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Series Preview: Yankees (70-39) at Mariners (59-51)

They’re baaaaack

Kansas City Royals v New York Yankees Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

Much like the Muppets, the Seattle Mariners took Manhattan recently, earning a series win over the New York Yankees in the Big Apple and inspiring one of the greatest pronunciations of “The Seattle Mariners” we’ve ever heard. They followed that up with a somewhat lackluster series split against the hapless Halos, however, and now have to face the Yankees again for another three-game set. Thankfully, the series win in New York gave them a little extra leeway to play with in the standings, but it’s inarguable that the Mariners could have helped themselves out even more by taking the series from the Angels rather than scraping their way to a split on a 2-1 win and an improbable yet delightful Jesse Winker grand slam.

At a Glance

Mariners Yankees
Mariners Yankees
Game 1 Monday, August 8 | 7:10 pm
RHP Logan Gilbert RHP Jameson Taillon
47% 53%
Game 2 Tuesday, August 9 | 7:10 pm
RHP Luis Castillo RHP Gerrit Cole
47% 53%
Game 3 Wednesday, August 10 | 1:10 pm
LHP Robbie Ray LHP Nestor Cortes
46% 54%
*Game odds courtesy of FanGraphs

The Yankees have been a little off their world-beating form of late, following their series loss to Seattle with a series sweep at the hands of the Cardinals, the most painful being a 9-12 loss where trade deadline acquisition Frankie Montas surrendered six runs over just three innings, a stinker of a performance which was received with all the grace and clear-headedness one expects out of Yankee fans on Twitter. Your team still has a 100% chance of going to the playoffs, you goobers.

Team Overview

Overview Yankees Mariners Edge
Overview Yankees Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 121 (1st in AL) 105 (5th in AL) Yankees
Fielding (OAA) 12 (7th) 7 (10th) Yankees
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 91 (3rd) 112 (12th) Yankees
Bullpen (FIP-) 79 (1st) 98 (7th) Yankees

The Yankees are good, very good, we know that. If there’s an area where the Mariners are closer to competing with the Yankees than these numbers might suggest, it’s not starting pitching, although the addition of Luis Castillo does help shore up that gap some. Rather, it’s likely the bullpen, where the Yankees took some considerable damage when Michael King suffered a season-ending injury at the end of July. King had a higher fWAR (1.7) at the time of his injury than Robbie Ray, and was by far the Yankees’ most reliable and valuable reliever. Conversely, if there’s an area where the two teams are further apart than the numbers might suggest, it’s probably the offense, as Aaron Judge’s pitcher terror tour continues apace, with DJ LeMahieu the perfect table-setter—call him the ur-Frazier. Meanwhile, despite some lofty numbers, the Mariners’ offense remains more feast-or-famine compared to the steady offensive output of the Bronx Bombers, and they’ve suffered more in the health department there, too, with Mitch Haniger still getting back to game speed, Dylan Moore mysteriously unheard from, and Julio Rodríguez approaching a return but not until the final game of this series, if at all.

Yankees Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
DJ LeMahieu 2B R 427 0.306 139 -3.3
Aaron Judge RF R 459 0.314 193 0.9
Anthony Rizzo 1B L 415 0.206 142 -1.8
Josh Donaldson 3B R 354 0.281 97 -4.0
Matt Carpenter DH L 147 0.320 229 -0.4
Andrew Benintendi* LF L 424 0.349 120 -1.1
Jose Trevino C R 221 0.278 115 0.7
Isiah Kiner-Falefa SS R 361 0.316 84 1
Aaron Hicks CF S 339 0.273 94 1.5
Gleyber Torres INF R 378 0.281 114 -2.0
*Benintendi’s numbers are from his full season, primarily with the Kansas City Royals

From last week’s series preview:

The 2022 Yankees have been lifted by a definite All-Star/maybe MVP-quality season from Aaron Judge, seemingly determined to drive his value as high as humanly possible in his final year before free agency. Judge has always been a three-true-outcomes kind of player but this year he’s continued an improved approach from last season where he shaved a solid 5% off his K-rate–think his 2017 52-home run season, but with better plate discipline. Scary stuff. After being traded at the deadline last year, Anthony Rizzo has settled into pinstripes quite nicely, finding he doesn’t need Yankee Stadium’s short porch to bop homers like he was still in the friendly confines of Wrigley Stadium; his .276 ISO is a career-high. Giancarlo Stanton rounds out the trio of Yankees power hitters, with 24 homers of his own, but he’s never been what one would call a “pure” hitter. It’s okay, though, because that role is filled for the Yankees by DJ LeMahieu, who’s actually been the Yankees’ third-most valuable regular by wRC+ thanks to his propensity to get the bat on the ball while walking more than he strikes out. The Yankees lineup gets a little stars-and-scrubs-y outside of this top crew, but a new hero seems to emerge every night, from the surprising performance of veteran Matt Carpenter (which feels like a post-season story in the making) to a surprising resurgence from an oft-injured (and much-maligned in the past by Yankees fans) Aaron Hicks to an out-of-nowhere All-Star performance from catcher Jose Trevino. And while Brian Cashman and Co. have gotten flack from the fans in the past for not being active enough at the trade deadline–there’s definitely a fair amount of jealousy over the Castillo acquisition–the Yankees did act proactively to replace a struggling Joey Gallo with Andrew Benintendi, who now claims to be “open-minded” about getting vaccinated against COVID. Pinstripes are great for opening the mind, we hear.

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

Jake is away, but the fates will play and sometimes they play nice with our hearts, our charts, and our pitching probables. Seattle “gets” to face two of the same three pitchers they did last time, and will run our the same opposition in turn. Logan Gilbert opposes Jameson Taillon, while Luis Castillo takes on Gerrit Cole once more. The new entrants to the party are a pair of southpaws - Robbie Ray and Nestor Cortes Jr., with “Nasty Nestor” making a sort of return to his brief home park before serious injury waylaid his season in 2020. Here’s what Jake wrote last week on the first two pitchers, before I (John) give a brief need to know on Nestor.

RHP Jameson Taillon

The survivor of two successful Tommy John surgeries, Jameson Taillon has found a way to adapt through a pretty lengthy injury history that also includes a victory against testicular cancer. He’s never really put together gaudy strikeout rates in the majors — his 23.2% K% last year was a career high — but he’s transformed himself into an elite contact manager this year. He’s cut back on the usage of his four-seamer in favor of a pitch mix that features six different looks thrown at least 10% of the time. He can command all six of those pitches and has the third lowest walk rate among all qualified starters this year.

RHP Gerrit Cole

When Gerrit Cole joined the Astros back in 2018, he became the model for modern pitching development. His rising four-seam fastball and nasty slider became the envy of every pitching coach across baseball. He’s continued his dominance since joining the Yankees in 2020, though he’s been burned by the tiny bandbox in New York, pushing his ERA and FIP above three over the last three years. His strikeout rate is also the lowest it’s been since he was a Pirate; it’s obviously still elite at 32.5%. Cole is still clearly one of the best pitchers in the American League, but there are cracks forming as he’s aged and left Houston’s development factory.

LHP Nestor Cortes Jr.

The man of a thousand deliveries, Nestor Cortes Jr. has a repertoire and approach to the game so full of funk it’s a wonder the Yankees let him perform for them at all. Lucky for the Bronx Bombers, they’ve managed to stomach Cortes’ stylish and personality-laden play because he’s absolutely delivered this year. Through 112.0 IP in 20 games, Cortes is 6th in the American League in ERA at 2.57. Several peripherals suggest he’s been fairly fortunate, particularly in evading the long ball when runners reach, but between the mixture of angles, speeds, and movement that Cortes produces from a typically low angle of release, his low-velo repertoire plays up.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 70-40 0.636 -- W-W-W-L-L
Mariners 59-51 0.536 11.0 W-L-W-L-W
Rangers 48-60 0.444 21.0 L-W-L-W-L
Angels 46-63 0.422 23.5 L-W-L-W-L
Athletics 41-68 0.376 28.5 L-W-W-L-L

Everything here is mostly the same, and more’s the pity, as the Astros suffered a couple losses this weekend that could have helped the Mariners move up in the division had they not played down to the level of the Angels.

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Blue Jays 60-48 0.556 +2.0 6-4
Rays 58-50 0.537 -- 5-5
Mariners 59-51 0.536 -- 5-5
Orioles 56-52 0.519 2.0 7-3
Guardians 56-52 0.519 2.0 6-4
White Sox 55-53 0.509 3.0 6-4
Red Sox 54-56 0.491 5.0 4-6

The Mariners frustratingly don’t gain ground here while the Blue Jays are mired on a particularly long stretch of road games where they don’t get their significant home advantage. Meanwhile, the Rays have rebounded from a slight dip to pull even with the Mariners for the pursuit of that second Wild Card, and the Orioles seemingly cannot be stopped. Toronto and Baltimore start a three-game set in Baltimore this week, for those of you scoreboard bird-watchers out there. Watch out for those Guardians, too, who have drawn even with the Orioles and could leapfrog ahead depending on how the series between the two bird teams goes, as they get an off-day on Monday followed by a comfy three-game set against the lowly Tigers before having to face Toronto themselves. Meanwhile, the Red Sox are coming perilously close to falling off our WC watchboard entirely, having fallen below .500, with a difficult slate against the reigning World Champions, a one-hitter against Baltimore, and a three-game set against the Yankees coming up over the next week.