clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Series Preview: Mariners (66-56) vs. Nationals (41-82)

The Mariners return home to face the Nationals in a brief two-game series.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

After their first Monday off day since the All Star Break, the Mariners host the Washington Nationals for a two-game set starting today. The rest day offers a reset after two frustrating losses to the Athletics last weekend; neither performance portends anything awful, but losing to a bad team is always discouraging. Prior to the weekend, the M’s swept the Angels with three lopsided victories and similarly walloped Oakland to begin their series, so the team will look to remount a run-scoring display at home. Scott Servais has indicated that folk hero Sam Haggerty should be ready to return in glory as he continues to play himself into an enduring roster spot (he was given a rest day Sunday due to ongoing shoulder pain).

At a Glance

Nationals Mariners
Nationals Mariners
Game 1 Tuesday, August 23 | 7:10 pm
RHP Erick Fedde LHP Robbie Ray
31% 69%
Game 2 Wednesday, August 24 | 1:10 pm
RHP Aníbal Sánchez RHP George Kirby
30% 70%
*Game odds courtesy of FanGraphs

Team Overview

Overview Nationals Mariners Edge
Overview Nationals Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 92 (10th in NL) 106 (5th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (OAA) -39 (15th) 6 (6th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 135 (15th) 109 (10th) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 106 (14th) 96 (7th) Mariners

The last time the teams from the two Washingtons faced each other was July 13th, when the M’s swept the Nats in a doubleheader, the game on the 12th having been postponed due to inclement weather. Interestingly, the Nationals have the same win percentage going into this series (.333) as they did on July 13th and have not budged from the basement of the NL East. However, they are a markedly different team to watch because – I don’t know if you heard? – they traded superstar Juan Soto to the Padres on August 2nd.

Jake wrote this of the Nationals last month: “After their championship season in 2019, the Nationals have quickly fallen into another rebuilding cycle, unable to sustain the same level of success that brought them to the World Series a few years ago. They’ve won just 39% of their games since their championship season and started their teardown last year with the big Max Scherzer/Trea Turner deal at the trade deadline.” This year’s trade deadline whopper moved both Soto and first baseman Josh Bell to the Padres, making clear the team’s transition into a new era.

Since the Soto/Bell trade, the Nationals have won five games and lost thirteen, splitting their series with the Padres over the weekend after losing the six preceding ones. Some fans’ focus is now on the minors and the next-generation talents likely to form the team’s new core. Our sister site Federal Baseball published an article Sunday detailing the progress of several prospects through the system, demonstrating how prospect-following can keep hope afloat during challenging seasons. We’ve been there not so long ago, ourselves!

Nationals Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Alex Call LF R 38 0.174 50 0.4
César Hernández 2B S 523 0.305 75 -0.8
Luke Voit 1B R 402 0.304 108 -3.1
Nelson Cruz DH R 446 0.300 90 -2.9
Keibert Ruiz C S 386 0.268 87 -0.2
Lane Thomas RF R 379 0.285 88 -1.7
CJ Abrams SS L 166 0.265 61 0.3
Ildemaro Vargas 3B S 84 0.277 100 0.9
Victor Robles CF R 317 0.299 67 3.2

Without Soto and Bell, the Nationals’ lineup doesn’t pack nearly as much punch. The Mariners will get to see some of the return from that trade, in veteran first baseman/DH Luke Voit and rookie shortstop CJ Abrams. Abrams and Luis García are an anticipated infield of the future for the Nats, but the Mariners won’t see García, who is out on a rehab assignment. Regular left fielder Yadiel Hernandez is on the IL with a calf injury, so the Mariners will see rookie Alex Call at that position; the Nats picked up Call off waivers earlier this month. And of course it’s always great to see our old buddy Nelson Cruz, who continues to hit massive home runs and notched his 2,000th career hit earlier this month.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

MLB: Washington Nationals at Arizona Diamondbacks Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

RHP Erick Fedde

92 2/3 17.1% 11.5% 12.3% 42.6% 4.95 4.96
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Sinker 38.6% 92.7 1875 84 101 118
Cutter 27.1% 88.8 2135 116 69 85
Changeup 3.8% 85.7 1503 84
Curveball 30.3% 78.1 2397 90 76 126

From a previous series preview:

Erick Fedde has spent his entire career in the Nationals organization, peaking as the number four prospect in their system back in 2018. He’s never really lived up to that high ranking with a career ERA and FIP both over five, but he has been a steady, up-and-down starter and long reliever for them, a thankless job that every team needs filled. A sweeping, slurvy curveball is his best pitch and he’s throwing it more often than ever before this year. His primary fastball is a sinker that doesn’t have much tail and drops just an average amount. It’s not an effective pitch despite generating tons of groundball contact; batters posted a .406 wOBA against it last year. That’s fallen to .305 this season and he’s reduced the usage of it in favor of his curve and cutter. The trade off has been a bit better contact management at the expense of control; his walk rate is a career-high 11% now.

Fedde has been sidelined since late July with a shoulder injury; he’ll be making his first start off the Injured List on Tuesday. In the second game of the doubleheader between these two teams last month, Fedde went 5.1 innings, allowing two runs on six hits while striking out just a single batter.

RHP Aníbal Sánchez

35 17.0% 10.5% 21.6% 35.8% 6.43 7.18
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 17.5% 90.1 2073 22 94 72
Sinker 20.1% 89.3 1939 40 12 154
Cutter 22.9% 87.7 2104 59 66 87
Changeup 25.8% 80.3 1468 145 110 128
Curveball 7.3% 75.6 1982
Slider 6.4% 83.2 2155

After sitting out all of 2021, Aníbal Sánchez re-signed with the Nationals this spring in an attempt to make it back to the majors at 38 years old. It wasn’t all that long ago Sánchez was a serviceable back-end starter relying on guile and a wide repertoire; in 2018 and ‘19, he accumulated 4.9 fWAR across 54 starts for the Braves and Nationals. Whatever old-man magic he was using a few years ago ran out in 2020 and he was out of the league the next year. A neck injury forced him to miss the entire first half of the season but he eventually accomplished his goal of making it back to the big leagues. He’s made seven forgettable starts for the Nats and will continue to simply eat innings for them as they play out the rest of the season.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 78-45 0.634 -- W-W-L-L-W
Mariners 66-56 0.541 11.5 W-W-W-L-L
Rangers 56-66 0.459 21.5 W-L-W-W-W
Angels 52-70 0.426 25.5 L-W-L-L-L
Athletics 45-78 0.366 33.0 L-L-W-W-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Rays 66-55 0.545 +0.5 W-L-W-W-W
Blue Jays 65-55 0.542 -- W-W-W-W-L
Mariners 66-56 0.541 -- W-W-W-L-L
Orioles 63-58 0.521 2.5 L-L-W-L-W
Twins 62-58 0.517 3.0 W-W-L-L-L
White Sox 62-60 0.508 4.0 L-L-L-W-L
Red Sox 60-62 0.492 6.0 W-L-L-W-L

Though the Mariners have played their last three series against fellow AL West teams, the divisional standings remain much the same as they were at the start of the month: 11.5 games separate the first-place Astros from the second-place Mariners, and ten games separate the M’s from the third-place Rangers.

The Mariners, Rays, and Blue Jays continue to be neck-and-neck in the Wild Card race, occupying the three slots, with the Orioles, Twins, and White Sox not far behind. The Orioles and White Sox play three starting today, while the Twins take on the Astros, the Blue Jays play the Red Sox, and the Rays play the Angels.