After their long East Coast road trip and a cross-country flight on Sunday night, the Mariners are back at it on Monday night. More importantly, they won’t get any respite after getting swept away in Boston. An ugly series like that almost demands an off day to get their heads straight and figure out a way to get back on the right track. It’s a small mercy, then, that the Athletics are in town for a three-game series before their off day at home on Thursday. It’s hard to say any series is “must-win” when we’re just a quarter of the way through the season, but the Mariners desperately need to string together some wins, if only to help remind us to enjoy the ride.
At a Glance
|Game 1||Monday, May 23 | 6:40 pm|
|LHP Zach Logue||LHP Marco Gonzales|
|Game 2||Tuesday, May 24 | 6:40 pm|
|RHP James Kaprielian||RHP George Kirby|
|Game 3||Wednesday, May 25 | 1:10 pm|
|RHP Paul Blackburn||LHP Robbie Ray|
|Batting (wRC+)||77 (14th in AL)||109 (5th in AL)||Mariners|
|Fielding (OAA)||3 (6th)||1 (8th)||Athletics|
|Starting Pitching (FIP-)||106 (8th)||124 (15th)||Athletics|
|Bullpen (FIP-)||95 (5th)||106 (12th)||Athletics|
Because of the delayed start to the season and the quirks of MLB scheduling, this will be the first time the Mariners and A’s have matched up this year. Last year, Seattle won 15 of the 19 games between these two teams — and that was with an Oakland roster that was desperately trying to squeeze one last good year out of their talented core. They tore down that roster over the offseason — Chris Bassitt and Matt’s Chapman and Olson were traded away and Mark Canha and Starling Marte departed in free agency. What’s left is a roster filled with young prospects and the leftover veterans trying to establish their value before getting traded away in July. As you’d expect, they haven’t been very good.
What’s unexpected has been the competence of their pitching staff. Yes, they still have Frankie Montas leading their rotation — thankfully the Mariners avoid facing him during this series — but they’ve also gotten solid contributions from Cole Irvin and Paul Blackburn and their bullpen has been much better than advertised. They’re allowing under four runs per game so far, a mark that’s just a bit better than league average with the deadened ball depressing run scoring across baseball.
While their pitching staff has been halfway decent, Oakland’s lineup has been completely atrocious. They’re last in the majors in nearly every significant offensive category and only the hapless Tigers have scored fewer runs than they have. The team leader in wRC+ is Sheldon Neuse, a journeyman infielder in his second stint with the A’s. He’s currently batting .261/.320/.355, a career-best slash line for him. The lack of power is conspicuous, and that goes for the entire lineup. Just two of their regulars have an ISO above league average, Seth Brown and Sean Murphy. Those two share the team lead with four home runs apiece. Ramón Laureano returned from his early season PED suspension a couple of weeks ago but he’s struggled to make much of an impact so far.
LHP Zach Logue
Zach Logue was one of the prospects that came back from Toronto in the big Matt Chapman trade this offseason. He enjoyed a breakout season in the minors last year, putting up a 28.2% strikeout rate across two levels in the Blue Jays minor league system. His low arm slot and riding action on his four-seam fastball allow it to play up over its below average velocity. He’ll mix in a changeup and a pair of breaking balls pretty evenly and he has decent command of his entire repertoire. In three major league starts, he’s allowed just four runs and struck out 13.
RHP James Kaprielian
James Kaprielian missed nearly three and half years of development after multiple injuries to his throwing arm kept him off the mound from early 2016 through 2018. Finally completely healthy, he made 21 starts for the A’s last year and enjoyed some solid success. He posted a 4.07 ERA that was backed by a 4.33 FIP and a decent 3.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Those injury concerns cropped up again this spring, as some shoulder irritation sidelined him until May 1. He has a solid four-pitch repertoire with his slider and changeup grading out much better than his mediocre fastball.
RHP Paul Blackburn
Nearly an afterthought on the A’s 40-man roster after putting up a 5.74 ERA across his first five seasons in the big leagues, Paul Blackburn has broken out in his best season yet. A soft-tosser who relies on a deep repertoire and good command, he’s figured out a way to get batters to swing and miss at more of his pitches in the zone rather than trying to get them to chase out of the zone. His in-zone contact rate has fallen from around 90% for his career to 84.4% this season and his overall contact rate has dropped to 75.1%, one of the lowest rates among qualified starters. When batters do make contact with his pitches, they’ve struggled to make quality contact too. The result has been one of the more unlikely breakout seasons in the majors.
The Big Picture:
The AL West
|Team||W-L||W%||Games Behind||Recent Form|
|Team||W-L||W%||Games Behind||Recent Form|
Both the Astros and Angels got their seasons back on track after a couple of stumbles early last week. Houston scored just 12 runs against the Rangers in their four-game weekend series but came away with three wins, a testament to the strength of their pitching staff. They’ll host the Guardians to start this week. The Angels won two of three against the A’s after getting swept by the Rangers. They’ll match up with Texas again in a brief two-game set before their schedule gets really difficult; they have series against the Blue Jays, Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox, Mets, and Dodgers lined up after that.