The Mariners head down to the desert to face the worst team in the National League.
After such a frustrating loss to start their series against Houston on Monday night, the Mariners came back with two extremely impressive shutout wins to secure the series win. The Yankees had already done it earlier this season, but the last time the Astros were shutout in consecutive games was all the way back in 2013, their first season in the AL West. With their momentum rebuilt after their ugly series loss to the Royals, the Mariners head to Arizona to face the worst team in the National League.
After starting off the season two games over .500 through April, the Diamondbacks won just eight total games over the next two months. That stretch of futility included their historic road losing streak and it looked like they were well on their way towards breaking the all-time worst season in MLB history. Fortunately, they haven’t been nearly as bad since the calendar turned over to July, going 22-30 over the last two months of the season. Still, they’re well on their way towards losing more than 100 games this year and have a good shot at earning the number one pick in the 2022 draft. The Mariners face them six times in the next ten days and they need to take advantage of this opportunity against one of the worst teams in baseball.
For a team that’s so low in the standings, the Diamondbacks still have a surprising number of veterans in their lineup. David Peralta, Christian Walker, and Nick Ahmed are each over 30 years old and are still getting regular playing time. The core of their team — and the reason they’re not committed to a dramatic tear down — are all under 30. Ketel Marte is a bonafide superstar but promising seasons from Josh Rojas, Carson Kelly, Pavin Smith, and Daulton Varsho have given Marte a supporting cast for the Diamondbacks to build around.
- Stuff+ scores for Mariners starters (Update: The Stuff+ scores for Mariners starters have been updated with August data)
Madison Bumgarner had a terrible first year in Arizona last year, posting career worsts in nearly every single significant pitching category. He was never a hard thrower, but his fastball velocity took a dramatic dip last season, down to 88.4 mph. It’s barely above 90 mph this year and his results have bounced back a bit. Because he debuted in the majors at such a young age, his arm already has a ton of miles on it despite only turning 32 a month ago. He’s had spurts of sustained success this year but another shoulder injury earlier in the season sidelined him for a month and a half. He still relies heavily on his cutter as his best secondary offering and a decent curveball as his only breaking ball.
This spot in the rotation would have been Merrill Kelly’s but he was placed on the COVID-19 Injured List back on August 15 and has only progressed to throwing bullpen sessions since his positive test. There’s a possibility he could be activated for this series or next weekend’s series, but it’s more likely the Diamondbacks will go with a bullpen game this weekend. They can send Kelly out for a rehab start in the meantime and get him back closer to full strength in a week. The Diamondbacks just announced that Taylor Widener would move to the bullpen after Luke Weaver was activated from the IL earlier this week, but he’s the pitcher who is stretched out the longest on their staff. He could make a spot start on Saturday if Kelly isn’t ready to go.
Tyler Gilbert made history by pitching a no-hitter in his first major league start back on August 14. Although that incredible start to his major league career might deceive you, Gilbert wasn’t a highly ranked prospect in the Diamondbacks organization. He was originally drafted by the Phillies and was traded to the Dodgers in February 2020. He spent all of last year at Los Angeles’s alternate site and was claimed by the Diamondbacks on waivers after the season. He doesn’t throw an overpowering fastball, or possess a sweeping breaking ball. Instead, he relies on good command and a deep repertoire and he had everything working against the Padres on that historic night. He’s made three more starts since then and has allowed 20 hits in 15 innings.
The Big Picture:
Those two wins on Tuesday and Wednesday against the Astros were critical to help the Mariners keep pace with the Red Sox and A’s. Boston ended up splitting their four-game series against the Rays after losing the first two games. They’re suffering through a COVID outbreak on their roster with eight players currently sidelined, including their star shortstop Xander Bogaerts. They return home this weekend to face Cleveland before another three-game series against the Rays next week. The A’s won their series in Detroit to keep pace in the Wild Card race. They travel to Toronto this weekend to play the Blue Jays. After Oakland broke their 13-game win streak last weekend, the Yankees lost four straight and barely avoided a sweep by the Angels earlier this week. They’re scheduled to return to New York this weekend but with the flash flooding that occurred on Wednesday, it’s possible their weekend series with the Orioles could be moved or postponed. The Astros will look to score some runs against the Padres in San Diego this weekend.