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Hittin’ By the Dock of the Bay: Mariners (66-54) at Athletics (43-76) Series Preview

The Mariners pop in to Oakland for the weekend

Seattle Mariners v Oakland Athletics
the caption here identifies this as Andy McKay, but that’s definitely Perry Hill dropping knowledge
Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

The Mariners, fresh off a sweep of the Angels, travel to Oakland, where they swept the Athletics the last time they were there, back in late June. The two teams haven’t faced each other since early July, pre-All Star Break, when the Mariners secured a series win against the A’s over the Fourth of July weekend. Prior to getting to see Oakland twice in two weeks, the Mariners had been scuffling; their record coming out of that dreadful homestand against the Angels was a lousy 29-39. But a sweep against Oakland at the Coliseum, followed by a series win against the Angels in Anaheim that would have been a sweep if not for NevinGate, a series win against Baltimore at home, and then another series win against the A’s at home, set up the Mariners’ wonderful, improbable 14-game win streak that turned the entire course of the season on its head. Thanks, A’s.

As the Mariners’ season has been trending upward, the Athletics...have not been doing that. Having scuttled their remaining trade pieces at the deadline in Frankie Montas and Lou Trivino, the already-decimated pitching staff has been limping along behind an offense that was never a strong suit. Among the motley crew in Oakland are several former Mariners: JP Sears, acquired in the Montas deal, who the Mariners to the Yankees traded in 2017 for Nick Rumbelow in a transaction I have no memory of; Domingo Tapia, who was a Mariner for a hot minute in 2021 before being DFA’d in May; and David McKay, who the Mariners acquired for a dollar from the Royals and made some appearances in a forgettable 2019 season. This is indicative of the churn of Oakland’s roster as they continue to throw pieces at the wall to see what sticks as a major league roster. Rough times, indeed.

At A Glance

Mariners Athletics
Mariners Athletics
Game 1 Friday, August 19 | 6:40 pm
LHP Marco Gonzales LHP Cole Irvin
51% 49%
Game 2 Saturday, August 20 | 4:15 pm
RHP Logan Gilbert RHP James Kaprielian
57% 43%
Game 3 Sunday, August 21 | 1:07 pm
RHP Luis Castillo LHP JP Sears
60% 40%

After beginning his career as a Mariner facing the Yankees twice and going toe-to-toe with Gerrit Cole and Shohei Ohtani, Luis Castillo gets a bit of a softer landing here. The Mariners are heavy favorites in all of these games except Marco’s start, which seems fair.

Team Overview

Overview Athletics Mariners Edge
Overview Athletics Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 82 (14th in AL) 106 (5th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (OAA) 3 (10th) 8 (6th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 117 (15th) 110 (11th) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 106 (14th) 97 (7th) Mariners

The Mariners have not been swinging the bats well so far in August, but a series of facing Angels pitching plus now a series of facing the A’s league-worst pitching staff should hopefully help get the bats on track.

Projected Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Cal Stevenson CF L 28 0.250 56 -0.2
Tony Kemp LF L 401 0.248 80 1.4
Sean Murphy C R 442 0.282 124 -1.8
Seth Brown RF L 389 0.265 112 2.9
Jonah Bride 1B R 106 0.263 69 -0.1
Sheldon Neuse 2B R 259 0.309 76 1.7
Vimael Machín 3B L 120 0.264 75 -0.1
Shea Langeliers DH R 402 0.327 116
Nick Allen SS R 182 0.24 69 0.9

Some old friends, but lots of new faces here. Cal Stevenson is a name that might be recognizable to fans of University of Arizona baseball; he came over from Tampa Bay as part of the Christian Bethancourt trade. He’s here because Ramón Laureano recently hit the IL with a Grade 1 oblique strain. Jonah Bride is another new-ish name, although a familiar one if you follow the minor leagues, where the Mariners and Athletics affiliates play each other at almost every level, as he’s a long-tenured A’s farmhand. He’s good at making contact and putting up pesky at-bats, although there’s not a ton of power in the bat. To replace Bethancourt, the A’s recently called up top prospect Shea Langeliers (acquired from Atlanta in the Matt Olson trade) despite already having a solid, everyday catcher in Sean Murphy. Murphy and Langeliers have near-identical skill sets, as both profile to be above-average offensive catchers while still being strong defenders behind the plate, but Langeliers would have had to be added to Oakland’s 40-man roster this off-season anyway, so the A’s are letting him get a taste of big-league action to help inform their decision-making this off-season—they certainly don’t have to trade Murphy, who is arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2023, but he’s their most valuable remaining trade chip if they do.

Probable Pitchers

Oakland Athletics v Texas Rangers Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

LHP Cole Irvin

129 1/3 16.5% 4.7% 8.9% 38.4% 3.13 3.91
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 35.9% 90.6 1976 44 94 98
Sinker 22.3% 90.3 1946 72 86 75
Changeup 19.4% 83.0 1565 116 70 105
Curveball 19.4% 77.4 2066 68 79 73
Slider 3.0% 87.0 2004 111

Oakland plucked Cole Irvin from the Phillies scrap heap last year and managed to turn him into the sort of backend starter they’ve been notorious for developing over the last decade. In his first full season in the majors, he posted a completely acceptable 4.24 ERA and a 4.30 FIP. None of that success came against the Mariners who knocked him around for a total of 19 runs in five starts last year. Irvin has continued to grow this year, lowering his ERA by more than a full run while also lowering his xFIP by half a run too. He’s swapped the usage of his slider for his curveball and the slower, loopier breaking ball has been far more effective for him this season.

RHP James Kaprielian

95 2/3 16.5% 9.7% 11.6% 38.8% 4.33 5.17
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 52.4% 93.8 2013 81 72 98
Changeup 9.5% 84.8 1354 115 70 103
Curveball 13.6% 79.3 2482 97 41 120
Slider 23.0% 85.4 2244 92 99 90

From a previous series preview:

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.

This will be Kaprielian’s third start against the Mariners this season; the first two didn’t go so well, as he gave up five runs the first time and and only two the second time but was handed a loss anyway, but he shut the Mariners offense down pretty well the last time they faced him in July, giving up just one run over six innings of work.

LHP JP Sears

32 1/3 16.5% 6.6% 2.5% 42.9% 1.95 3.12
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 61.7% 93.6 2151 80 79 141
Changeup 15.0% 83.5 1887 166
Slider 23.3% 80.1 2487 66 95 146

Originally drafted by the Mariners in the 11th round of the 2017 draft, JP Sears was one of the prospects sent to the Yankees in the ill fated Nick Rumbelow deal. He developed through New York’s pitching pipeline and made his major league debut in pinstripes earlier this year. He was sent to Oakland in the big Frankie Montas trade and is an immediate plug-and-play starter for the A’s as they continue to rebuild their pitching depth. He possesses good command of a flat four-seam fastball that he pairs with a good slider. His changeup has standout physical characteristics too, but it’s clearly a distant third option behind his two other pitches.

The Big Picture

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 77-43 0.642 -- W-L-L-W-W
Mariners 65-54 0.546 11.5 L-L-W-W-W
Rangers 53-65 0.449 23.0 W-W-L-L-W
Angels 51-67 0.432 25.0 W-W-L-L-L
Athletics 43-76 0.361 33.5 L-L-W-W-L

The Mariners remain safely ensconced in second place in the division, with a big gap between them and the Rangers despite the series loss in Texas, and an equally big gap between them and the first-place Astros.

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Mariners 65-54 0.546 +1.0 L-L-W-W-W
Rays 63-54 0.538 -- W-W-W-L-W
Blue Jays 63-54 0.538 -- L-L-L-W-W
Twins 61-55 0.526 1.5 L-L-W-W-W
Orioles 61-57 0.517 2.5 L-W-W-L-L
White Sox 61-58 0.513 3.0 W-W-W-L-L
Red Sox 59-60 0.496 5.0 L-W-W-W-L

The Mariners were able to parlay their series sweep of the Angels into the narrowest of Wild Card leads, but things remain tight among the top three teams. The Blue Jays are just about to start a series against the Yankees, who have stumbled lately but will look to get back on track in front of a home crowd. The Rays draw an easier slate this weekend, as they’ll get to beat up on the hapless Royals at home. Elsewhere in the AL East, the Orioles and Red Sox play a series this weekend with Wild Card implications, and the White Sox and Guardians do battle in the AL Central. Should be an interesting weekend of baseball for scoreboard-watching [insert multiple eyes emoji].