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Series Preview: Mariners (51-45) vs. Athletics (55-42)

The Mariners return to Seattle for their biggest homestand of the season.

Los Angeles Angels v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

After that brief little detour in Colorado, the Mariners return home to begin what has shaped up to be the biggest homestand of the season. They’ll welcome the A’s and Astros for seven games right before the July 30 trade deadline. This stretch against the two best teams in the division is an important barometer for how good this team really is. Series wins against these two teams keeps the Mariners in the middle of the postseason race as they head into the dog days of summer. If they fall flat and lose these two series, their slim postseason hopes will probably be buried for good. That’s a lot of pressure on a young team, but they’ve seemed like they’ve been up to the challenge ever since they swept the Rays at home in June.

At a Glance

Astros Mariners
Astros Mariners
Game 1 Monday, July 26 | 7:10 pm
RHP Luis Garcia RHP Darren McCaughan
60% 40%
Game 2 Tuesday, July 27 | 7:10 pm
RHP Lance McCullers Jr. RHP Chris Flexen
59% 41%
Game 3 Wednesday, July 28 | 12:40 pm
RHP Jake Odorizzi LHP Yusei Kikuchi
56% 44%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Astros Mariners Edge
Overview Astros Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 117 (1st in MLB) 90 (26th in MLB) HOU
Fielding (OAA) 20 (4th in MLB) -9 (20th in MLB) HOU
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 94 (4th in AL) 112 (11th in AL) HOU
Bullpen (FIP-) 105 (11th in AL) 85 (2nd in AL) SEA

The A’s have maintained a solid grip on the second Wild Card spot ever since the Astros leapfrogged them in the standings back in late June. They haven’t played great since falling into second place in the division; they’re exactly .500 over their last 30 games and have won just two series since sweeping the Angels back on June 14–16. They’ve managed to maintain a healthy lead over the rest of the AL Wild Card field but the flaws on their roster are showing as they’ve fallen back towards the pack. It’ll be interesting to see how they approach the trade deadline. They haven’t been shy to bring in one-year rentals in the recent past and they have needs throughout their lineup and bullpen.

Astros Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Jose Altuve 2B R 407 0.270 138 0.8
Michael Brantley LF L 338 0.353 141 -1.2
Yuli Gurriel 1B R 388 0.321 136 -1.0
Yordan Alvarez DH L 351 0.350 139 0.8
Carlos Correa SS R 392 0.300 135 -1.8
Kyle Tucker RF L 359 0.280 131 0.9
Abraham Toro 3B S 118 0.207 81 0.4
Myles Straw CF R 357 0.325 95 1.9
Martín Maldonado C R 261 0.236 63 -3.1

Matt Olson is nearly singlehandedly carrying the A’s offense right now. He’s always been a power threat but he’s cut his strikeout rate almost in half, from 31.4% last year to 16.1% this year. He’s continued to smash the ball regularly, only now he’s also hitting .291 to go along with all those dingers. Unfortunately, the other two members of the A’s core trio aren’t fairing as well. Matt Chapman’s strikeout issues that cropped up last year haven’t subsided and now his power has gone missing too. Ramón Laureano had a strong start to the year with a 138 wRC+ through June 22, but he’s fallen into a deep slump over the past month with a 54 wRC+ since then.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

Cleveland Indians v Oakland Athletics Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

RHP Luis García

91 1/3 28.5% 7.9% 9.8% 36.5% 2.86 3.34
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 47.1% 93.4 2335 105 83 88
Cutter 20.5% 86.0 2359 83 178 121
Changeup 9.6% 83.2 1902 130 114 91
Curveball 9.2% 75.8 2235 94 136 103
Slider 13.6% 79.6 2381 87 127 158

From a previous series preview:

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 five 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 despite the additional air contact against him.

Manaea stymied the Mariners in his previous start against them in Seattle. He scattered four hits and two walks across nine shutout innings and struck out eight. He’s been roughed up a bit in his three July starts allowing 11 runs in 17 innings, though his strikeout-to-walk ratio this month is a sterling 19 to one.

RHP Lance McCullers

55 1/3 22.7% 8.0% 11.3% 38.3% 4.23 3.94
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Sinker 36.2% 93.6 2109 107 137 100
Cutter 2.0% 89.4 2598
Changeup 15.0% 85.6 1746 111 110 130
Curveball 19.3% 84.1 2878 130 100 92
Slider 27.5% 85.9 2771 116 101 91

From a previous series preview:

Frankie Montas has always had impressive raw stuff, but he’s had trouble harnessing it consistently. He had seemingly put everything together in 2019 but his breakout season was interrupted by a PED suspension. He returned last year and struggled through 11 starts during the shortened season. His success a few years ago was built upon a new splitter that he added to his repertoire, but he’s featured that pitch a little less often the last two years. He can generate fantastic whiff rate with that pitch but it can be fickle to command consistently too. Without as many splitters in his pitch mix, Montas is relying too heavily on a pretty mediocre sinker. The result is a healthy strikeout rate paired with far too much hard contact.

Montas’s previous start against the Mariners perfectly encapsulated his profile. He struck out 11 in six innings but allowed four runs on six hits and three walks, including home runs from Kyle Lewis and Jarred Kelenic. He’s been on a nice run over his last four starts, allowing just seven runs in 23.1 innings. This stretch is a nice bounce back after getting walloped for eight runs by the Rangers on June 21.

RHP Jake Odorizzi

55 1/3 22.7% 8.0% 11.3% 38.3% 4.23 3.94
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 57.4% 92.3 2117 87 105 100
Cutter 7.4% 88.2 2113 75
Splitter 21.3% 84.7 1249 78 70 95
Curveball 3.1% 73.2 2134
Slider 10.8% 83.4 2050 103 62 90

From a previous series preview:

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.

Bassitt was selected to participate in the first All-Star game of his career as an injury replacement, though he probably should have been chosen on his merits alone. He’s leading the American League in innings pitched and is sixth among qualified starters in fWAR and FIP. He struggled in his previous outing against the Mariners in his shortest start of the season; he allowed four runs on six hits in just four innings of work, striking out six.

LHP Cole Irvin

113 17.3% 4.3% 7.3% 36.9% 3.42 3.64
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 40.7% 90.7 1956 61 86 82
Sinker 20.0% 90.4 1885 63 111 87
Changeup 23.1% 84.0 1573 81 69 103
Curveball 1.9% 76.4 2068
Slider 14.3% 83.1 1980 103 67 82
Irvin’s curveball does not have a large enough sample size for pitch arsenal scores.

From a previous series preview:

Cole Irvin is the latest iteration of the type of contact managers the A’s have filled their rotation with over the years. Picked up from the Phillies in a minor deal during the offseason, Irvin had a fantastic spring and won a spot in Oakland’s opening day rotation. He’s run with his opportunity, compiling nineteen starts with an excellent 3.42 ERA matched by a 3.64 FIP. He relies on guile and pitching moxy to generate outs with his five pitch repertoire. His changeup is probably his best pitch and he’ll play it off his two different fastballs often. His slider is pretty interesting as well. It has some of the highest spin differential in all of baseball, meaning he’s imparting a ton of seam-shifted spin on the pitch.

The Mariners handed Irvin his worst start of the season back in late May. He allowed four runs on ten hits in 4.2 innings and struck out just two batters.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 61-39 0.610 -- W-L-W-W-W
Athletics 56-45 0.554 5.5 W-W-L-L-L
Mariners 54-46 0.540 7.0 L-L-W-W-W
Angels 49-49 0.500 11.0 L-W-L-W-W
Rangers 35-65 0.350 26.0 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
Rays 60-40 0.600 +4.5 W-W-W-W-L
Athletics 56-45 0.554 -- W-W-L-L-
Mariners 54-46 0.540 1.5 L-L-W-W-
Yankees 51-47 0.520 3.5 W-L-L-W-L
Blue Jays 49-46 0.516 4.0 L-L-L-W-L
Cleveland 49-48 0.505 5.0 W-L-L-L-W

Cleveland barely managed to avoid a three-game sweep in Houston by squeaking out a 5-4 win yesterday afternoon. The Astros will host the reeling Rangers over the weekend while Cleveland returns home to start a four-game set against the Rays tonight. The Angels have won just a single game coming out of the All-Star break and head to Minnesota to take on the Twins for four games this weekend.

The Yankees swept their short two-game series against the Phillies earlier this week and moved into a virtual tie with the Mariners in the Wild Card standings. They begin a huge four-game series in Boston this afternoon. The Blue Jays lost both games of their rain shortened series against the Red Sox and head out on their final road trip before being allowed to play in Toronto for the first time since 2019. They’re in New York to face the Mets this weekend.