clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Series Preview: Mariners (38-41) vs. Rays (56-28)

The Mariners host the Rays in their last home series before the All-Star break.

MLB: JUN 15 Rays at Athletics Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The pattern is getting depressingly familiar: a burst of offense leads to a win in one game of a series, but the hitters faceplant on the concrete in the other two games. After perfecting this trick against the Yankees, Orioles, and Nationals, the Seattle Mariners welcome the Tampa Bay Rays to T-Mobile Park this weekend with scraped knees and a gash across the chin. This is the Mariners’ last series at home before the All-Star Break; during the subsequent road trip Seattle will prepare to host the July 11th All-Star Game, as well as many other events such as the Home Run Derby, All-Star Futures Game, HBCU Classic, and more.

At a Glance

Rays Mariners
Rays Mariners
Game 1 Friday, June 30 | 7:10 pm
LHP Shane McClanahan RHP Bryce Miller
51% 49%
Game 2 Saturday, July 1 | 4:15 pm
RHP Tyler Glasnow RHP George Kirby
47% 53%
Game 3 Sunday, July 2 | 1:10 pm
RHP Taj Bradley RHP Luis Castillo
40% 60%
*Game odds courtesy of FanGraphs

Team Overview

Overview Rays Mariners Edge
Overview Rays Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 126 (1st in AL) 97 (9th in AL) Rays
Fielding (OAA) 6 (5th) 10 (3rd) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 90 (2nd) 91 (3rd) Rays
Bullpen (FIP-) 109 (14th) 88 (4th) Mariners

Unlike the Mariners, the Rays are dramatically outperforming expectations this season; they are 56-28, with a blistering 34-10 record at home. In 2022, the Rays got the final AL Wild Card slot, but lost in the wild card series to the Guardians, and were projected to be marginally better this year. Tampa’s analytics-heavy player development, consistent and effective management by Kevin Cash, and the return of a healthy Wander Franco have paid off even more than predicted.

The Rays have swept seven series in the first half of the season, and their +152 run differential trails only the Rangers. After opening the season with a 13-game win streak and a 22-6 month of April, significant downward regression was inevitable, but a 16-10 record in June with one game left to play shows a team that’s regressed from epically good to quite good. Halfway through the season, Tampa has the best record in baseball, the highest team offensive fWAR (19.9, tied with Texas), and an ace with the lowest ERA in the game (Shane McClanahan, 2.23).

The Rays sit five and a half games ahead of the second-place Orioles in the AL East, and most recently took two of three from the Diamondbacks.

Rays Lineup

Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Yandy Díaz 1B R 305 15.1% 11.8% 0.197 164
Wander Franco SS S 339 12.7% 8.3% 0.173 126
Luke Raley DH L 210 31.4% 6.2% 0.297 159
Randy Arozarena LF R 339 23.3% 13.3% 0.189 153
Isaac Paredes 3B R 283 17.7% 10.2% 0.219 144
Josh Lowe RF L 249 25.3% 6.0% 0.215 131
Taylor Walls 2B S 237 24.9% 12.7% 0.170 102
Christian Bethancourt C R 183 27.9% 3.3% 0.178 78
Jose Siri CF R 185 32.4% 7.6% 0.315 129

The Ray’s lineup has no easy outs one through nine. Four players have stats placing them in the top tier of MLB hitters, while the rest of the lineup is offensively at or above league average. The only exception is the catcher slot, in which Francisco Mejía and Christian Bethancourt both post wRC+ in the high 70s/low 80s.

Three of the starting infielders have envy-inducing stats: First baseman Yandy Díaz, the oldest batter in the lineup at 31, is second in MLB in wRC+ (166) and fourth in batting average (.318); he’s on pace for 4-5 fWAR on the season. Shortstop Wander Franco is the team’s most recognized star and youngest batter at 22 – his performance this year is not a surprise, but it’s affirming of his future after he missed half of the 2022 season due to injury. Franco is fourth in MLB in fWAR (3.4), third in stolen bases (25), and boasts the lowest strikeout rate among Rays hitters. Third baseman Isaac Paredes has proved his ability to hit for power this year, boasting 13 home runs so far, and ranks eleventh in MLB in wRC+ (144). Rounding out the infield in the lineup is second baseman Taylor Walls– he’s been a league-average hitter but contributed well with his speed on the basepaths as he fills in for regular second baseman Brandon Lowe. Lowe is on the Injured List with low back inflammation and began a Triple-A rehab assignment on Wednesday; he won’t return to the Rays during the Seattle series.

Left Fielder Randy Arozarena has been the jewel of the outfield crown in 2023, with a 154 wRC+ (fifth in MLB), and 14 home runs. Josh Lowe in right field and José Siri in center round out the Ray’s fielders; both are also having quality offensive years with wRC+ in the 120-130s; Siri also leads Tampa in home runs with 15. The DH spot has rotated between Luke Raley, Harold Ramírez, and others; Raley has played his way into the usual DH role against righties, posting a 153 wRC+ and 2.2 fWAR in 61 games.

News broke yesterday that both Arozarena and Díaz will be starters for the American League in the All-Star Game back here in Seattle.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

Kansas City Royals v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

LHP Shane McClanahan

93 26.7% 9.4% 11.5% 43.0% 2.23 3.65
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 42.3% 96.6 109 111 95 0.357
Changeup 24.4% 86.7 112 171 119 0.199
Curveball 17.9% 83.2 112 100 84 0.324
Slider 15.4% 88.7 110 90 95 0.341

Shane McClanahan was the first pitcher in MLB history to make his big league debut in a playoff game during the 2020 postseason. Since then, he’s developed into the Rays ace with a phenomenal 2.75 ERA backed by a 3.26 FIP over the last three seasons. He possesses four plus pitches including a fastball that sits in the upper 90s and can reach triple digits on occasion. Despite that kind of heat, his best pitches are his wipeout slider and tumbling changeup. The latter pitch has the highest whiff rate for any changeup thrown at least 100 times this season; it’s a truly devastating pitch. McClanahan was forced to leave his previous start early due to a back issue, but it seems to have cleared up and he’s scheduled to take his regular turn in the rotation on Friday.

RHP Tyler Glasnow

30 1/3 35.2% 10.9% 21.7% 44.9% 4.45 3.83
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 44.9% 96.0 120 128 87 0.435
Curveball 20.8% 83.6 146 158 39 0.235
Slider 34.2% 89.4 95 130 140 0.339

Tyler Glasnow missed half of 2021 and nearly all of last year after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He came back late in the season and played a small role in the Rays’ abbreviated postseason run. A spring oblique injury forced him to miss almost two months of this season and he hasn’t been particularly sharp since returning to the majors. Still, he’s generating tons of swings and misses on his three pitches and his strikeout rate is right in line with his established norms. His last outing saw him strikeout 12 Royals in just five innings while allowing just a single run.

RHP Taj Bradley

53 32.2% 7.0% 17.6% 35.3% 4.58 3.69
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 43.4% 95.9 134 100 107 0.345
Cutter 28.2% 88.1 107 114 106 0.333
Changeup 12.1% 89.0 62 140 222 0.170
Curveball 16.3% 78.7 87 89 92 0.198

Taj Bradley is the latest in a long line of elite pitching prospects the Rays have churned out over the years. His pedigree isn’t as high as McClanahan’s was, but he’s on track to be a frontline starter for Tampa for years to come. He made his major league debut this year as a 22-year-old and has impressed across 11 starts so far. His best pitch is a mid-90s fastball that has plenty of ride and life at the top of the zone. He’ll play a hard cutter off his heater and also possesses a good curveball and a promising changeup. If you lower the threshold to 50 innings pitched, he has the fourth highest strikeout rate in the majors, though some bad batted ball luck has pushed his ERA nearly a full run higher than his FIP.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Rangers 49-32 0.605 -- L-L-W-W-L
Astros 44-37 0.543 5.0 L-W-L-W-W
Angels 44-39 0.530 6.0 L-W-W-L-L
Mariners 38-41 0.481 10.0 L-L-W-L-L
Athletics 21-62 0.253 29.0 L-L-W-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Orioles 48-31 0.608 +4.5 W-W-W-L-L
Yankees 45-36 0.556 +0.5 W-W-L-W-W
Blue Jays 45-37 0.549 -- W-W-L-W-W
Astros 44-37 0.543 0.5 L-W-L-W-W
Angels 44-39 0.530 1.5 L-W-W-L-L

The AL West and Wild Card Standings aren’t moving in the Mariners’ favor, who are ten and five and a half games out of the division lead and Wild Card, respectively. The division-leading Rangers (who have four players represented in the AL All-Star Game starting lineup) split a four-game set with Detroit this week and host Houston for another four starting today. The Astros scored 26-runs in three games against the Cardinals this week, but only won two of them. After splitting a four-game series versus the White Sox, the Angels welcome the Diamondbacks to town this weekend. The Athletics were outscored 22-6 by the Yankees this week; the Yankees won two of three games in that series, including the perfect game by Domingo Germán that replaced King Félix’s as the most recent in MLB history. The A’s play the White Sox for three this weekend.