Ahoy, mateys! The good ship Mariner finally got back on course with a four-game sweep of the A’s. Alas, the entire schedule can’t be filled with games against Oakland. The M’s will face their maritime nemesis this weekend; a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates is on the horizon. They’ve maneuvered around the doldrums of April and finally find themselves with the wind at their backs. If they’re able to hold fast against these eastern scallywags, they’ll be in a good position to finish the month with a record above .500.
On the Horizon
|Game 1||Friday, May 26 | 7:10 pm|
|RHP Mitch Keller||RHP George Kirby|
|Game 2||Saturday, May 27 | 1:10 pm|
|RHP Roansy Contreras||RHP Luis Castillo|
|Game 3||Sunday, May 28 | 1:10 pm|
|RHP Vince Velasquez||LHP Marco Gonzales|
|Batting (wRC+)||97 (10th in NL)||98 (9th in AL)||Mariners|
|Fielding (OAA)||-3 (10th)||11 (1st)||Mariners|
|Starting Pitching (FIP-)||90 (2nd)||80 (2nd)||Mariners|
|Bullpen (FIP-)||90 (7th)||71 (1st)||Mariners|
The Pirates raced out to a fast start this season, going 20-9 through the end of April. They’ve luffed a bit in May, winning just five of their 20 games this month. Their pitching staff has continued to show great promise, led by a breakout season from Mitch Keller and resurgent performances from their veteran duo in Rich Hill and Vince Velasquez. Unfortunately, their offense, which drove a lot of their success during the first month of play, has really backslid recently. It doesn’t help that Oneil Cruz, their tooled up shortstop of the future, injured his ankle in late April and will be sidelined for the majority of the season. Still, their early season success provided some hope and forward momentum to a franchise that’s been stuck in rebuilding mode for a while.
|Ji Hwan Bae||2B||L||141||24.8%||6.4%||0.085||84|
Instead of trading him to the Mariners (or any other team) for whatever half-cooked trade proposal someone came up with during the offseason, the Pirates signed Bryan Reynolds to an eight-year extension, the largest contract in their history. They were able to lock him up for the foreseeable future and he’ll be the centerpiece of their roster as they look to break out of their rebuilding cycle in the next few years. He got off to a fantastic start to the season, posting a 143 wRC+ in April, but like the rest of the team, he’s been stuck in a prolonged slump in May. That’s the same story for Jack Suwinski (167 wRC+ in April, 51 in May) and Connor Joe (159, 95) too. The one consistent producer in their lineup has been Andrew McCutchen, who signed a one-year homecoming deal with Pittsburgh this offseason. He’s posting his best offensive numbers since 2019 and has been a feel good story for the Pirate faithful who grew up watching him turn into a superstar during the first half of his career.
Officers On Deck
RHP Mitch Keller
Mitch Keller had a really rough introduction to the major leagues but has incrementally improved each year since his debut in 2019. He’s in the middle of a huge breakout this year fueled by an increase in fastball velocity and a new cutter that’s given him a secondary weapon to pair with his heater. In fact, his entire repertoire now looks unrecognizable from his debut. His four-seamer can now be counted among the best in the game and his deep and varied repertoire plays off that riding fastball. The result is the eighth highest strikeout-to-walk ratio in the majors and career bests in ERA and FIP.
After a promising major league debut last year, Roansy Contreras has taken a pretty significant step back this season. Most of that slide is related to a 1.5 mph drop in fastball velocity. It’s now dropped back to where it was back in 2019 when he was a teenage prospect in the Yankees organization. Without that extra oomph, his heater is simply getting crushed. His two breaking balls are actually pretty good weapons to earn swings and misses but he’s often unable to get deep enough into the count to break them out. Opposing batters are all too eager to attack his fastball, leading to a spike in contact rate allowed and a significant drop in strikeout rate.
RHP Vince Velasquez
It seems like just yesterday that Vince Velasquez was one of the headlining prospects headed from the Astros to the Phillies in the big Ken Giles trade in 2015. He never really lived up to the hype in Philadelphia and has bounced around from the Padres to the White Sox over the last two years. He signed a one-year deal with the Pirates during the offseason and is enjoying a bit of a renaissance in Pittsburgh. The biggest change for him is a new reliance on his slider as his primary pitch. His usage of his breaking ball is higher than ever and he’s throwing it more often than his fastball this year. That’s good because his heater is still pretty mediocre despite its higher than average whiff rate.
The AL West
|Team||W-L||W%||Games Behind||Recent Form|
|Team||W-L||W%||Games Behind||Recent Form|
The Rangers just took two of three from the Pirates earlier this week in Pittsburgh and travel to Baltimore to face the red hot Orioles this weekend. After scoring 12 runs in their first game against the Brewers this week, the Astros were shut out in the other two games, snapping their eight-game win streak. They’ll head to Oakland to get another win streak started. The Angels swept the Red Sox at home and will wrap up their long homestand with a three-game series against the Marlins over the weekend.