowrie has picked up right where he left off in Oakland with solid production from both sides of the plate. Perhaps his resurgence has sapped some of the A’s magic from Matt Chapman who has been uncharacteristically below average this season.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

RHP James Kaprielian

17 2/3 27.1% 8.6% 6.9% 22.2% 1.53 3.46

From a previous series preview:

James Kaprielian was one of the headlining prospects that came back from the Yankees in the big Sonny Gray trade all the way back in 2017. He was in the middle of rehabbing from Tommy John surgery at the time and some recurring shoulder issues derailed his attempts to get back on the mound in 2018. He was finally healthy towards the end of 2019 and made his major league debut last year in a relief role. The A’s stretched him out this spring and he made his 2021 debut a few weeks ago. His fastball velocity has held up in these longer outings and he’s used a trio of above average secondary offerings to strike out a ton of batters so far.

Kaprielian put together the best start of his young career against the Mariners last week. He went seven scoreless innings, allowing just four base runners and striking out four.

RHP Chris Bassitt

70 26.1% 5.7% 7.7% 45.2% 3.21 2.92
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 19.5% 93.7 2192 75 123 71
Sinker 36.4% 93.1 2145 103 103 87
Cutter 20.4% 89.2 2232 85 83 140
Changeup 8.4% 85.5 1986 101
Curveball 6.7% 71.5 2330 83
Slider 8.7% 75.0 2394 68
Bassitt’s changeup, curveball, and slider do not have large enough sample sizes for pitch arsenal scores.

Over the last few years, Chris Bassitt has emerged as the unquestioned ace of the A’s pitching staff. He’s not among the most exciting pitchers to watch which makes him rather underrated. But since 2019, he’s accumulated five WAR and his park- and league-adjusted ERA is the 15th best in baseball. He’s able to befuddle batters with three different fastballs; a four-seamer he uses up in the zone to get whiffs, and a sinker and cutter thrown down to generate tons of weak contact. His three secondary offerings are mixed in sparingly with his slider looking like the most dangerous of the trio.

LHP Sean Manaea

60 2/3 24.2% 5.5% 11.1% 38.9% 3.86 3.32
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Sinker 58.0% 91.3 1982 61 124 106
Changeup 26.2% 84.0 1385 85 121 83
Curveball 15.8% 80.6 2022 64 103 81

A shoulder injury in 2019 derailed what was a promising start to Sean Manaea’s career. He had a five start cameo down the stretch that season but his fastball velocity was sitting below 90 mph for the first time in his career. Some of the velocity returned last year and he continued to utilize fantastic command of his three-pitch mix to great effect. Nearly all of his velocity has returned this year and his results are better than ever. His strikeout rate has increased by four points and his FIP has dropped to a career low. As a sinker-heavy pitcher, it’s a little concerning to see his groundball rate fall below league average for the first time in his career, but he’s still managed to avoid serious damage with more air contact against him.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Athletics 31-24 0.564 -- W-W-W-L-L
Astros 28-24 0.538 1.5 L-W-L-L-W
Mariners 27-27 0.500 3.5 L-W-W-W-W
Angels 24-29 0.453 6.0 W-L-L-W-W
Rangers 22-33 0.400 9.0 L-L-L-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Red Sox 32-20 0.615 +3.5 L-L-W-W-W
Cleveland 28-23 0.549 -- L-W-L-L-W
Yankees 29-24 0.547 -- L-W-L-L-L
Astros 28-24 0.538 0.5 L-W-L-L-W
Blue Jays 27-25 0.519 1.5 W-L-W-W-L

Ever since working their way into first place in AL West a week ago, the Astros have won just two games in their last eight games. They lost their weekend series against the Padres with a pair of crushing losses in extra innings before salvaging a win on Sunday. Their schedule doesn’t let up as they play the Red Sox seven times in the next ten games with a three-game series against the Blue Jays thrown in the middle. The Angels have managed to tread water with Mike Trout still sidelined. They head off to San Francisco to face the second best team in the majors for a short two-game set.