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Series Preview: Mariners (67-58) at Athletics (70-55)

The Mariners wrap up their road trip with two huge games in Oakland.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Oakland Athletics Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The Mariners were brought down to Earth during those first two games in Houston, exposing just how far they are behind the Astros talent level. Winning the division was never really on the table even though they had cut their deficit to just 5.5 games heading into that series against the Astros. And because the rest of the AL Wild Card contenders struggled over the weekend, the Mariners only lost a half game in the standings. The games that really matter are these against the A’s and the three-game series against the Red Sox in mid-September. The Mariners can really make up ground in the Wild Card race if they can win the majority of those 12 games, starting with these two games in Oakland.

At a Glance

Mariners Athletics
Mariners Athletics
Game 1 Monday, August 23 | 6:40 pm
LHP Marco Gonzales RHP Paul Blackburn
49% 51%
Game 2 Tuesday, August 24 | 12:37 pm
RHP Chris Flexen LHP Cole Irvin
42% 58%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Athletics Mariners Edge
Overview Athletics Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 103 (6th in AL) 92 (11th in AL) Athletics
Fielding (OAA) 24 (2nd) -4 (10th) Athletics
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 90 (3rd) 111 (12th) Athletics
Bullpen (FIP-) 102 (10th) 88 (3rd) Mariners

The Mariners are pretty lucky to line up against the back-end of the A’s rotation for this short series. That gives them a real shot at making up two games against the team directly ahead of them in the standings. Despite their position in the standings and their overall team quality, Oakland has one of the most difficult remaining schedules of any AL contender. They just lost back-to-back series against the White Sox and Giants last week and face the Mariners and Yankees this week. Then, they travel to Detroit and Toronto and match up with the White Sox again before a brief respite in mid-September. Finally, they end their season with alternating series against the Mariners and Astros. That gruelling schedule should give the Mariners some additional hope that they’ll be able to overtake Oakland in the standings.

Athletics Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Mark Canha LF R 470 0.281 122 0.9
Starling Marte CF R 377 0.387 142 8.8
Matt Olson 1B L 509 0.272 154 1.2
Jed Lowrie DH S 450 0.297 107 -0.6
Matt Chapman 3B R 498 0.297 102 1.6
Seth Brown RF L 255 0.217 98 1.1
Josh Harrison 2B R 412 0.327 117 0.1
Sean Murphy C R 374 0.266 110 -2.1
Elvis Andrus SS R 443 0.271 65 2.2

The A’s made some savvy additions at the trade deadline to shore up their struggling offense. Starling Marte has been phenomenal, already racking up 1.3 fWAR for the A’s since coming over from the Marlins. He’s provided a real spark at the top of the lineup, stealing 17 bases already and capably filling in in center field after Ramón Laureano was suspended for PED use. Their other under-the-radar acquisition was getting Josh Harrison and Yan Gomes from the Nationals. Harrison has fit in rather nicely as a flexible option that can play anywhere in the infield or outfield. He’s in the middle of his best offensive season since his breakout year way back in 2014.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Texas Rangers Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

RHP Paul Blackburn

88 2/3 20.0% 6.8% 12.9% 53.9% 4.97 4.32
Triple-A stats.

Paul Blackburn has been called up to fill in for the injured Chris Bassitt. He’s been a depth piece stuck in Triple-A for five years now. He’s struggled to replicate the success that led to his breakthrough debut in 2017 and has made just 12 major league appearances over the last four years. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but instead relies on command and pitchability to work through a lineup. This season in Triple-A, he’s posted the highest strikeout rate of his professional career at 20%, though the ridiculous offensive environment at the level has really hampered his ERA.

LHP Cole Irvin

141 1/3 16.3% 4.9% 6.7% 35.9% 3.57 3.71
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 41.1% 90.8 1955 57 80 77
Sinker 19.1% 90.4 1882 64 111 98
Changeup 23.4% 84.1 1584 80 68 92
Curveball 2.5% 77.1 2025 70
Slider 13.9% 83.0 1992 100 56 87

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.

This will be Irvin’s third start against the Mariners and neither of the previous two have gone very well. He’s allowed four runs in each of his previous starts against Seattle, losing both outings.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 73-51 0.589 -- L-W-W-W-L
Athletics 70-55 0.560 3.5 L-W-W-L-L
Mariners 67-58 0.536 6.5 W-W-L-L-W
Angels 62-64 0.492 12.0 W-W-L-L-L
Rangers 43-80 0.350 29.5 L-L-L-L-W

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Yankees 72-52 0.581 +2.5 W-W-W-W-W
Red Sox 70-55 0.560 -- L-L-L-W-L
Athletics 70-55 0.560 -- L-W-W-L-L
Mariners 67-58 0.536 3.0 W-W-L-L-W
Blue Jays 64-58 0.525 4.5 L-L-L-W-L

Both Boston and New York had their weekend series interrupted by Hurricane Henri, with both teams’ games on Sunday preemptively postponed. The Red Sox had split their two games against the Rangers and are playing their makeup game on Monday morning. The Yankees won their two games against Minnesota and the Twins will head to Fenway park for a three-game series starting Tuesday. Those two wins against Minnesota extended the Yankees win streak to nine games and they’ll look to keep it alive during a two-game series in Atlanta. The Blue Jays are in danger of falling too far behind in the Wild Card standings and they don’t have the benefit of as many games against their direct competition like the Mariners do. Toronto lost their weekend series against the Tigers and will start a huge four-game series against the White Sox this afternoon.