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Series Preview: Mariners (61-55) vs. Blue Jays (62-52)

No Canadian invasion this year.

Toronto Blue Jays v Los Angeles Angels Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The last time the Blue Jays and Mariners matched up in late June, both teams were looking up in the Wild Card standings, hoping to chase down a couple of teams in front of them. Both teams are in the same position now, a month and a half later, though Toronto has been the far better team recently. With the Blue Jays sitting directly ahead of the Mariners in the Wild Card standings, this series is another in a long line of critical series for Seattle’s postseason hopes. And because of the standing COVID restrictions, these games won’t feel like an away series in Canada.

At a Glance

Blue Jays Mariners
Blue Jays Mariners
Game 1 Friday, August 13 | 7:10 pm
LHP Robbie Ray RHP Chris Flexen
58% 42%
Game 2 Saturday, August 14 | 7:10 pm
LHP Hyun Jin Ryu LHP Yusei Kikuchi
55% 45%
Game 3 Sunday, August 15 | 1:10 pm
LHP Steven Matz RHP Logan Gilbert
50% 50%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Blue Jays Mariners Edge
Overview Blue Jays Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 112 (2nd in AL) 92 (12th in AL) Blue Jays
Fielding (OAA) -16 (11th) -6 (10th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 103 (8th) 110 (11th) Blue Jays
Bullpen (FIP-) 104 (12th) 88 (3rd) Mariners

Since that three-game series in Buffalo, the Blue Jays have gone 21-14, pushing their record to 10 games over .500. Unfortunately, the Yankees and Rays, two of the teams ahead of them in the AL East standings, have been even better during that stretch. Still, they have the third best run differential in the American League and have underperformed their expected win-loss record by eight games. They directly addressed the biggest concern on their roster at the trade deadline, acquiring José Berríos to solidify their rotation and adding Brad Hand and Joakim Soria to their bullpen. They’ve won 10 of their 14 games since the deadline and just recently split a four-game series against the Angels.

Blue Jays Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
George Springer DH R 202 0.300 164 -1.0
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 1B R 485 0.316 173 0.0
Marcus Semien 2B R 504 0.311 135 3.4
Bo Bichette SS R 481 0.335 122 4.8
Teoscar Hernández RF R 394 0.372 130 0.7
Randal Grichuk CF R 424 0.278 95 -5.3
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. LF R 385 0.298 98 -2.2
Santiago Espinal 3B R 172 0.333 102 0.4
Reese McGuire C L 172 0.331 93 0.5

The Blue Jays lineup is as good as any in the American League, especially now that George Springer is healthy and crushing baseballs again. He’s posting a career-high 164 wRC+ in 47 games this year and his power output has gone through the roof. His strikeout rate is a little elevated too, but all that additional power has offset any issues his whiffs have introduced. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has slowed down a bit from his torrid pace in June and July, but he’s still crushing the ball with regularity. If Shohei Ohtani wasn’t in the middle of a historic season, Guerrero would be the front runner for the AL MVP. That’s an incredible one-two punch at the top of their lineup and then they have Marcus Semien, Bo Bichette, and Teoscar Hernández to follow.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

Cleveland Indians v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

LHP Robbie Ray

130 1/3 30.2% 6.8% 16.7% 39.7% 2.90 3.88
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 60.1% 95.1 2266 142 105 107
Changeup 4.7% 88.2 1726 44 90 57
Curveball 7.9% 82.7 2130 80 143 60
Slider 26.9% 88.9 2213 112 120 108

From a previous series preview:

For years, Robbie Ray put up elite strikeout rates in Arizona but was often undone by issues with his control and too much loud contact allowed. His two breaking balls are good enough to earn plenty of whiffs when located out of the zone, but trying to nibble with his fastball with his poor control was a recipe for disaster. All those problems came to a head last year as his walk rate exploded up to 17.9% leading to an ERA and FIP both above 6.50. This year, he’s completely reinvented himself. His walk rate has fallen to 6.3% after deciding to simply pound the strike zone with all of his pitches. He’s still allowing tons of loud contact as batters have continued to launch his fastball over the fence at an alarming rate. But since he’s allowing far fewer baserunners, those home runs aren’t doing as much damage as they had been before.

Back in June, Ray held the Mariners to three runs across six innings, good enough to pick up the win. He allowed five hits and one walk while striking out ten.

LHP Hyun Jin Ryu

126 2/3 19.8% 5.0% 10.8% 46.4% 3.62 3.63
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 34.7% 89.6 1940 54 79 106
Cutter 25.5% 85.9 1985 73 86 94
Changeup 26.3% 79.5 1499 159 65 91
Curveball 12.5% 73.6 2488 96 106 100

From a previous series preview:

The Blue Jays signed Hyun Jin Ryu to a huge contract last year to front their rotation during their transition from rebuilding to contending. It was a lot of money to guarantee a pitcher who turned 33 right before the first season of the four-year pact. He rewarded their faith in him by putting together a fantastic campaign in 2020. This year, those results have slipped a bit. His strikeout rate has fallen to the lowest it’s been since his rookie year in 2013 and he’s struggled to suppress hard contact against him. His fastball velocity has dropped a bit and his changeup has been surprisingly ineffective this year. It all adds up to a profile that’s merely good instead of the great results Ryu had been putting up over the last three seasons.

The Mariners knocked Ryu around in their previous meeting, scoring five runs in four innings. He allowed seven hits and two walks and only struck out a pair of batters.

LHP Steven Matz

101 23.5% 6.6% 13.8% 45.4% 4.28 3.80
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Sinker 50.0% 94.8 2180 116 144 78
Changeup 23.0% 85.5 2249 146 76 116
Curveball 16.7% 77.8 2336 95 95 71
Slider 10.3% 88.9 2084 123 57 90

From a previous series preview:

After never really living up to his potential as a member of the Mets, Steven Matz has put together a solid season for the Blue Jays. Acquired via trade during the offseason, Matz has harnessed all that raw stuff that made him such an interesting prospect in New York and is finally seeing positive results with it. His sinker-heavy approach has helped him keep the ball on the ground and a trio of above average secondary offerings give him plenty of options later in the count.

In his first start off the COVID IL back in June, Matz wasn’t very sharp. He allowed four runs on five hits in just 2.2 innings.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 68-46 0.596 -- L-W-L-W-W
Athletics 67-48 0.583 1.5 W-W-W-W-W
Mariners 61-55 0.526 8.0 L-W-L-W-W
Angels 58-58 0.500 11.0 L-W-L-L-W
Rangers 40-75 0.348 28.5 L-L-W-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Athletics 67-48 0.583 +2.0 W-W-W-W-W
Red Sox 66-51 0.564 -- W-L-L-W-L
Yankees 63-52 0.548 2.0 L-W-L-W-L
Blue Jays 62-52 0.544 2.5 W-L-W-W-L
Mariners 61-55 0.526 4.5 L-W-L-W-W

The Oakland A’s just continue to win, sweeping Cleveland in three games earlier this week and pushing their win streak to seven games. Since that fateful four-game series in Seattle in July, they’ve gone 11-3 and have closed the gap at the top of the AL West to just 1.5 games. The Astros soundly defeated the Rockies in a short two-game series this week. They travel to Los Angeles to face the Angels over the weekend.

With the A’s playing so well, the Mariners are now chasing a trio of AL East teams for the second Wild Card spot. Even though they scored a whopping 20 runs in their win on Wednesday, the Red Sox lost their three-game series to the Rays, falling even further behind the team on top of their division. They’ll look to get back on track as they host the Orioles this weekend. In the much-hyped Field of Dreams game last night, the Yankees were walked off by the “host” White Sox. Those two teams are off today and pick up their series tomorrow and Sunday.