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Series Preview: Mariners (58-51) at Yankees (58-49)

The Mariners travel to the Bronx for a four-game set against the Yankees.

New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

The Mariners almost swept the season series against the Rays and managed to keep pace with the A’s, Yankees, and Blue Jays in the Wild Card race. Since the All-Star break, the Mariners have scored 5.2 runs per game, a vast improvement over their 4.1 mark they posted in the first half. Their 8-2 victory on Monday was their first blowout win since beating the Blue Jays 7-2 on July 1. They’ll head to New York to wrap up this long East Coast road trip to play four against the team directly ahead of them in the Wild Card standings.

At a Glance

Mariners Yankees
Mariners Yankees
Game 1 Thursday, August 5 | 4:05 pm
LHP Tyler Anderson LHP Nestor Cortes
44% 56%
Game 2 Friday, August 6 | 4:05 pm
LHP Marco Gonzales RHP Deivi García
40% 60%
Game 3 Saturday, August 7 | 10:05 am
RHP Chris Flexen LHP Andrew Heaney
41% 59%
Game 3 Sunday, August 8 | 10:05 am
LHP Yusei Kikuchi RHP Luis Gil
40% 60%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Yankees Mariners Edge
Overview Yankees Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 100 (9th in AL) 92 (12th in AL) Yankees
Fielding (OAA) 0 (8th) -11 (10th) Yankees
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 88 (2nd) 112 (12th) Yankees
Bullpen (FIP-) 87 (2nd) 88 (3rd) Yankees

On paper, the Mariners matched up with the Rays pretty well despite Tampa Bay clearly being the better team. The Rays aren’t built to win blowout games and the Mariners are built to win close games. Winning six out of seven from them took a lot of good luck but it wasn’t a fluke or anything like that. The Yankees, on the other hand, are built to score tons of runs. They’ve had their issues with their offense this year — the Mariners have actually outscored the Yankees this season — but that only drove them to make two huge additions prior to the trade deadline: Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo.

Luckily, the Mariners will benefit from a minor COVID outbreak on New York’s roster. Aaron Judge was the big name who missed a bunch of games after the All-Star break. He’s back now but Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery are both sidelined after testing positive. Both of those starters were lined up to start in this series and now the Yankees will have to scramble to fill those spots in the rotation.

Yankees Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
DJ LeMahieu 2B R 455 0.305 100 0.2
Anthony Rizzo 1B L 403 0.263 124 -1.6
Aaron Judge LF R 398 0.335 141 -0.7
Joey Gallo RF L 415 0.266 132 2.7
Giancarlo Stanton DH R 365 0.328 126 -4.2
Gary Sánchez C R 325 0.251 114 -2.7
Gleyber Torres SS R 392 0.304 90 0.3
Rougned Odor 3B L 257 0.256 96 0.2
Greg Allen CF S 48 0.400 141 1.5

The Yankees lineup has had plenty of issues scoring runs this year despite all their star power. Down seasons from Gleyber Torres, Luke Voit, DJ LeMahieu, and Gary Sánchez have really hamstrung their ability to score runs regularly. On top of the struggles of those individual players, their lineup was heavily skewed towards right-handed batters. All those problems led them to target two left-handed sluggers at the trade deadline, giving them a much more balanced lineup and two batters built to take advantage of the short right field porch in Yankee Stadium.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees - MLB London Series - Match One - London Series Photo by Bradley Collyer/PA Images via Getty Images

LHP Nestor Cortes

32 2/3 30.5% 7.8% 3.0% 31.2% 1.93 2.18
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 44.1% 90.5 2184 70 119 119
Changeup 11.0% 82.5 1384 94
Curveball 21.4% 77.4 2425 76 81 103
Slider 21.2% 84.3 2335 116 55 96

You may remember Nestor Cortes from his brief stint in the 2020 Mariners bullpen. After a pretty ugly five appearances for Seattle, he was placed on the Injured List and outrighted off the roster at the end of the season. The Yankees signed him to a minor league contract — fitting because he’s thrown all but 12.1 innings of his career as a member of New York’s organization. After Corey Kluber went down with his shoulder injury in May, Cortes and a bunch of other swing starters have been filling the fifth spot in the Yankees rotation. He’s made three solid spot starts and has been good as a bulk reliever towards the back of their bullpen. The biggest difference for him has been a career-high strikeout rate that’s sitting over 30% right now. His four-seam fastball gets a tremendous amount of ride despite sitting just over 90 mph regularly. Batters really have trouble making contact with his heater and his trio of secondary offerings are good enough to form a serviceable repertoire.

RHP Deivi García

54 2/3 23.3% 14.9% 23.9% 29.7% 7.41 7.52
Triple-A stats

After making his major league debut last year, Deivi García has really struggled in his second stint in Triple-A. He’s never had great command of his repertoire but his walk rate has ballooned up to 14.9% this year. That combined with some real trouble keeping the ball in the park have resulted in a really ugly ERA and FIP for one of the Yankees top prospects. He relies on a decent fastball paired with a big, looping curveball and a changeup that’s flashed plus at times. All the fears about his ability to stick in the rotation might be coming true, but New York hasn’t given up on his potential ceiling yet. He’s been called up to make spot starts twice already this season and will be making a third on Friday in place of Jordan Montgomery.

LHP Andrew Heaney

98 27.9% 7.4% 17.4% 32.1% 5.42 4.47
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 59.7% 92.0 2453 80 126 83
Changeup 18.3% 83.7 2064 115 77 66
Curveball 22.1% 79.3 2578 75 108 104

From a previous series preview:

Over the last three years, Andrew Heaney has posted a strikeout-to-walk ratio just under four. That’s one of the best marks of any qualified starter in that time. But he’s struggled to establish himself as one of the premiere pitchers in the majors because of a big home run problem. Back in 2019, when the dragless ball was wreaking havoc on fly ball pitchers, he allowed nearly two home runs per nine innings. He got that problem under control last year but his ERA still far outpaced his peripherals.

The Yankees added Heaney right before the close of the trade deadline for two mid-level, unranked pitching prospects. He promptly allowed four home runs in four innings in his Yankees debut. His home run woes are an extremely poor fit for Yankee Stadium and no amount of strikeouts will help him overcome those issues. This will be the third time he’s faced the Mariners this year, with both previous outings resulting in losses.

RHP Luis Gil

61 33.0% 13.5% 11.3% 27.7% 4.13 4.13
Combined Double- and Triple-A stats

Luis Gil made his major league debut last week in place of Gerrit Cole after Cole was placed on the COVID-19 IL. He was really impressive over six innings of work against the Orioles. Ranked as the 13th prospect in the Yankees organization this year by FanGraphs, he possesses a phenomenal fastball but a pair of lackluster secondary offerings have limited his ceiling. The Yankees have continued to use him as a starter but he projects as a high-leverage reliever if he can’t improve the rest of his repertoire. But his fastball is really, really good. In his debut last week, the Orioles whiffed a third of the time they swung at his heater. It has great velocity and elite ride and he can locate it consistently at the top of the zone.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 65-43 0.602 -- W-L-L-W-L
Athletics 61-48 0.560 4.5 W-L-W-L-W
Mariners 58-51 0.532 7.5 L-L-W-W-L
Angels 54-54 0.500 11.0 W-L-L-W-W
Rangers 39-69 0.361 26.0 W-W-W-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Red Sox 64-45 0.587 +3.0 L-L-L-L-W
Athletics 61-48 0.560 -- W-L-W-L-W
Yankees 58-49 0.542 2.0 W-W-L-W-W
Blue Jays 56-49 0.533 3.0 W-W-L-W-W
Mariners 58-51 0.532 3.0 L-L-W-W-L

The Astros and A’s split their respective two-game sets with the Dodgers and Padres this week. Houston will return home to host the Twins for four games this weekend. The A’s are off today and will begin a three-game series against the Rangers on Friday. The Yankees and Blue Jays both won their series earlier this week, ensuring the rest of the Wild Card standings stayed at a standstill. The Blue Jays will host the Red Sox this weekend in a four-game series that includes a makeup doubleheader on Saturday.