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Series Preview: Mariners (31-33) at Cleveland (32-27)

The Mariners wrap up this long road trip with a three-game series in Cleveland.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The newest member of the Mariners roster, Jake Bauers, drove from Cleveland to Detroit on Wednesday night, in time to be inserted into the lineup on Thursday morning. And now he heads right back to Cleveland for a three-game series against his former team. It’s encouraging to see both Justin Dunn and Yusei Kikuchi on the list of pitching probables for this series. Dunn ended up missing just one turn in the rotation with his shoulder fatigue and Kikuchi’s knee contusion wasn’t nearly as bad as it looked on Saturday.

At a Glance

Mariners Cleveland
Mariners Cleveland
Game 1 Friday, June 11 | 4:10 pm
RHP Justin Dunn RHP Aaron Civale
41% 59%
Game 2 Saturday, June 12 | 1:10 pm
LHP Yusei Kikuchi RHP Triston McKenzie
44% 56%
Game 3 Sunday, June 13 | 10:10 am
RHP Logan Gilbert RHP Shane Bieber
35% 65%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Cleveland Mariners Edge
Overview Cleveland Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 86 (15th in AL) 87 (14th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (OAA) 1 (9th) 1 (8th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 109 (10th) 120 (15th) Cleveland
Bullpen (FIP-) 94 (5th) 91 (4th) Mariners

The last time the Mariners faced Cleveland was back in mid-May in a four-game series in Seattle. That was the series where Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert made their major league debuts. The Mariners ended up soundly winning that series even after a rough first game spoiled the debuts of those two top prospects.

Since then, Cleveland has hovered right around .500, going 11-10 with a -22 run differential. They’re sitting well behind the White Sox in second place in the AL Central and are one-and-a-half games back in the Wild Card race. They’re talented enough to make some noise in the playoff chase but have some real concerns on their roster. Outside of Shane Bieber and Aaron Civale, their starting rotation has been stretched rather thin through injuries and ineffectiveness, and they’ve continued to struggle to score runs at a consistent pace.

Cleveland Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Cesar Hernandez 2B S 254 0.246 90 0.1
Amed Rosario SS R 196 0.302 97 -0.5
José Ramírez 3B S 242 0.250 137 1.0
Eddie Rosario LF L 223 0.279 80 1.7
Harold Ramirez RF R 107 0.282 109 0.8
Josh Naylor DH L 201 0.296 89 -1.5
Bobby Bradley 1B L 109 0.182 93
Austin Hedges C R 106 0.218 27 0.2
Bradley Zimmer CF L 75 0.455 125
Bradley’s and Zimmer’s stats from Triple-A

Cleveland’s lineup looks a little different from the last time the Mariners faced them. Franmil Reyes, Jordan Luplow, and Roberto Pérez have all been sidelined with injuries, forcing them to turn to their already thin depth to fill out their lineup. The aforementioned Bauers was designated for assignment last week and Bobby Bradley was called up to take his place at first base. His raw power is massive but it comes with significant swing and miss issues. Amed Rosario had an excellent month of May and claimed the starting spot at shortstop, pushing Andrés Giménez to the minors for now.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

RHP Aaron Civale

80 18.3% 5.7% 16.3% 46.4% 3.49 4.56
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 25.1% 91.5 2316 57 72 92
Sinker 10.7% 91.9 2314 54 55 140
Cutter 23.8% 87.9 2481 122 88 91
Splitter 13.1% 85.2 1608 55 78 91
Curveball 13.9% 77.0 2789 92 89 85
Slider 13.4% 83.3 2746 120 55 127

From a previous series preview:

Aaron Civale was another beneficiary of Cleveland’s development program. He had a fantastic debut back in 2019 but was roughed up in his follow up campaign in 2020. This year, he looks completely different on the mound. He’s adopted a new, shorter arm path — the same mechanical change that led to Lucas Giolito’s breakout — and has revamped his pitch mix. He’s throwing a riding four-seam fastball now instead of his sinker and has changed the grip on his changeup to a split-change grip. The splitter hasn’t really worked out — it’s getting tons of ground ball contact but batters aren’t swinging and missing against it. But the swapped fastball has really helped him limit hard contact, even though batters are elevating it more often than his sinker. The result is an excellent ERA that far outpaces a FIP that hasn’t really budged.

The Mariners handed Civale his worst start of the season back in May. He pitched into the seventh inning but allowed five runs on seven hits and one walk, striking out six.

RHP Triston McKenzie

41 2/3 32.2% 19.1% 16.0% 23.9% 6.26 5.33
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 63.9% 91.4 2235 89 105 72
Changeup 3.1% 86.0 1598
Curveball 17.2% 78.7 2068 66 153 53
Slider 15.8% 86.3 2156 122 161 82
McKenzie’s changeup does not have a large enough sample size for Stuff+ or pitch arsenal scores.

From a previous series preview:

With such a slight frame, there were plenty of questions about whether or not Triston McKenzie could handle a heavy workload as a starter. Cleveland has stuck with their plan and he made his major league debut last year as a starter. It was his first competitive action since 2018 after injuries held him out of the entire 2019 minor league season. His fastball was pretty impressive, with tons of ride for a heater without elite velocity. He’s leaning on that pitch even more this season, but the rest of his repertoire has let him down a bit. He hasn’t been able to control any of his pitches and batters are elevating nearly everything they put in play off him. The raw talent and building blocks are there, but he might need some additional development time in Triple-A sooner rather than later.

McKenzie was demoted to Triple-A at the end of May to continue his development. He’s scheduled to make the start on Saturday after just one minor league start because Cleveland needed a spot starter. In May, the Mariners scored five runs off McKenzie.

RHP Shane Bieber

85 34.4% 8.7% 14.5% 45.5% 2.96 2.88
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 34.6% 92.9 2353 117 105 102
Cutter 2.6% 88.7 2684
Changeup 4.3% 87.7 1770
Curveball 31.90% 83.2 2424 132 123 77
Slider 26.50% 85.9 2700 78 126 107
Bieber’s cutter and changeup do not have large enough sample sizes for Stuff+ or pitch arsenal scores.

From a previous series preview:

It’s too bad 2020 was a shortened season because it would have been fascinating to see if Shane Bieber could maintain his complete dominance over a full 30-start schedule. He was by far the best pitcher in baseball last year and unanimously won the AL Cy Young award. It would be nearly impossible to replicate that dominance, but he’s been nearly as good this year. He set a major league record for strikeouts recorded in the first month of a season and has struck out at least eight batters in a record 20 straight games. And the crazy thing is, he’s still trying to find the feel for his slider this year. The pitch’s physical characteristics have looked a bit off from it’s sheer dominance last year, but he’s still running a 50% whiff rate with it.

The Mariners notably ended Bieber’s record streak of games with at least eight strikeouts in May during the worst start of his season. He allowed three runs in 4.2 innings, allowing five hits and four walks with just seven strikeouts.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Athletics 37-27 0.578 -- W-L-W-W-L
Astros 35-27 0.565 1.0 L-W-W-W-L
Mariners 31-33 0.484 6.0 L-W-L-W-L
Angels 30-32 0.484 6.0 W-L-W-W-W
Rangers 24-39 0.381 12.5 W-L-L-L-W

The Astros almost swept the Red Sox in Boston but were thwarted in a wild, back-and-forth affair on Wednesday afternoon. They travel to Minnesota to face the Twins this weekend. The A’s swept the Diamondback in a short two-game series earlier this week but lost the first game of their four-game set against the Royals last night. Kansas City had just been swept by the Angels before heading to Oakland for their long weekend series. The Angels head to Arizona to face the worst team in the National League, hoping to keep their winning streak alive.