The M’s return to the West Coast this week to face the Athletics in Oakland. The last series these two played included The Clinch that carved both Cal Raleigh and Domingo Acevedo’s names into the annals of Mariners history. Perhaps the two will face one another again this very week. The Mariners are coming off their first extra innings win of the season on Sunday, salvaging a dramatic win after two close losses to the Blue Jays. An off day Monday grants both teams rested lineups and bullpens going into game one. Of course, the big news is that the Mariners are calling up Bryce Miller from Double-A Arkansas to make his major league debut tonight.
At a Glance
|Game 1||Tuesday, May 2 | 6:40 pm|
|RHP Bryce Miller||RHP Mason Miller|
|Game 2||Wednesday, May 3 | 6:40 pm|
|RHP Logan Gilbert||LHP JP Sears|
|Game 3||Thursday, May 4 | 12:37 pm|
|RHP George Kirby||RHP Drew Rucinski|
|Batting (wRC+)||98 (8th in AL)||92 (10th in AL)||Athletics|
|Fielding (OAA)||-4 (11th)||7 (1st)||Mariners|
|Starting Pitching (FIP-)||155 (15th)||88 (4th)||Mariners|
|Bullpen (FIP-)||142 (15th)||84 (4th)||Mariners|
Note: with a month of the season passed, I’ve started using 2023 stats where appropriate.
The Oakland Athletics are in early rebuild mode, and just as bad as that implies. Since 2021, they’ve shipped out their big-name players, and in 2022 the A’s finished with 102 losses, the worst record in the AL. This winter they traded their best player of last season, catcher Sean Murphy, to Atlanta in a three-way trade that landed them five players, four of whom were top-20 prospects in their respective orgs. Of those four, two are currently with the big league club (Esteury Ruiz playing center field and Kyle Muller in the starting lineup), one is on the IL (Freddy Tarnok, shoulder strain), and one is in Double-A (Royber Salinas). Oakland is a young team replete with players who need to get playing and development time this year to get their footing. As such, there is promise, but not likely payoff in the near future; the team is projected to lose over 90 games. One month into the season, the A’s have lost every series they’ve played and are already 11.5 games back in the West.
2023 is not an opportunity to focus on future promise for Oakland fans, however, since the team has officially announced an agreement to purchase land in Las Vegas for a new stadium, with the team intending to begin playing there in 2027. While the deal is far from done, this is a crushing betrayal for many fans, whose devotion has gone unrewarded for many years.
Last year, the only good hitters in the A’s lineup were Sean Murphy and Seth Brown– Murphy is now a Brave and Brown is out with an oblique injury until mid-to-late May. With Murphy gone, Shea Langaliers slots in as Oakland’s primary catcher and best hitter. So far, he’s hit 6 home runs, has a 120 wRC+, and projects to lead the team with 2.5 fWAR. Veterans Tony Kemp, Ramon Laureano, and Seth Brown also project to above-average offense and over 2 fWAR this season. So far, however, Kemp has been awful and Laureano and Brown have both been injured. Though the team will benefit from their return, it’s a tradeoff in terms of reduced playing time for the younger developing players. Two of those players who are showing great promise so far in 2023 are Esteury Ruiz and Brent Rooker. Ruiz leads the league with 11 stolen bases and continued his strong start by walking off the game with a single in the 9th inning on Sunday. Rooker is second in the AL in home runs, with nine, and leads his team with a whopping 225 wRC+ (in an obviously insufficient-for-conclusions 21 games).
Oakland’s top two prospects, 1B/C Tyler Soderstrom and infielder Zack Gelof, both look to make their MLB debuts later this year, so keep an eye out for them when the M’s and A’s face off later this season.
RHP Mason Miller
You’re going to want to tune in for this pitching matchup. Not only are the Mariners debuting their top pitching prospect Bryce Miller, the A’s are scheduled to start their own elite prospect in Mason Miller. Oakland’s Miller was called up a few weeks ago, less than two years since he was drafted in the third round of the 2021 draft. Injuries have kept him off the mound for a lot of his short professional career — altogether, he’s made just 12 total starts as a pro across three seasons — but the A’s have moved him through their organization very aggressively. It’s easy to see why: he’s struck out 46% of all the batters he’s faced as a pro. With a fastball that sits just under 100 mph, a fantastic hard cutter, and a developing slider, his repertoire is filled with weapons.
LHP JP Sears
JP Sears made his major league debut last year and was involved in the big Frankie Montas trade last summer. His best pitch is a flat, four-seam fastball that he can command at the top of the zone to get plenty of whiffs. Unfortunately, he’s also prone to allowing tons of loud contact off that pitch when he misses his spots. He’s transformed his breaking ball from a slurvy slider into a true sweeper this year. That’s given him a second weapon in his arsenal to play off his heater. Unfortunately, his changeup is still a work-in-progress which means he’s struggling to keep right-handed batters at bay.
RHP Drew Rucinski
Way back in 2018, Drew Rucinski was a journeyman reliever pitching for his fifth team in his eighth professional season. A year later, he was pitching in Korea as a frontline starter, completely transforming himself in the process. He spent four years in the KBO as arguably the best pitcher in the league, throwing more than 700 innings with an ERA and FIP right around three. He signed with the A’s this offseason but a hamstring injury delayed his debut until last week. In his first MLB appearance in five years, he threw 5.2 innings against the Reds, allowing 11 hits and five runs with just a single strikeout.
The Big Picture:
The AL West
|Team||W-L||W%||Games Behind||Recent Form|
|Team||W-L||W%||Games Behind||Recent Form|
Since we last checked in, the Rangers have pulled ahead in the AL West, taking three of four against the Yankees, including most recently a 15-2 rout. Elbow inflammation, that dastardly foe, has claimed Texas’ ace Jacob deGrom, who heads to the 15-day IL while the Rangers host Arizona this week. The Angels and Astros huddle behind the Rangers, both having lost their weekend series. Both continue interleague play this week, with Houston hosting the Giants in a series that began Monday, and the Angels playing in St. Louis starting today.