Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the first scoreboard watching thread of the 2023 Seattle Mariners season. Although the M’s are off today as they travel back to the friendly confines of T-Mobile Park, there are a handful of matchups throughout the day that could help their playoff chances should they break right. Feel free to pop in and follow along, and treat this space like you would any other Mariners game thread!
Rockies at Rays, 10:10am PDT
The hapless Rockies will desperately attempt to avoid a sweep after getting blown out on Monday and losing in extras last night, with righty Peter Lambert making his eighth start of the year. As you may expect, it’s been a bit up-and-down for him in a swingman capacity - that 5.35 FIP isn’t going to blow anyone away, but he is coming off of his best start of the season, firing seven innings of one-run ball against the White Sox.
Tampa Bay is opting to roll with a bullpen day, and former Mariner Shawn Armstrong will be the opener. As scary as that has sounded in years past, though, the Rays’ bullpen has looked fairly mortal this year, putting up a collective 4.27 FIP that ranks just 20th in the league. How exactly they’ll be deployed will remain to be seen, but any help Colorado can give to help shorten the 5.5 game lead the Rays hold over the M’s for the first Wild Card spot would be greatly appreciated, if not exactly expected. Go Rockies.
Red Sox at Astros, 11:10am PDT
This is the big one. After Houston easily dispatched the Red Sox in the first two games of this series, Boston struck back with a 7-5 extra-innings win that assured the Mariners would stay just half a game behind them, despite their heartbreaking loss yesterday. Second-year starter and header photo subject Brayan Bello will take the hill for the Red Sox, and he’s made excellent strides in his command after a rocky rookie season, sacrificing some Ks in favor of a four-point drop in his walk rate. He went six innings on Friday against the Yankees, allowing just one run on six hits and a walk to kick off Boston’s own sweep.
J.P. France will start for the Astros, and man, I am still not used to that name. France’s last start, as you probably recall, was against the M’s on Friday, and while he pitched well over six innings, solo shots from Julio and Mike Ford handed him the loss in a 2-0 final. His shiny ERA belies a FIP a touch over four, and if Boston’s bats can elevate the ball and not let him settle in, they could stand a good chance at splitting the series - and more importantly, drop Houston into a tie with the Mariners. Go Red Sox.
Blue Jays at Orioles, 4:05pm PDT
Thanks to some sterling pitching, staking out of an early lead, and playing add-on late, the Orioles ensured the M’s would come into today - and tomorrow - in sole possession of the third Wild Card spot, as they took down Toronto 7-0 last night to force a rubber match. Kyle Gibson will get the start for Baltimore, and while the veteran righty has been plenty durable, the results have been mixed, as he’s rocking an ERA a touch under five. Gibson has been plagued by poor strand rates each of the last two seasons - his FIP this year is actually pretty solid at 3.87 - but if Birdland’s offense can keep the heat, he should get by just fine.
José Berríos will take the ball for the Jays, and he’s quietly had a strong bounceback season after a rough 2022. A big part of that is a seven-point jump in his strand rate, but he’s striking more guys out and getting a few more groundouts. His expected stats, though, aren’t totally sold, and suggest that regression may be coming. Wouldn’t it be nice if that bug bit tonight? Go Orioles.
Rangers at Twins, 5:10pm PDT
To describe the Rangers as free falling might be an understatement. After back-to-back sweeps from the Brewers and Diamondbacks (love you, Paul!), what was once a 7.5 game lead in the division barely a week ago has shrunk to one, with the Mariners just another half-game back. Dane Dunning will make his 20th start of the season for Texas, and while the righty doesn’t miss a ton of bats, a career-low walk rate has led the way to a strong third season with the Rangers.
Minnesota will counter with Pablo López, who is half of a quietly very good 1-2 punch atop their rotation alongside Sonny Gray - in fact, did you know before today that he’s the American League leader in strikeouts? I sure didn’t! He has been on a tear his last few outings, as well - zero runs across three starts and nineteen innings isn’t something to sneeze at. If he can keep the good times rolling, we stand a good chance at seeing Seattle back to just one game behind for the division lead heading into the weekend. You would love to see it. Go Twins.