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Series Preview: Mariners (74-56) vs. Athletics (38-93)

The Mariners play host to the Athletics this week.

Oakland Athletics v Chicago White Sox Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

As of yesterday, the Seattle Mariners are in sole possession of first place in the AL West, for the first time in twenty years! As a treat, they get to play a three-game home series against the worst team in baseball, the Oakland Athletics. I’ll be watching to see how Woo’s start goes tonight, particularly looking for trends since his return from the IL, and I’ll be keeping an eye on Teoscar Hernández’ home run streak. What will you be watching for?

At a Glance

Athletics Mariners
Athletics Mariners
Game 1 Monday, August 28 | 6:40 pm
LHP Kyle Muller RHP Bryan Woo
33% 67%
Game 2 Tuesday, August 29 | 6:40 pm
LHP Ken Waldichuk RHP George Kirby
30% 70%
Game 3 Wednesday, August 30 | 1:10 pm
RHP Zach Neal RHP Bryce Miller
34% 66%
*Game odds courtesy of FanGraphs

Team Overview

Overview Athletics Mariners Edge
Overview Athletics Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 89 (12th in AL) 109 (3rd in AL) Mariners
Fielding (OAA) -13 (14th) 8 (3rd) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 128 (15th) 90 (3rd) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 117 (15th) 85 (2nd) Mariners

The Mariners haven’t seen the Athletics since May, but Oakland’s story has not changed. The team has already racked up 93 losses, and are 36 games behind the Mariners in the West. Their run differential (-302) is colder than absolute zero measured in celsius. There aren’t many positive stories to spin out of the A’s season thus far, but the fans’ vocal activism in the face of the team’s planned relocation and despite dismal outcomes deserves a salute. The saga of the team’s move continues to baffle; at this point, ownership has filed the relocation application, but cannot specify where the team would play between the end of the Coliseum lease in 2024 and the opening of the new stadium in Las Vegas in 2027. Our sister site Athletics Nation breaks down the ridiculous options here.

Athletics Lineup

Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Ryan Noda 1B L 370 32.7% 17.6% 0.186 134
Zack Gelof 2B R 165 26.7% 8.5% 0.297 152
Seth Brown RF L 295 28.5% 8.1% 0.177 86
Brent Rooker DH R 423 31.7% 9.2% 0.224 122
Tony Kemp LF L 359 8.9% 10.3% 0.101 85
Shea Langeliers C R 404 29.0% 7.4% 0.179 82
Lawrence Butler CF L 51 23.5% 0.0% 0.100 65
Jonah Bride 3B R 100 20.0% 10.0% 0.036 49
Nick Allen SS R 238 17.2% 5.5% 0.073 50

Oakland’s lineup boasts no league stars, no nationally-known names, and only one player above 2 fWAR. Of the three players batting above league average, two are rookies. First baseman Ryan Noda (wRC+ 136) and second baseman Zack Gelof (wRC+ 158 in 37 games) lead the team in fWAR, with the team’s single All-Star, Brent Rooker, close behind. Rooker has the most power on the team, while Gelof has been on a tear all month. Dynamic outfielder Esteury Ruiz debuted earlier this season, but his playing time has been reduced with the call-up of center field prospect Lawrence Butler. Ruiz is still, however, second in baseball in stolen bases with 49. The A’s lineup is packed with young rookies, and the young players are developing as the season goes on; it doesn’t make for winning baseball, but it’s occasionally interesting to watch.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

Oakland Athletics v Chicago White Sox Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

LHP Kyle Muller

59 1/3 15.1% 10.6% 16.9% 47.1% 7.28 5.90
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 50.1% 93.0 82 70 107 0.479
Changeup 7.0% 87.3 83
Curveball 14.9% 81.1 95 85 106 0.242
Slider 28.0% 86.9 90 71 92 0.369

Kyle Muller is back in the majors for his third stint with the big league club after getting optioned twice earlier this season. All this after he was the Opening Day starter for Oakland. Upon his return from Triple-A, he was firing his fastball nearly two ticks harder with improved results following. Even with the improved velocity, his command of his secondary offerings is spotty enough to undermine any progress he made with his fastball. His two appearances in August have been as a bulk pitcher behind an opener but he’ll be making a traditional start against the M’s on Monday.

LHP Ken Waldichuk

110 21.8% 11.6% 16.0% 39.1% 6.05 5.53
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 54.2% 93.4 88 88 107 0.374
Changeup 16.1% 84.1 93 123 91 0.352
Curveball 1.7% 74.7
Sweeper 28.0% 81.2 95 92 85 0.277

From a previous series preview:

Ken Waldichuk came over to the Bay Area in the Frankie Montas trade and quickly made his major league debut for the A’s last summer. He enjoyed a breakout season in the minors before getting shipped off, fueled by a good, sweeping slider and a developing changeup. The knock against him — and stop me if you’ve heard this before — is his command, particularly with his fastball. He’s often forced to use his breaking ball, which he can locate with precision, as an in-zone option to cover for his wild heater. That’s certainly not the best usage of his slider since he’s not getting many whiffs on it when it’s over the plate.

The A’s have bounced Waldichuk from the rotation to the bullpen and back again over the course of this season which isn’t doing his development any favors. He’s been a bit better in August but all the same issues that plagued him earlier this year are still present. The M’s crushed him for five runs on eight hits during his last outing against them back in May.

RHP Zach Neal

66 2/3 16.6% 4.6% 20.0% 39.2% 5.40 6.65
Triple-A stats

Zach Neal had a brief run in the big leagues with Oakland way back in 2016 but eventually traveled to Japan for three years before signing a minor league deal with the Rockies last year. After pitching out of the bullpen for nearly all of August, he made his first start of the season last week against the White Sox. He throws from a low arm slot though none of his pitches break 90 mph on the radar gun. His changeup is probably his best pitch with some solid tailing action.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Mariners 74-56 0.569 -- W-L-W-W-W
Rangers 73-57 0.562 1.0 L-L-L-W-L
Astros 74-58 0.561 1.0 L-L-L-W-W
Angels 63-68 0.481 11.5 L-L-W-W-L
Athletics 38-93 0.290 36.5 L-W-W-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Tampa Bay 80-52 0.606 +6.0 W-W-L-W-W
Rangers 73-57 0.562 -- L-L-L-W-L
Astros 74-58 0.561 -- L-L-L-W-W
Blue Jays 71-60 0.542 2.5 L-L-L-W-L
Red Sox 69-62 0.527 4.5 W-W-L-W-L

Have I mentioned the Mariners are in first place in the AL West? Texas and Houston are each a game back after the Rangers lost their weekend series to the Twins and the Astros took two of three from Detroit. The Rangers and Astros hold the #2 and #3 Wild Card spots, and play the Mets and Red Sox this week. The Rays took two of three from the Yankees over the weekend to keep their solid lead as the first Wild Card team, and head to Florida to take on the Marlins starting tomorrow. The top challenger currently outside the Wild Cards is Toronto, who host the Nationals this week. Mariners fans, therefore, will want to root for the Mets, Red Sox, Marlins, and Nationals.