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Series Preview: Mariners (50-49) at Twins (53-48)

The Mariners head to Minnesota to take on a familiar foe.

Chicago White Sox v Minnesota Twins Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

The Mariners long ten-game homestand didn’t go exactly to plan, though it ended on a high note with a series win against the Blue Jays. The problem is that Seattle is back right where they started the second half, a single game over .500 and four-ish games behind in the Wild Card race. With the M’s spinning their legs in the air like Wile E. Coyote before he falls off a cliff, the team is no closer to figuring out if they’re in or out as the trade deadline rapidly approaches.

At a Glance

Twins Mariners
Twins Mariners
Game 1 Monday, July 24 | 4:40 pm
RHP Kenta Maeda RHP Luis Castillo
48% 52%
Game 2 Tuesday, July 25 | 4:40 pm
RHP Pablo López RHP George Kirby
51% 49%
Game 3 Wednesday, July 26 | 10:10 am
RHP Joe Ryan RHP Bryce Miller
54% 46%
*Game odds courtesy of FanGraphs

Team Overview

Overview Twins Mariners Edge
Overview Twins Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 102 (7th in AL) 100 (9th in AL) Twins
Fielding (OAA) -8 (11th) 12 (3rd) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 86 (1st) 93 (3rd) Twins
Bullpen (FIP-) 93 (6th) 90 (2nd) Mariners

Last week, we noted the similarities between the Twins and Mariners, as three-true-outcome tied clubs with pitching staffs dragging their inconsistent offenses into contention. Minnesota spent the weekend sweeping aside the dismally disappointing Chicago White Sox to strengthen their position as the leaders of the AL Central, though to Seattle’s slight benefit they required a 12-inning comeback thriller on Sunday that taxed their bullpen heavily, giving the M’s a potential early edge.

Twins Lineup

Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Carlos Correa SS R 386 22.5% 9.6% 0.177 98
Edouard Julien 2B L 189 32.3% 11.6% 0.233 158
Alex Kirilloff 1B L 241 24.9% 10.4% 0.182 135
Max Kepler RF L 267 21.7% 7.9% 0.208 97
Matt Wallner LF L 50 20.0% 12.0% 0.128 164
Byron Buxton DH R 334 31.7% 10.5% 0.223 92
Donovan Solano 3B R 284 22.9% 11.6% 0.131 120
Christian Vázquez C R 222 23.0% 9.0% 0.075 63
Michael A. Taylor CF R 267 34.8% 5.2% 0.186 84

Here’s what we wrote last week:

Carlos Correa’s struggles this year have rightly received most of the attention when it comes to the Twins disappointing offense. A foot issue has certainly impacted his ability to hit consistently, though it should be noted that most of his batted ball peripherals seem to be in line with his career norms and a career-low .276 BABIP seems to be the root of a lot of his struggles. The focus on Correa’s down season has masked some of the problems the Twins’ other superstar is suffering through. In an effort to keep Byron Buxton on the field as much as possible, he has spent the entire season as Minnesota’s regular designated hitter. Unfortunately, the prodigious power he’s shown over the last three years hasn’t shown up this season. He’s still striking out at an extremely high rate and his batted ball peripherals look solid, but his isolated power is only .218, 100 points lower than his recent three-year average.

Correa and Buxton collected just three hits between the two of them in the series last week. Instead, Edouard Julien and Alex Kirilloff torched the M’s to the tune of 15 hits, five extra-base hits, and seven RBIs. Matt Wallner has also started taking regular playing time in the outfield, sending either Joey Gallo or Michael A. Taylor to the bench.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

Minnesota Twins v Seattle Mariners Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

RHP Kenta Maeda

42 1/3 28.6% 6.9% 9.6% 35.1% 5.10 3.31
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 22.7% 90.3 73 123 81 0.355
Sinker 5.6% 89.6
Splitter 32.9% 83.8 132 116 75 0.252
Curveball 4.5% 75.8
Slider 34.3% 81.5 103 87 73 0.310

From a previous series preview:

Kenta Maeda was the Cy Young runner-up in 2020 in his first season in Minnesota but injured his elbow the following year and missed all of last year after Tommy John surgery. He was healthy to start the season but missed two more months after straining his triceps in late April. His ERA is heavily skewed by a 10-run disaster against the Yankees in which he injured his arm — remove that game from his ledger and his ERA falls to 3.27. He’s lost a bit of velocity thanks to all those troubles with his arm but his three primary pitches have continued to be pretty effective.

Maeda pitched into the seventh inning in his previous start in Seattle, allowing two runs on three hits while striking out nine.

RHP Pablo López

121 2/3 30.2% 7.0% 11.7% 39.9% 4.22 3.40
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 36.1% 95.0 102 142 81 0.315
Sinker 10.1% 94.5 101 88 149 0.352
Changeup 20.4% 88.4 89 90 97 0.271
Curveball 12.6% 82.4 96 129 59 0.255
Sweeper 20.8% 84.3 112 98 113 0.213

From a previous series preview:

Pablo López was the Twins headlining acquisition in the big offseason trade that sent Luis Arraez to Miami. Amazingly enough, both players represented their new teams at the All-Star Game. While his actual results have been inconsistent this year — just look at his two starts bookending the All-Star break for example: a complete game shutout against the Royals on July 5 followed by a seven-run stinker against the A’s on July 15 — López’s peripherals are better than ever. He’s running a career-high strikeout rate thanks to a new sweeper he added to his repertoire this year. Paired with his excellent fastball and changeup, that gives him three consistent weapons to attack batters with.

López was outdueled by George Kirby in their previous matchup, allowing two runs in five innings against Kirby’s seven shutout innings.

RHP Joe Ryan

118 1/3 29.4% 4.6% 12.3% 32.3% 3.88 3.65
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 58.0% 92.4 103 133 103 0.258
Splitter 27.8% 83.7 92 73 83 0.247
Sweeper 10.6% 79.4 106 96 81 0.364
Slider 3.6% 82.6 106

After a promising five-start debut back in 2021, Joe Ryan proved he was one of the most exciting young starters in the majors with a solid 2.1 fWAR season last year. He’s taken another big step forward this year, pushing his strikeout rate up by nearly five points to just under 30%. The biggest difference has been the introduction of a splitter into his repertoire. Alongside his big sweeper, that gives him two excellent secondary pitches to pair with his fantastic fastball. His heater still makes up the majority of his pitch mix which is appropriate since it’s one of the flattest four-seamers in baseball, earning him a ridiculous whiff rate.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Rangers 59-41 0.590 -- W-W-L-L-W
Astros 56-44 0.560 3.0 W-W-W-L-W
Angels 51-49 0.510 8.0 W-W-W-L-W
Mariners 50-49 0.505 8.5 L-W-W-W-L
Athletics 28-74 0.275 32.0 W-L-L-W-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Tampa Bay 61-42 0.592 +4.5 L-L-W-L-L
Astros 56-44 0.560 +1.0 W-W-W-L-W
Blue Jays 55-45 0.550 -- L-W-L-L-W
Red Sox 53-47 0.530 2.0 L-L-L-W-W
Yankees 53-47 0.530 2.0 L-L-W-W-W
Angels 51-49 0.510 4.0 W-W-W-L-W
Mariners 50-49 0.505 4.5 L-W-W-W-L

The M’s remain stuck in second gear, finding few friends in the opponents of the Texas clubs, nor Anaheim. Sitting 8.5 back of the division is frustratingly familiar territory, with 4.5 games back of the third Wild Card spot a similarly recollectable locale. On this date in 2022, the M’s were 12 games back of Houston for the division, but were in the third Wild Card spot with a two game edge on the next club - in essence a 6.5 game difference heading into the final week before the trade deadline. Texas bounced back to salvage a game from the Dodgers on Sunday and now heads to Houston for a showdown of the West’s top teams. Those Astros are still injury-sapped but were the beneficiaries of playing Oakland of late, taking three of four from the Athletics. All eyes are on the Angels and their trajectory, with weaker playoff odds by most reckonings than Seattle despite their half-game edge, and the potential to set Shohei Ohtani free at last. They took two of three from the Pirates and get Monday off as they travel to Detroit and Toronto to close out July.