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Series Preview: Mariners (17-21) at Red Sox (15-22)

The Mariners wrap up their long East Coast road trip with a four-game set in Boston.

Houston Astros v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

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

Mariners Red Sox
Mariners Red Sox
Game 1 Thursday, May 19 | 4:10 pm
RHP George Kirby LHP Rich Hill
48% 52%
Game 2 Friday, May 20 | 4:10 pm
LHP Robbie Ray RHP Michael Wacha
52% 48%
Game 3 Saturday, May 21 | 1:10 pm
RHP Chris Flexen RHP Garrett Whitlock
38% 62%
Game 4 Sunday, May 22 | 10:35 am
RHP Logan Gilbert RHP Nathan Eovaldi
44% 56%
*Game odds courtesy of FanGraphs

Team Overview

Overview Red Sox Mariners Edge
Overview Red Sox Mariners Edge
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

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Enrique Hernández CF R 154 0.216 53 -0.1
Rafael Devers 3B L 160 0.375 176 0.9
J.D. Martinez DH R 128 0.402 167 -0.3
Xander Bogaerts SS R 152 0.408 157 0.5
Alex Verdugo LF L 143 0.207 53 -1.8
Trevor Story 2B R 140 0.291 80 0.7
Franchy Cordero 1B L 49 0.273 81 0.4
Christian Vázquez C R 88 0.270 65 -2.0
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.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

Houston Astros v Boston Red Sox Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

LHP Rich Hill

28 18.6% 6.2% 5.3% 33.3% 2.89 3.37
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 41.1% 88.0 2262 55 68 83
Curveball 41.1% 71.5 2645 111 55 100
Slider 11.6% 69.1 2550

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

26 19.0% 11.0% 8.0% 44.3% 1.38 3.89
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 32.2% 92.8 2110 103 54 76
Sinker 11.7% 92.7 2054
Cutter 14.3% 88.4 2005 87
Changeup 30.9% 84.8 1600 73 115 113
Curveball 10.9% 75.2 2169

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

29 2/3 31.1% 8.4% 13.3% 40.8% 2.43 3.45
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 4.9% 95.1 2101
Sinker 55.6% 95.4 2111 115 187 108
Changeup 19.2% 84.3 2002 157 100 91
Slider 20.3% 82.9 1886 79 140 134

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

41 2/3 23.7% 4.0% 27.5% 42.1% 4.32 6.01
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 40.5% 96.8 2130 159 81 113
Cutter 7.4% 91.9 2380 122
Splitter 15.7% 88.8 1540 106 129 88
Curveball 20.7% 79.7 2111 108 98 111
Slider 15.8% 86.6 2172 132 77 111

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
Astros 24-14 0.632 -- L-W-L-W-L
Angels 24-16 0.600 1.0 W-W-L-L-L
Rangers 17-19 0.472 6.0 L-W-W-W-W
Mariners 17-21 0.447 7.0 L-W-L-L-W
Athletics 16-24 0.400 9.0 L-L-L-W-L

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

Series Outcome Odds
Series Outcome Odds
Mariners win +210
Series split +150
Red Sox win +190