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Series Preview: Mariners (54-51) vs. Red Sox (56-49)

The Mariners return home for a short three-game set against the Red Sox.

Boston Red Sox v San Francisco Giants Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

This series against the Red Sox comprises an entire blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, three-day homestand in Seattle. The M’s look to continue their surge of series wins in front of their hometown fans, who got to witness live neither the back-and-forth drama of the Twins series nor the weirdly easy-looking wins against the Diamondbacks. These games sandwich the trade deadline, so fans will have one eye on the games and the other on league news, wondering whether the teams that face off first on Monday will look different than those that play Wednesday afternoon. I’ll be watching the players whose names have been bandied about on the trade market (Hernández, Sewald, France, Gilbert), just in case it’s the last time, as well as J.P. Crawford, whose month of July has been superb and quietly carries this team, day after day. What are you watching for this week?

At a Glance

Red Sox Mariners
Red Sox Mariners
Game 1 Monday, July 31 | 6:40 pm
RHP Nick Pivetta RHP George Kirby
40% 60%
Game 2 Tuesday, August 1 | 6:40 pm
RHP Brayan Bello RHP Bryce Miller
46% 54%
Game 3 Wednesday, August 2 | 1:10 pm
RHP Kutter Crawford RHP Logan Gilbert
41% 59%
*Game odds courtesy of FanGraphs

Team Overview

Overview Red Sox Mariners Edge
Overview Red Sox Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 106 (5th in AL) 101 (9th in AL) Red Sox
Fielding (OAA) -33 (15th) 10 (4th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 108 (12th) 93 (3rd) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 92 (5th) 89 (2nd) Mariners

Just like we said when we played them in May, “the Boston Red Sox suffer from being a fine team in the winningest division in the league.” They’re 56-49, but a .533 record is only good enough for fourth place in the AL East– with the fifth-place Yankees just a game behind! That said, Boston is eight games out of the lead in their division and just 2.5 back of the third Wild Card spot. While they looked to be out of contention and readying to sell at the end of June, things look different on the other side of a 15-7 start to July. Now there are solid reasons to consider both sides of the question of a Red Sox run this season, and our sister site breaks those down nicely. This series also happens to be one of the last opportunities the Mariners have to directly make up ground against a fellow non-AL West Wild Card hopeful.

Since May, the Red Sox pitching has improved statistically; given the frequency with which they’ve scheduled bullpen games and the level of work their bullpen has gotten recently, however, those stats may not bear out this series. Enrique Hernández, who was hitting poorly as the team’s regular shortstop with Trevor Story injured, was traded to the Dodgers last week, and the Mariners will see a fill-in at that position. Story will finally return soon, perhaps just one game after the Red Sox leave Seattle.

Red Sox Lineup

Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Jarren Duran LF L 301 25.2% 6.6% 0.192 134
Masataka Yoshida DH L 394 11.9% 7.4% 0.179 133
Justin Turner 2B R 436 15.8% 8.7% 0.196 126
Rafael Devers 3B L 426 19.7% 8.2% 0.256 122
Triston Casas 1B L 342 25.4% 14.0% 0.229 126
Adam Duvall CF R 173 30.6% 7.5% 0.281 128
Alex Verdugo RF L 412 14.3% 8.7% 0.152 108
Connor Wong C R 266 33.8% 6.0% 0.152 89
Yu Chang SS R 94 31.9% 3.2% 0.195 43

The breakout leader of the Red Sox offense this year has turned out to be outfielder Jarren Duran. The 26-year-old came up from the minors to play center field when Adam Duvall was injured earlier in the season, and he’s been tearing it up ever since. Duran leads the team with 2.6 fWAR and 21 stolen bases. Almost all the other spots in Boston’s lineup are likewise filled with above-average hitters, the only holes being at catcher and (temporarily) shortstop. Rafael Devers brings the power, and two Red Sox are in the conversation for AL Rookie of the Year, Masataka Yoshida and recently Triston Casas. Casas is a #2 prospect who struggled early in the year, but has begun to put it together recently, looking as good as promised.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

Atlanta Braves (3) Vs. Boston Red Sox (5) at Fenway Park Photo by Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

RHP Nick Pivetta

81 29.4% 10.0% 13.8% 34.0% 4.11 4.15
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 51.0% 94.4 122 109 69 0.324
Curveball 26.9% 79.0 113 86 60 0.317
Slider 18.7% 87.2 119 108 60 0.305

From a previous series preview:

Nick Pivetta has enjoyed a bit of a resurgence in Boston after flaming out in Philadelphia a few years ago. He’s always possessed a pair of strong breaking balls but his fastball has been inconsistent and he’s lacked a offspeed pitch to round out his repertoire. When his heater is working, it’ll generate plenty of whiffs at the top of the zone, but his command is spotty enough that the pitch will leak down in the zone pretty often leading to tons of loud contact. He’s dabbled with adding a cutter and changeup to his arsenal but neither pitch is ready for primetime which means he’s left at the whims of his fastball.

Pivetta’s last traditional start was back in May against the Mariners. Since then, he’s been used out of the bullpen both as a short-stint reliever and a bulk pitcher behind an opener. In his previous outing against the M’s, he allowed four runs in 5.1 innings.

RHP Brayan Bello

96 20.3% 6.4% 15.9% 56.2% 3.66 4.44
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 22.2% 95.6 85 93 105 0.366
Sinker 34.6% 95.0 93 110 109 0.338
Changeup 23.6% 86.5 79 145 112 0.212
Slider 17.9% 85.0 106 56 101 0.366

From a previous series preview:

Brayan Bello seemingly has all the tools he needs to develop into a frontline starter for the Red Sox but has been unable to put it all together through parts of two seasons in the big leagues. A diving sinker, and nasty changeup, and a slider with tons of drop help him generate tons of contact on the ground. Unfortunately, he’s also prone to allowing really hard contact if he leaves any of his pitches up in the zone. He’s gotten some of his command issues worked out this year, but that’s meant he’s locating his pitches in the zone more often, leading to more contact. He lacks the pinpoint control to be able to stay on the edges of the strike zone and that remains his one remaining development hurdle.

Bello held the Mariners to a single run in five innings in his last outing against them in Boston. He allowed three hits and five walks while striking out seven.

RHP Kutter Crawford

77 24.5% 5.8% 12.2% 36.9% 3.86 4.12
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 39.4% 94.2 115 131 92 0.277
Cutter 29.1% 88.7 106 93 135 0.285
Splitter 9.9% 82.6 87 77 128 0.264
Curveball 11.4% 80.1 92 56 91 0.486
Slider 4.2% 84.0 106
Sweeper 5.9% 82.6 106

First of all, yes, Kutter Crawford throws a cutter. Along with his four-seam fastball, it makes an effective pair of pitches that he can locate to either side of the plate. He also mixes in a splitter and curveball and has dabbled with adding a sweeper to his repertoire in addition to his more traditional gyro slider. Of those four secondary pitches, his sweeper shows the most promise even though it’s still developing. After bouncing between the bullpen and rotation in his first full season in the majors last year, he has solidified his role as a starter by cutting his walk rate by three points. He isn’t able to provide much length yet — he’s thrown more than 90 pitches in a single outing just once this year — but he’s turned into a reliable option for the Red Sox beleaguered rotation.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Rangers 60-46 0.566 -- L-W-L-L-L
Astros 59-47 0.557 1.0 W-L-L-W-L
Angels 55-51 0.519 5.0 W-W-L-L-W
Mariners 54-51 0.514 5.5 W-W-W-L-W
Athletics 30-77 0.280 30.5 L-L-W-W-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Tampa Bay 64-44 0.593 +4.0 W-L-W-L-W
Astros 59-47 0.557 -- W-L-L-W-L
Blue Jays 59-47 0.557 -- L-W-W-W-L
Red Sox 56-49 0.533 2.5 W-W-W-L-L
Yankees 55-50 0.524 3.5 L-W-L-W-L
Angels 55-51 0.519 4.0 W-W-L-L-W
Mariners 54-51 0.514 4.5 W-W-W-L-W

The Mariners and Angels have both gained ground in the West this week, as Texas slumped a little. That brings both teams within six games of the division lead, which might feel more promising if the Rangers weren’t going all in at the deadline. Texas’ slump came, most recently, in the form of a sweep at the hands of the Padres, after which Texas looks to get right against the White Sox starting Tuesday. The Astros lost their weekend series to the Rays and play the Guardians next. The Angels head to Atlanta today after losing a weekend series in Toronto, and the A’s play the Dodgers after winning their most recent series in Colorado.