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Series Preview: Mariners (12-13) vs. Rays (15-10)

The Mariners return home to face the Rays in a four-game series.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Oakland Athletics D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

What started as a disappointing trip to Florida ended in disaster in Houston. As encouraging as that first nine-game homestand was, this long road trip was equally discouraging. Getting shutout across two straight games against the Astros was one of those early season nadirs that we’ve become so accustomed to. And the worst part is the Mariners schedule doesn’t get any easier in May. They’ll face the Rays and the Phillies during this homestand and then travel back ot the East Coast to face the Mets, Blue Jays, and Red Sox, and will play 20 games over the next 21 days.

At a Glance

Rays Mariners
Rays Mariners
Game 1 Thursday, May 5 | 6:40 pm
LHP Shane McClanahan LHP Robbie Ray
48% 52%
Game 2 Friday, May 6 | 6:40 pm
LHP Josh Fleming RHP Logan Gilbert
44% 56%
Game 3 Saturday, May 7 | 6:10 pm
RHP Drew Rasmussen LHP Marco Gonzales
52% 48%
Game 4 Sunday, May 8 | 1:10 pm
LHP Ryan Yarbrough RHP Chris Flexen
48% 52%
*Game odds courtesy of FanGraphs

Team Overview

Overview Rays Mariners Edge
Overview Rays Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 110 (3rd in AL) 94 (10th in AL) Rays
Fielding (OAA) 29 (2nd) -6 (8th) Rays
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 97 (7th) 111 (12th) Rays
Bullpen (FIP-) 88 (3rd) 89 (4th) Rays
2021 stats

After struggling in Miami and Houston, the Mariners return home to face a familiar opponent. Since facing Seattle in Tampa Bay, the Rays have lost a series to the Twins and then swept the A’s in Oakland. On Tuesday, they needed a ninth-inning home run off Mike Zunino’s bat to send the game to extra innings, and then scored five runs in the top of the 10th to secure the win. Yesterday, they almost squandered Corey Kluber’s six-inning gem by scoring three runs in the eighth inning to finally pull ahead.

Rays Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Yandy Díaz 1B R 541 0.286 111 -2.2
Wander Franco SS S 308 0.311 127 3.1
Randy Arozarena DH R 604 0.363 128 1.5
Brandon Lowe 2B L 615 0.280 137 4.9
Manuel Margot LF R 464 0.281 95 1.6
Kevin Kiermaier CF L 390 0.345 101 2.2
Taylor Walls 3B S 176 0.304 80 0.0
Brett Phillips RF L 292 0.302 103 3.5
Mike Zunino C R 375 0.231 134 0.6
2021 stats

The biggest change to the Rays lineup since these two teams last matched up was Ji-Man Choi getting placed on the Injured List with an elbow injury. That’s moved Yandy Díaz into an everyday role at first and has allowed Taylor Walls to get regular playing time at third base and shortstop. Díaz is in the midst of a really strong start to the season. He’s always had great plate discipline, but he’s taken it to another level this year. His strikeout rate has dropped to a nice 6.9% and he’s hitting a cool .300. If only he could figure out how to elevate the ball regularly.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Tampa Bay Rays Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

LHP Shane McClanahan

123 1/3 27.3% 7.2% 14.3% 45.5% 3.43 3.31
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 40.9% 96.4 2256 155 90 101
Changeup 8.1% 89.2 1725 65 147 93
Curveball 16.5% 82.5 2652 112 132 75
Slider 34.6% 89.2 2398 138 114 97
2021 stats

As a prospect, Shane McClanahan looked like he was on track to become a high-leverage relief option for the Rays because his fastball and slider were so strong and the other pitches in his repertoire lagged behind that elite combo. It’s a credit to him that he’s developed not only one other strong secondary option but two. His changeup and curveball are thrown almost exclusively to right-handed batters and they’ve allowed him to maintain a reasonable platoon split while giving him the full repertoire needed for starting work. Those other two pitches have been so important to him, he’s actually dropped the usage of his slider in favor of his curveball and changeup this year. Those three secondary pitches each have whiff rates over 45%, giving him a full arsenal of weapons to deploy. As a result, his strikeout rate has climbed to 39.3% this year.

LHP Josh Fleming

104 1/3 14.5% 6.9% 12.8% 55.7% 5.09 4.27
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Sinker 48.2% 91.2 1789 103 134 93
Cutter 28.5% 86.3 1853 95 63 87
Changeup 23.3% 81.8 1602 135 66 88
Curveball 9.4% 80.0 1651 80
2021 stats; Fleming’s curveball does not have a large enough sample size for Pitch Arsenal scores.

From a previous series preview:

Josh Fleming relies on a bowling ball sinker that has an exceptional movement profile leading to a ton of whiffs when batters aren’t pounding it into the ground. His secondary offering lag a bit behind his fastball so if batters can lay off the sinker, they’re often able to do some damage against his cutter or changeup.

The Rays haven’t announced an opener for Fleming’s scheduled start on Friday — he was used as a traditional starter in his last turn through the rotation. He was the victim of that tough luck inning in Tampa Bay where the Mariners scored seven unearned runs against him.

RHP Drew Rasmussen

76 23.8% 8.1% 8.1% 47.3% 2.84 3.09
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 68.4% 97.1 2437 173 118 108
Changeup 2.4% 90.2 1781
Curveball 2.6% 80.3 2629
Slider 31.6% 86.4 2654 109 81 103
2021 stats; Rasmussen’s changeup and curveball do not have large enough sample sizes for Stuff+ scores.

From a previous series preview:

Drew Rasmussen was a key part of the Willy Adames trade last summer. With a fastball and slider heavy pitch mix, his profile fits that of a high leverage reliever. Instead, the Rays slotted him into the rotation over the last two months of the season and he thrived. His fastball is one of the best in the majors and features all the characteristics you’d expect: tons of velocity and a bunch of ride. His slider was merely okay but he’s made a bunch of changes to his breaking ball this year that’s made it even more deadly. Essentially, he’s now throwing a harder slider-cutter hybrid and a slower, sweeper with tons of horizontal movement. That gives him three distinct pitches to utilize multiple times through the order, hopefully extending his ability to accumulate quality innings in the rotation.

Rasmussen was completely dominant against the Mariners in Tampa Bay, holding them scoreless across six innings of work while striking out nine. That outing was the longest of his major league career by both innings and pitches thrown.

LHP Ryan Yarbrough

155 17.9% 4.1% 12.8% 35.8% 5.11 4.45
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Sinker 13.6% 86.4 1840 75 64 80
Cutter 40.4% 81.9 2117 81 62 97
Changeup 28.2% 78.4 2027 128 83 114
Curveball 17.9% 71.1 2270 69 106 141
2021 stats

Ryan Yarbrough is the sort of quintessential Rays pitcher from yesteryear. With McClanahan, Rasmussen, and Shane Baz, throwing incredible stuff these days, Yarbrough’s approach has been left behind a bit. He doesn’t possess a standout pitch or impressive raw stuff. Instead, he relies on impeccable command with a repertoire that’s more than the sum of its parts. He struggled to maintain that same success last year and was sidelined to start this year with a spring groin injury. He made his first start of the season last week against the A’s and allowed five runs in 2.1 innings.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Angels 16-10 0.615 -- L-W-L-L-W
Astros 14-11 0.560 1.5 L-L-W-W-W
Mariners 12-13 0.480 3.5 L-W-L-L-L
Rangers 10-14 0.417 5.0 L-W-W-W-W
Athletics 10-15 0.400 5.5 L-L-L-L-L

After finishing up their wrap around four-game series in Chicago with a loss on Monday, the Angels have split the first two games of a series in Boston. They won a wild back-and-forth affair last night by scoring the tying run in the ninth inning to force extra innings and then secured the win with six more runs in the 10th inning. They’ll wrap up that series today and then head back home for a three-game set against the Nationals over the weekend. Fresh off their sweep of the Mariners, the Astros host the Tigers in a four-game series this weekend. The Rangers have won four straight after sweeping the Phillies in two games. They’ll head to New York to take on the Yankees who just had their 11-game win streak snapped. After getting swept by the Rays, the A’s will head to Minnesota to take on the Twins.

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 +185
Series split +155
Rays win +220