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Series Preview: Mariners (79-61) vs. Padres (77-64)

The Mariners host the Padres in the return leg of their home-and-home four-game series.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

With 22 games to go, the Mariners only need to win three more games to guarantee a winning record and are tied with Toronto in the first Wild Card slot. As if that’s not enough, the Vedder Cup is on the line this weekend as the San Diego Padres come to town! Having won both games in San Diego in July, Seattle will be raring for a season sweep, riding the high of a thrilling weekend playing the Braves. Momentum is on the Mariners’ side in both directions: the team took two of three from the reigning champs before this series, and once the Padres leave they will face only teams with records below .500…at least through game 162. With Tampa Bay and Toronto going head-to-head this week, any games the M’s win against the Padres gain them ground against one of the teams they’re jostling with in the Wild Card race, and any games the M’s lose will cede ground to the other.

At a Glance

Padres Mariners
Padres Mariners
Game 1 Tuesday, September 13 | 6:40 pm
RHP Yu Darvish RHP Logan Gilbert
48% 52%
Game 2 Wednesday, September 14 | 1:10 pm
RHP Mike Clevinger RHP Luis Castillo
37% 63%
*Game odds courtesy of FanGraphs

Team Overview

Overview Padres Mariners Edge
Overview Padres Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 100 (7th in NL) 106 (5th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (OAA) 16 (2nd) 9 (5th) Padres
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 99 (7th) 104 (8th) Padres
Bullpen (FIP-) 91 (4th) 97 (8th) Padres

The Mariners match up pretty well against the Padres, as seen by their two-game sweep in July, in which the M’s outscored the Friars fourteen to four (after which they went on to sweep the Blue Jays at home in four games #TMoTakeback). Luis Castillo and Logan Gilbert are both favored over the opposing starters in this series, and the Mariners have a slight batting edge against the Padres. That said, complacency is never warranted when facing a generational star, and the Padres headlined the trade deadline by picking up one Juan Soto. In that trade, the Padres acquired Soto and first baseman Josh Bell from the Nationals, and in return sent over a first baseman of their own plus most of the key prospects in their farm system. This is in addition to picking up closer Josh Hader from the Brewers and utilityman Brandon Drury from the Reds last month.

These moves have not all panned out as the Padres hoped for so far, but they certainly signal a push for success now; given that, where does the team find itself as the season winds to a close? San Diego sits in a strong second place in the NL West behind the league-topping Dodgers. They dropped two of three to said Dodgers last weekend, bringing them to a 4-5 record in September thus far. Like the Mariners, the Padres are ensconced in a fierce three-way Wild Card race, but in their case only two of the three teams will play a Game 163: the Braves have a 10.5 game lead in the NL Wild Card race, and the Phillies, Padres, and Brewers are within three of each other, competing for the final two slots. If the season ended today, the Padres would eke in with the sixth playoff seed in the NL and play a three game set in St. Louis.

Padres Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Jurickson Profar LF S 577 0.265 111 -0.4
Juan Soto RF L 576 0.241 143 -2.5
Manny Machado 3B R 558 0.339 153 3.7
Josh Bell DH S 587 0.306 128 -5.3
Jake Cronenworth 2B L 601 0.279 112 5.8
Ha-Seong Kim SS R 499 0.293 101 0.7
Wil Myers 1B R 236 0.343 85 0.8
Trent Grisham CF L 486 0.229 90 6.0
Austin Nola C R 349 0.281 84 -0.5

There are a couple of players one might earlier have expected to see in the Padre’s lineup who are absent this week. Star shortstop Fernando Tatis, Jr. will miss the entire 2022 season, having been suspended for banned substance use shortly before he was set to return to the field after having wrist surgery. Third baseman Brandon Drury is on the concussion injured list after taking a pitch to his batting helmet last week.

As for the players we’ll see facing the Mariners pitching this week, slugger Manny Machado leads the team offensively with a 153 wRC+ and 28 home runs. Juan Soto has been struggling quite a bit since coming to San Diego; his wRC+ this year in Washington was 150, and as a Padre it’s currently 119. Soto is clearly frustrated by this, but when he figures it out, he and Machado will be a force to contend with in the heart of the lineup. Former top MLB prospect Jurickson Profar is making an impact with a walk rate of 12% and an fWAR among the top 20 MLB outfielders. Second baseman Jake Cronenworth, too, is having a good year, trailing only Machado in position player fWAR on the team.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at San Diego Padres Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

RHP Yu Darvish

168 2/3 24.9% 5.0% 10.4% 37.9% 3.31 3.49
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 23.9% 95.1 2413 130 95 83
Sinker 9.6% 94.8 2279 116 105 134
Cutter 35.2% 86.6 2759 116 106 106
Splitter 7.8% 89.3 1309 38 129 101
Curveball 4.9% 73.2 2652 91 79 127
Slider 18.7% 82.5 2736 106 79 71

It’s hard to believe, but Yu Darvish is in the middle of his tenth season in the major leagues after coming over from Japan as a 25-year-old. He’s continued to utilize a deep repertoire to keep batters off balance, though his once gaudy strikeout rate has fallen to a career-low 24.9% this season. The biggest reason for that decline is the ineffectiveness of his four-seam fastball. He’s lost about two inches of ride on the pitch and its whiff rate has fallen to a six-year low at just 20.1%. He’s still able to generate plenty of weak contact with it so it hasn’t been totally unproductive. And with a plethora of secondary pitches to call on, his overall results have been as solid as ever.

RHP Mike Clevinger

93 2/3 20.4% 7.5% 11.8% 34.9% 4.13 4.66
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 37.9% 93.7 2293 127 99 71
Sinker 12.3% 93.1 2224 72 91 83
Cutter 15.4% 87.0 2462 89 116 84
Changeup 10.3% 86.5 1583 71 111 141
Curveball 2.6% 76.5 2212
Slider 21.5% 79.9 2435 84 89 97

From a previous series preview:

Mike Clevinger was traded to the Padres during the shortened 2020 season but only made four starts in San Diego before succumbing to Tommy John surgery. He missed all of the 2021 season and a spring knee injury kept him sidelined until May. He’s made six starts this year and he’s still shaking off some rust. When he’s right, he has a deep arsenal that can produce a ton of swings and misses. Right now, his cutter is the only pitch generating whiffs at an above average rate, but his four-seamer, slider, and changeup have all produced excellent results in the past. That cutter was a new addition to his repertoire back in 2020, and it helped give him another weapon at a velocity band in between his hard fastball and sweeping slider.

The Mariners scored four runs in six innings in Clevinger’s last outing against them in July. He allowed six hits, two walks, and struck out five.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 91-50 0.645 -- W-W-L-W-W
Mariners 79-61 0.564 11.5 W-L-L-W-W
Angels 61-80 0.433 30.0 L-L-W-L-L
Rangers 61-80 0.433 30.0 L-L-W-W-L
Athletics 51-90 0.362 40.0 L-L-L-L-W

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Mariners 79-61 0.564 +0.5 W-L-L-W-W
Blue Jays 79-61 0.564 +0.5 W-W-W-L-W
Rays 78-61 0.561 -- W-W-L-L-L
Orioles 73-67 0.521 5.5 W-L-W-L-L
White Sox 72-69 0.511 7.0 W-W-W-W-L

In the AL West it’s same old, same old: the Astros are eleven games up over the M’s, Oakland’s in the basement, and the Rangers and Angels are flip-flopping back and forth 18-ish games behind the Mariners. At this point, all three of the teams behind the M’s in our division have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

The Orioles, White Sox, and Twins are falling further down in the Wild Card standings, at five and a half, seven, and nine games back respectively. The Mariners, Blue Jays, and Rays approach a state of quantum entanglement, separated by a total of a half game total and dancing around identical records. As it stands today, the Mariners and Blue Jays are both 79-61, and the Rays are a half game back at 78-61. If the season ended now, the Rays would play three games at Cleveland, and the Mariners would host the Jays because they won the head-to-head season series. #TMoTakeback indeed.

After the Blue Jays beat the Rays 3-2 yesterday, the two teams play four more this week, starting with a doubleheader today. The Orioles will be facing the Nationals, the White Sox the Rockies, and the Twins will host the Royals.