At long last, the Mariners begin the final series of their challenging East Coast road trip, a four-gamer against the worse-than-expected Red Sox. Though the road trip as a whole has been disappointing (despite an unlikely series win against the Mets), the M’s are coming off a heartening win yesterday in Toronto in which strong pitching finally received adequate run support behind home runs from Cal Raleigh, Ty France, and Abraham Toro. If the bats can retain their spark, this Boston series could be a re-energizing transition into next week’s homestand, for players and fans alike.
At a Glance
|Game 1||Thursday, May 19 | 4:10 pm|
|RHP George Kirby||LHP Rich Hill|
|Game 2||Friday, May 20 | 4:10 pm|
|LHP Robbie Ray||RHP Michael Wacha|
|Game 3||Saturday, May 21 | 1:10 pm|
|RHP Chris Flexen||RHP Garrett Whitlock|
|Game 4||Sunday, May 22 | 10:35 am|
|RHP Logan Gilbert||RHP Nathan Eovaldi|
|Batting (wRC+)||89 (11th in AL)||110 (6th in AL)||Mariners|
|Fielding (OAA)||-4 (12th)||1 (8th)||Mariners|
|Starting Pitching (FIP-)||110 (12th)||118 (15th)||Red Sox|
|Bullpen (FIP-)||109 (13th)||101 (9th)||Mariners|
The Mariners and Red Sox have yet to meet in 2022, so Mariners fans may not realize what a disappointing season it’s been for Boston so far. Though they weren’t seen as likely competitors for the AL East title, at thirteen games back of the Yankees they are significantly underperforming expectations. As a team, Boston is 23rd in the majors in wRC+ (89). The Mariners, in case you are wondering, rank tenth with a wRC+ of 109. If only that translated to an above-average win percentage as well…
The Red Sox enter this series having broken a month-long slump by taking back-to-back series against the Rangers and the Astros. The latter series involved some intense pitching whiplash, with ace Nathan Eovaldi giving up five home runs in an inning on Tuesday and leaving the game in the second, followed by Nick Pivetta pitching a two-hit complete game yesterday. After that dominant outing, it’s a relief that the M’s miss Pivetta this go-round.
Red Sox Lineup
|Jackie Bradley Jr.||RF||L||117||0.256||50||-0.3|
Boston’s lineup smacks of underperformance, though they have three players who are performing extremely well offensively. Rafael Devers tops that list and is absolutely lighting it up; he leads the AL in hits (52) and ranks seventh in wRC+ (167). J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts are close behind Devers in terms of contribution and have wRC+ of 177 and 154, respectively.
Boston’s lineup also includes several players who the team is counting on to be very good yet are struggling mightily. Enrique Hernández is the most dramatic example of this: his current wRC+ is 54 after finishing last year at 110 with 4.1 WAR. Trevor Story continues to search for his footing with his new team after signing with the Red Sox in March, finally hitting his first home run at Fenway this week.
With a lineup that could (should?) be performing better, there’s always the risk that this is the series where bats other than the top three will really start to heat up. Either way, we’re likely to see some offense from Devers, Martinez, and Bogaerts. Hopefully luck and continued competence from the M’s pitchers will keep the rest of the Red Sox batters from finding their groove just yet.
LHP Rich Hill
Rich Hill’s long and storied career has taken him to many cities and teams (11 to be exact), but he’s finally returned to the place where he reinvented himself. Back in 2015, Hill had struggled to make much of an impact in the majors, compiling just 6.0 WAR in parts of 10 seasons with six different clubs. At the ripe old age of 35, he refocused his pitch mix on his fastball and looping curveball, two pitches that play off each other extremely well. In the eight seasons since then, he’s accumulated 13.0 WAR and has made 131 starts with a 3.67 FIP. Not bad for someone who had nearly washed out of the majors a decade ago. Despite diminished velocity and the exact same approach for years now, Hill is just as effective as ever. The key has been limiting his exposure to a lineup; he’s averaging under five innings per start this year as the Red Sox have been piggybacking him with another long reliever to avoid having Hill face the same lineup more than twice.
RHP Michael Wacha
For a while, it looked like Michael Wacha was poised to become a mid-rotation mainstay in St. Louis; he accumulated 10.3 WAR across his first five seasons as a Cardinal. Unfortunately, he’s really struggled recently and has bounced from the Cardinals, the Mets, the Rays, and finally to the Red Sox this year. A late season surge gave Boston some hope that he could regain some of the effectiveness he enjoyed earlier in his career. From August 28 through the end of the season, he posted a 2.88 ERA and a 3.29 FIP across six starts and an additional relief appearance. The biggest change during that stretch: cutting the usage of his cutter and throwing his excellent changeup and a newly developed sinker more often.
RHP Garrett Whitlock
Garrett Whitlock is one of the biggest Rule 5 success stories in baseball. Tommy John surgery and the canceled minor league season in 2020 had kept him off the mound since July of 2019, but the Red Sox took a chance on his skills and minor league track record and found a gem. What’s more interesting is that he was arguably their most valuable reliever during his rookie season last year. He put up a 1.96 ERA and a 2.84 FIP in 46 appearances out of the ‘pen with a phenomenal 4.76 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He started off this year in that same fireman role but has shifted to the rotation when a need arose. He’s made five starts since making the transition and has been nearly as dominant as he was in shorter stints. He possesses three plus pitches with a nasty sinker forming the foundation of his repertoire. Both his slider and changeup have looked a bit different this year and both have produced greatly improved results.
RHP Nathan Eovaldi
After the Astros launched five home runs off Nathan Eovaldi on Tuesday, his FIP ballooned up over six. But that outburst of dingers wasn’t just a one-off blip for him, he’s allowed a home run in all but one of his starts this year and his home-run-per-fly-ball rate is a whopping 27.5%. That’s a far cry from the dominance he showed last year when he was among the best starters in the majors. With a hard fastball that doesn’t have an outstanding shape, he’s always been a bit homer prone. It seems like last year was an outlier instead of him turning a corner. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is still elite, his biggest problem is what happens when batters put his pitches in play.
The Big Picture:
The AL West
|Team||W-L||W%||Games Behind||Recent Form|
|Team||W-L||W%||Games Behind||Recent Form|
The top teams in the AL West stumbled a bit this week. The Astros are coming off a series loss in Boston despite outscoring the Red sox 17-15 in the series. Down in Texas, the Angels were swept by the Rangers, including a dramatic extra-innings, walk-off winner yesterday. That sweep has vaulted the Rangers above the Mariners in the standings temporarily. The two Texas teams matchup in a four-game set this weekend in Houston while the Angels return home to host the A’s for three games.
SB Nation has partnered with DraftKings to sponsor select series previews this season. Here are the betting odds for this series.
DraftKings Series Odds
|Red Sox win||+190|