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Series Preview: Mariners (87-71) vs. Tigers (65-93)

The Mariners wrap up the regular season with a four-game set against the Tigers with Wild Card seeding still in the balance.

Minnesota Twins v Detroit Tigers Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

After a set against Oakland that started with the most exciting game of Lookout Landing’s existence and ended with a remarkable display of ennui yesterday, the Mariners welcome the Detroit Tigers to town today for the last series of the 2022 regular season. This series against the Tigers was originally set to be the opening series of the season, but was postponed due to the owner’s lockout — just imagine where we could have been for this game! A gray day in March, Julio a dream not yet come true, Jesse Winker still shiny, the haunting still deep behind our eyes. And yet here we are, October 3rd, headed to the playoffs.

These four games could decide in which seed the Mariners enter the postseason… or not, depending on what Toronto and Tampa do. Lineups and starting pitchers will change based on those stakes. For example, Logan Gilbert’s usual spot in the rotation is currently TBA, but he will pitch Wednesday if the first Wild Card seed is on the line. Similarly, some elements of the lineups Wednesday and during Tuesday’s doubleheader will likely depend on the stakes of those games. Yes, there’s a doubleheader Tuesday, and a traditional one at that: a single ticket gets you into both games. Finally, Julio Rodriguez is set to return from the Injured List today, and Cal Raleigh should be ready to catch again after some extra rest for his jammed thumb.

At a Glance

Tigers Mariners
Tigers Mariners
Game 1 Monday, October 3 | 6:40 pm
RHP Bryan Garcia RHP George Kirby
27% 73%
Game 2 Tuesday, October 4 | 3:10 pm
LHP Eduardo Rodriguez LHP Marco Gonzales
46% 54%
Game 3 Tuesday, October 4 | TBD
RHP Garrett Hill RHP Chris Flexen
39% 61%
Game 4 Wednesday, October 5 | 1:10 pm
LHP Tyler Alexander TBD
33% 66%
*Game odds courtesy of FanGraphs

Team Overview

Overview Tigers Mariners Edge
Overview Tigers Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 81 (15th in AL) 106 (5th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (OAA) 9 (4th) 2 (9th) Tigers
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 120 (14th) 105 (8th) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 89 (5th) 96 (7th) Tigers

Adapted from last month’s series preview: After a promising end to the 2021 season and significant offseason additions including Javier Báez and Eduardo Rodríguez, fans hoped this would be the start of an ascendant arc for Detroit, or at least their first winning season since 2016. Unfortunately, what transpired has been more of a tailspin. Rodriguez missed three months on the restricted list for personal reasons and returned to the team in August. The team ranks last in MLB in batting, with a cumulative fWAR of 2.5 (!) and a team wRC+ of 81. General Manager Al Avila was fired in August.

The Mariners swept the Tigers in the teams’ last meeting as August turned to September. Since then Detroit has heated up quite a bit and has won their last five series. With the playoffs far out of reach, however, Tigers’ fans’ attention turns toward the future: in recent weeks the team hired Giants GM Scott Harris, a young Theo Epstein protege, as their new General Manager, and confirmed the plan for aging superstar Miguel Cabrera to play out the final year of his contract with Detroit next year.

Tigers Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Akil Baddoo LF L 205 0.285 62 0.7
Riley Greene CF L 404 0.355 99 -0.4
Javier Báez SS R 577 0.297 91 2.2
Harold Castro 3B L 434 0.318 94 -0.8
Miguel Cabrera DH R 425 0.323 77 -4.3
Spencer Torkelson 1B R 391 0.250 69 -3.8
Victor Reyes RF S 323 0.325 82 0.6
Jonathan Schoop 2B R 497 0.233 57 0.5
Tucker Barnhart C S 300 0.297 64 -1.2

From last month’s preview: My usual angles for talking about opponents’ lineups in these previews don’t serve me here, since the Tigers have no breakout hitters this year, nor even consistently productive ones. Nationally known players like Jeimer Candelario and Javier Báez have regressed significantly from their offensive numbers last season; the former had a 120 wRC+ in 2021 compared to his 78 wRC+ this season, and the latter’s has likewise dropped from 117 to 91.

At the start of the year the most anticipated batter in Detroit’s lineup was rookie Spencer Torkelson, who the Tigers picked first overall in the 2020 draft. Torkelson debuted on Opening Day but struggled to adjust at the big league level, eventually getting sent down to Triple-A on July 17. He returned to Detroit in mid-September and has a wRC+ of 74 since then. The only batter the Mariners are likely to see this week with an above-average wRC+ is catcher Eric Haase, who has a 113 wRC+ in 339 plate appearances and has homered in his last two games. First baseman Harold Castro has also been hot recently, with four multi-hit games in the last week.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

RHP Bryan Garcia

85 1/3 19.4% 9.6% 10.4% 38.3% 3.80 4.83
Triple-A stats

Bryan Garcia was a highly regarded high-leverage reliever when he was drafted in 2016 and spent his entire pro career pitching out of the bullpen until this year. For whatever reason, he decided he wanted to transition to the starting rotation in the middle of this season. He had been stuck at Triple-A after struggling to make an impact in the big leagues across parts of three seasons and figured taking on a starter’s workload would help him make it back to the majors in a different role. He made the switch in early July and made his first major league start on July 29 and has made a couple of other spot starts since then. He has a decent three-pitch repertoire that has never really stood out — he sports an ugly 1.29 strikeout-to-walk ratio as a big leaguer.

LHP Eduardo Rodriguez

85 17.8% 9.0% 10.2% 43.0% 4.02 4.32
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 37.1% 91.7 2173 41 76 100
Sinker 17.7% 91.7 2151 78 92 125
Cutter 24.8% 88.7 2192 104 56 100
Changeup 16.2% 85.5 1877 81 88 104
Slider 4.2% 82.8 2174 72

From a previous series preview:

Eduardo Rodriguez has had a rough first season in Detroit. After signing a big five-year contract in the offseason, he suffered a rib injury in late May and was then placed on the restricted list as he was rehabbing to attend to some personal matters. He only recently returned to the team a couple of weeks ago. When he has been on the mound, he hasn’t looked like himself. While pitching for Boston, he utilized a deep repertoire to post a strikeout-to-walk ratio around three. That mark has fallen to 1.8 this year and his strikeout rate has fallen by more than five points. The Tigers have him throwing his three different fastballs more than ever to the detriment of his excellent changeup. De-emphasizing his best pitch has really hurt his ability to put batters away consistently.

The Mariners knocked around Rodriguez for six runs in just four innings of work in early September. He’s continued to struggle to find any consistency this year, though he held the Royals scoreless over 6.2 innings in his last start.

RHP Garrett Hill

57 2/3 14.9% 11.2% 9.6% 37.2% 3.90 5.25
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 59.2% 91.7 2142 75 84 130
Changeup 11.6% 82.2 1362 125 63 124
Curveball 10.5% 77.0 2639 85 77 67
Slider 18.7% 82.5 2524 57 67 112

The Tigers haven’t announced a starter for the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader. They don’t exactly have many options in Triple-A to call on so we could be looking at a bullpen game. Garrett Hill would be the most likely candidate to take the bulk of the innings if that were to happen. Hill struck out nearly a third of the batters he faced in 2021 while moving from High-A to Double-A. That represented a significant improvement for him after sitting out the 2020 season after the minor league season was canceled. He boosted that strikeout rate even further this year, while jumping another two levels to make his major league debut in early July. Unfortunately, he simply hasn’t been able to replicate his gaudy strikeout numbers in the big leagues yet.

LHP Tyler Alexander

95 1/3 13.9% 6.0% 11.1% 34.8% 4.72 4.77
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 24.0% 90.1 2274 72 78 94
Sinker 18.7% 90.1 2125 72 81 115
Cutter 27.9% 85.5 2347 91 79 108
Changeup 18.2% 82.8 1530 99 61 76
Slider 11.1% 77.8 2337 87 47 95

From a previous series preview:

Tyler Alexander was a second round pick in the 2015 draft and has been a useful up-and-down spot starter throughout his four year career in Detroit. His stuff isn’t overpowering and he relies on excellent command and a knack for suppressing hard contact to find success. After hovering around 20% for the first three years in the majors, his strikeout rate has fallen to just 12.3% this year. That’s a big reason why his ERA and FIP have both risen close to five.

Anderson allowed just two runs on four hits in 4.2 innings the last time he faced Seattle.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 104-55 0.654 -- W-L-L-W-W
Mariners 87-71 0.551 16.5 W-W-W-W-L
Angels 73-86 0.459 31.0 W-W-W-W-W
Rangers 66-92 0.418 37.5 L-L-L-L-L
Athletics 57-102 0.358 47.0 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
Blue Jays 90-69 0.566 +4.0 L-L-W-W-W
Mariners 87-71 0.551 +1.5 W-W-W-W-L
Rays 86-73 0.541 -- L-L-W-L-L

The outcome of every game played by the three American League Wild Card teams could impact the Mariners’ strategy this week and games next weekend. If the Mariners want to end up in Wild Card One (unlikely at this point), their losses plus Toronto’s wins can be no greater than one. To drop into Wild Card Three, the M’s losses plus Tampa’s wins would need to be five or greater. While the Mariners host the Tigers, the Rays will play three in Boston and Toronto will play three in Baltimore.