The Mariners return home looking for a little revenge as they host the Red Sox for three games this weekend.
The Mariners finally have a little momentum going their way with four series wins in a row bookended by victories over the division leading Astros. After an ugly May, they’ve righted the ship a bit in June. The grueling travel schedule has certainly played a part in their rough patch earlier last month, but they just won six of nine on the road and begin a long homestand this weekend. In fact, the Mariners won’t play a game outside their own time zone until mid-July. The opponents won’t necessarily get any easier, but hopefully the good vibes and home cooking will help them continue their mini-hot streak into the summer.
The lowest point of the Mariners season was almost certainly the four-game sweep in Boston in mid-May. Not only did they get thoroughly outplayed, that series single-handedly jump-started the Red Sox season after they floundered through the first month and a half of the season. Since that series, Boston has gone 11-6 and jumped back into the middle of the AL Wild Card race. They had put together a nice seven-game win streak and almost completed a four-game sweep in Anaheim before losing yesterday.
If you can point to one reason for the Red Sox recent turn around, it’s their offense finally coming alive. They’ve scored 5.8 runs per game since that four-game series in Boston and nearly their entire lineup has put together hot streaks during that stretch. The only players who haven’t produced an offensive line above league average recently are Franchy Cordero and Christian Arroyo; those two have formed a rough platoon in right field after Enrique Hernández was sidelined with a hip injury last week. The offense is still built around the trio of Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, and Xander Bogaerts, but now that the supporting cast is producing a lot better, their ability to score runs at a consistent clip has improved greatly.
From a previous series preview:
Rich Hill’s long and storied career has taken him to many cities and teams (11 to be exact), but he’s finally returned to the place where he reinvented himself. Back in 2015, Hill had struggled to make much of an impact in the majors, compiling just 6.0 WAR in parts of 10 seasons with six different clubs. At the ripe old age of 35, he refocused his pitch mix on his fastball and looping curveball, two pitches that play off each other extremely well. In the eight seasons since then, he’s accumulated 13.0 WAR and has made 131 starts with a 3.67 FIP. Not bad for someone who had nearly washed out of the majors a decade ago. Despite diminished velocity and the exact same approach for years now, Hill is just as effective as ever. The key has been limiting his exposure to a lineup; he’s averaging under five innings per start this year as the Red Sox have been piggybacking him with another long reliever to avoid having Hill face the same lineup more than twice.
The Mariners were able to knock around Hill in their previous meeting, scoring four runs off of him in two innings. They were extremely aggressive against his fastball which allowed them to avoid getting into deep counts where he could utilize his nasty curveball effectively.
From a previous series preview:
For a while, it looked like Michael Wacha was poised to become a mid-rotation mainstay in St. Louis; he accumulated 10.3 WAR across his first five seasons as a Cardinal. Unfortunately, he’s really struggled recently and has bounced from the Cardinals, the Mets, the Rays, and finally to the Red Sox this year. A late season surge gave Boston some hope that he could regain some of the effectiveness he enjoyed earlier in his career. From August 28 through the end of the season, he posted a 2.88 ERA and a 3.29 FIP across six starts and an additional relief appearance. The biggest change during that stretch: cutting the usage of his cutter and throwing his excellent changeup and a newly developed sinker more often.
Wacha allowed two runs in 4.2 innings in his last outing against the Mariners. He’s coming off a complete game shutout against the Angels and hasn’t allowed a run in his past two starts.
From a previous series preview:
Garrett Whitlock is one of the biggest Rule 5 success stories in baseball. Tommy John surgery and the canceled minor league season in 2020 had kept him off the mound since July of 2019, but the Red Sox took a chance on his skills and minor league track record and found a gem. What’s more interesting is that he was arguably their most valuable reliever during his rookie season last year. He put up a 1.96 ERA and a 2.84 FIP in 46 appearances out of the ‘pen with a phenomenal 4.76 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He started off this year in that same fireman role but has shifted to the rotation when a need arose. He’s made five starts since making the transition and has been nearly as dominant as he was in shorter stints. He possesses three plus pitches with a nasty sinker forming the foundation of his repertoire. Both his slider and changeup have looked a bit different this year and both have produced greatly improved results.
The Mariners handed Whitlock his worst start of his season last time out, scoring five runs in three innings off him.
The Big Picture:
The Angels finally won a game! After 14 straight losses, Shohei Ohtani nearly single-handedly beat the Red Sox yesterday to help them earn their first victory since May 24. Their schedule doesn’t ease up, however; they host the Mets this weekend before “traveling” to face the Dodgers early next week. The Astros host the Marlins this weekend and the Rangers travel to Chicago to face the White Sox.
With the season more than a third of the way complete, I’ll start including the Wild Card standings in this space to give readers a better look at the most likely path the Mariners will take towards contention.
In the Wild Card standings, the AL East dominates the proceedings. The Rays and Blue Jays hold a commanding lead for the first two Wild Card slots while the Red Sox recent hot streak has allowed them to lay claim to the final playoff berth. The Guardians, White Sox, Angels, Rangers, and Mariners all sit within striking distance of that third Wild Card slot, and it should be a competitive race throughout the summer.
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