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Series Preview: Mariners (12-16) at Athletics (6-23)

The Mariners head to Oakland to face the reeling A’s.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Oakland Athletics Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

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

Mariners Athletics
Mariners Athletics
Game 1 Tuesday, May 2 | 6:40 pm
RHP Bryce Miller RHP Mason Miller
43% 57%
Game 2 Wednesday, May 3 | 6:40 pm
RHP Logan Gilbert LHP JP Sears
53% 47%
Game 3 Thursday, May 4 | 12:37 pm
RHP George Kirby RHP Drew Rucinski
58% 42%
*Game odds courtesy of FanGraphs

Team Overview

Overview Athletics Mariners Edge
Overview Athletics Mariners Edge
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
2023 stats

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.

Athletics Lineup

Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Esteury Ruiz CF R 122 17.2% 3.3% 0.047 93
Ryan Noda 1B L 85 35.3% 21.2% 0.194 146
Brent Rooker DH R 86 18.6% 16.3% 0.426 237
Shea Langeliers C R 98 26.5% 5.1% 0.244 109
Conner Capel LF L 73 28.8% 12.3% 0.063 105
Ramón Laureano RF R 69 26.1% 7.2% 0.210 119
Jace Peterson 3B L 88 25.0% 12.5% 0.093 79
Kevin Smith SS R 66 34.8% 1.5% 0.115 44
Tony Kemp 2B L 98 13.3% 11.2% 0.058 43
2023 stats

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.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Oakland Athletics Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

RHP Mason Miller

8 1/3 30.6% 5.6% 0.0% 22.7% 6.48 1.82
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 62.9% 99.0 135 94 76 0.273
Cutter 14.4% 94.9
Slider 19.8% 86.6
2023 stats

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

26 24.8% 5.5% 15.6% 26.0% 6.23 5.85
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 50.9% 92.5 100 122 41 0.382
Changeup 11.6% 83.1 99
Sweeper 31.7% 80.2 88 79 146 0.251
2023 stats

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

193 2/3 24.3% 4.3% 13.3% 66.7% 2.97 2.88
2022 KBO stats

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
Rangers 17-11 0.607 -- L-L-W-W-W
Astros 16-13 0.552 1.5 W-L-L-W-W
Angels 15-14 0.517 2.5 W-W-W-L-W
Mariners 12-16 0.429 5.0 L-L-L-L-W
Athletics 6-23 0.207 11.5 L-L-L-L-W

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.