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Series Preview: Mariners (62-54) at Angels (51-64)

A chance for revengeance

Minnesota Twins v Los Angeles Angels Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The thing about the Mariners’ schedule being one of the easiest in baseball coming down the stretch means every loss is going to be a frustrating loss. The Mariners dropped a series this weekend to the Rangers as the bats fell deeply asleep, too deeply to even stir against Texas’s objectively bad bullpen. Now they’ll head to Anaheim to face the Angels, again, against whom they just split a disappointing home series that only avoided being a series loss thanks to a well-timed Jesse Winker grand slam, and only avoided being a sweep in a 2-1 win where the excellent pitching staff made up for a limp offense. The Mariners might have been gifted an easy stretch of play by the MLB scheduling gods, but it’s up to them to accept that gift, specifically by scoring runs against bad pitching. Do that, Mariners offense!

At a Glance

Mariners Yankees
Mariners Yankees
Game 1 Monday, August 15 | 6:38 pm
RHP Luis Castillo RHP Shohei Ohtani
50% 50%
Game 2 Tuesday, August 16 | 6:38 pm
LHP Robbie Ray LHP José Suárez
55% 45%
Game 3 Wednesday, August 17 | 1:07 pm
RHP George Kirby RHP Touki Toussaint
50% 50%

They put the wrong game on nationally, because instead of Saturday’s sloppy loss to the Rangers, clearly Monday’s pitching matchup is marquee viewing deserving of many national eyeballs. Luis Castillo makes his third start as a Mariner as he continues to get an unpleasant welcome to the AL West, facing off against Ohtani the pitcher and batter after seeing Gerrit Cole twice in his first two starts in a Mariners uniform. The game odds on this one are a push, and honestly, I can see it. Tuesday’s game is a battle of the lefties, and on Wednesday I might finally be pushed to root against Touki Toussaint, which I hate, but likely stacks up as a bullpen day for both teams, depending on how deeply each young pitcher can go. Everyone take a moment and celebrate the fact that the Mariners miss both Patrick Sandoval and Reid Detmers on this trip, neither of whom they hit well.

Team Overview

Overview Angels Mariners Edge
Overview Angels Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 92 (13th in AL) 105 (5th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (OAA) 2 (11th) 9 (7th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 95 (4th) 110 (12th) Angels
Bullpen (FIP-) 99 (11th) 97 (7th) Mariners

The Mariners bullpen seems like it should be a lot better than 7th-best in the AL, right? And the starting rotation probably isn’t 12th-worst, although it’s becoming more of an Angels-style stars-and-scrubs affair every day as the gap between the top and bottom of the rotation grows. Also please note that while only a couple of places separate the Angels and Mariners defensively, that adds up to a huge gap of seven outs above average. The other place the Mariners can differentiate themselves from the hapless Halos is offensively, so let’s hope the bats made the trip to Anaheim after apparently getting mislaid in Texas.

Angels Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
David Fletcher 2B R 95 0.263 101 -0.1
Shohei Ohtani DH L 478 0.283 135 0.0
Luis Rengifo 3B S 313 0.341 106 2.2
Taylor Ward RF R 385 0.319 134 0.6
Jo Adell LF L 173 0.340 80 -0.7
Jared Walsh 1B L 421 0.290 83 -1.1
Max Stassi C R 286 0.276 85 -2.1
Magneuris Sierra CF L 51 0.256 49 0.5
Andrew Velazquez SS S 282 0.255 37 2.4

This Angels lineup just gets grimmer every time we type it out. It was bad enough with no Trout, still on the shelf with his back injury and just starting to play catch and do field work, but post trade-deadline it also lacks Brandon Marsh, who struck out too much but could also wallop a ball into the stratosphere now and then. The Angels lineup is so bad that when trying to compile info for this table from FanGraphs I got past the first ten names, including four players currently on the IL, then had to scan through every member of the pitching staff to find the other half of the lineup. That’s a real commitment to the stars and scrubs aesthetic. The Angels have entered full-on “throw it at the wall and see what sticks” territory so this projected lineup is very much subject to change.

Projected starters:

Los Angeles Angels v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

RHP Shohei Ohtani

From a previous series preview...

How does two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani top his MVP performance from last year? He simply continues to get even better. His bat hasn’t been as productive this season but he’s been phenomenal on the mound. That improvement stems from one pitch: his slider. He’s throwing it three miles per hour harder and has increased the amount of horizontal movement on it. The result is a beast of a pitch that he can locate well and earn plenty of swinging strikes. Paired with his excellent splitter and solid curveball, it gives him three different secondary weapons in three different velocity bands, each sporting whiff rates over 40%.

Seattle has only faced Ohtani on the mound once this year, at the outset of their mammoth five-game series half a season ago. Since then, Ohtani has stepped forward offensively, still solidly below his MVP production in 2021 but astounding all the same. On the hill, he’s been even better, sitting nearly two miles per hour FASTER than he did last year with his fastball, while continuing to dominate with his slider.

LHP José Suárez

From a previous series preview...

The Angels haven’t announced a starter for the game on Sunday but it will likely be José Suarez. He made a spot start during the second game of the doubleheader last Saturday and held the Mariners scoreless through 4.1 innings. He navigated through heavy traffic, allowing seven baserunners while striking out seven. Over his past two appearances, his changeup has been a key differentiator; the whiff rate on that pitch has been 55% recently, a huge increase from its 27.2% mark earlier in the season. If he can parlay that improvement into consistent success, he could see a return of the same kind of effectiveness he enjoyed last season.

Consistent success, thy name is not Angels. Suárez has not been wretched by any means in 2022, but his struggles with command have hampered efforts to improve. Last time out against the Seattle Mariners, Suárez had one of his best outings of the year, working 6.0 innings with just five hits and no walks, allowing a single run to eight strikeouts.

RHP Touki Touissant

Once a first round pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks, dealt to the Atlanta Braves two years later in a sequence that never previously burned the Serpientes, Touissant’s journey has been a bumpy one. Now in his fifth big league season, Touissant has 158.1 IP to his name and a 5.23/5.33/4.81 ERA/FIP/xFIP. Designated for assignment earlier this year despite having minor league options, Touissant has had a better brief run of luck with Anaheim, leaning slightly more on his curveball, but he’s still had massive issues reining in his command to anything manageable, and a shorter outing is reasonable to expect.

Sorry, no nifty chart this week as Jake is still out with the new baby.

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 75-41 0.647 -- 7-3
Mariners 62-54 0.534 13.0 5-5
Rangers 51-63 0.447 23.0 5-5
Angels 51-64 0.443 23.5 7-3
Athletics 41-74 0.357 33.5 2-8

I know I’ve spent the better part of this preview bagging on them but the Angels have actually been playing some of the best baseball in the division, which is what happens when you get to beat up on Oakland for a series, but they also took a series from the suddenly-flagging Twins at home and now probably anxiously look forward to playing spoiler for Seattle’s playoff hopes. The Mariners need to figure out their offensive issues, stat, because dropping a series to the Rangers is one thing, but dropping back-to-back series to the Rangers and Angels would be not just demoralizing, but playoff-chance-damaging, especially as the only route for the Mariners to get into the playoffs is via a Wild Card berth.

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Blue Jays 61-52 0.540 +1.0 3-7
Mariners 62-54 0.534 +0.5 5-5
Rays 60-53 0.531 -- 6-4
Orioles 59-55 0.518 1.5 6-4
Twins 58-55 0.513 2.0 4-6
White Sox 59-56 0.513 2.0 6-4
Red Sox 57-59 0.491 4.5 4-6

Bit of a shake-up this week, as the Guardians and Twins have traded places with Cleveland deciding they’ll go ahead and win the AL Central since no one else is apparently interested, making that home series against Cleveland in a couple weeks loom even larger. The Mariners briefly held that first wild card spot after a Friday night victory against the Rangers, but then lost their edge with the subsequent two losses, failing to take advantage of a rare home series loss by the Blue Jays, who now get to beat up on the Orioles for the next three days—sorry, force of habit. It’s taking a while to get used to the idea that the Orioles are good now, and I will continue to be annoyed with them for trading Trey Mancini away, to the Astros of all places, so they’re still on my bird-doo list. Congratulations to the Red Sox, as well, also seemingly sellers at the deadline who have nonetheless played just acceptably enough to hang around at the fringes of the Wild Card party, the baseball equivalent of Cs Get Degrees.