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Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays at Seattle Mariners

The Rays take on their favorite trade partner.

Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

The Rays west coast trip continues as the team heads to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Seattle Mariners for a three game series. The Mariners enter the series winners of seven of their last ten. They have struggled at home (5-7) and been dominant on the road (13-6).

The Mariners come into this game with the third best offense in the AL at .242/.317/.421, .318 wOBA, 108 wRC+.

These are two very similar teams that have opposite offensive weaknesses. The Mariners have a better offense against RHP and the Rays perform better against LHP. The Mariners have performed better offensively, but the Rays' starting rotation has outpitched the Mariners'.

Matchups:

Monday: Matt Moore vs Felix Hernandez

Tuesday: Drew Smyly vs Wade Miley

Wednesday: Chris Archer vs Taijuan Walker

Is Felix still King?

King Felix has started the year with a serious decline in velocity. His results have still been vintage Felix as he's posted a 2.21 ERA, but with a decreasing 18.5% K-rate and increasing 11.5% BB-rate. His 4.31 FIP suggests that he won't continue to produce at this level without improvement.  Let's home tonight is the night that those weak peripherals catch up with him.

Wade Miley will be challenged by the buzz saw that is the Rays offense against left handed pitchers. The Rays are tied with the Astros in offense against LHP in the American League with a .257/.320/.452, .335 wOBA, 121 wRC+ line.

Taijuan Walker is in the process of having a breakout season and is probably the best pitcher in the Mariners starting rotation. Walker has posted a 1.97 ERA (2.95 FIP) led by a 22.1% K-rate and 2.3% BB-rate. He's had problems with the long ball as he's had a 19.8% HR/FB rate.

Mariners Starting Pitchers Last 3+ Years vs Right Handed Batters:

Player IP K% BB% HR% AVE OBP SLG wOBA ERA FIP
Felix Hernandez 309.1 27.7% 5.3% 15.2% 0.220 0.270 0.348 0.274 2.91 2.98
Wade Miley 496.2 18.9% 8.5% 11.6% 0.265 0.331 0.419 0.329 4.17 4.02
Taijuan Walker 111.0 22.5% 4.7% 11.8% 0.245 0.297 0.398 0.303 4.38 3.83

Felix Hernandez has been hard on right handed batters this year, allowing only a .172/.277/.298, .264 wOBA.

Wade Miley is finally in a good pitching environment spending his career in Arizona and Boston. He's been getting crushed by right handers this year to a .298/.339/.447, .343 wOBA line. The Rays will present a tough matchup for him.

Taijuan Walker has allowed a .328/.344/.450, .345 wOBA to right handed batters, but has struck out 30.6% of those faced.

Mariners Starting Pitchers Last 3+ Years vs Left Handed Batters:

Player IP K% BB% HR% AVE OBP SLG wOBA ERA FIP
Felix Hernandez 369.1 23.1% 6.9% 9.0% 0.224 0.283 0.339 0.276 2.75 3.02
Wade Miley 139.0 18.2% 5.7% 13.0% 0.255 0.311 0.391 0.310 4.08 3.60
Taijuan Walker 143.2 21.5% 7.3% 11.1% 0.236 0.300 0.378 0.297 3.51 3.71

Historically Hernandez has been tough on batters from both sides, but left handed batters have gotten to him a bit more this year, with a .225/.319/.313, .288 wOBA line.

Miley has been hit by left handers throughout his career, but his peripherals would suggest he should be better against same handed batters.

Taijuan Walker has been dominant to start the season when facing lefties as he's allowed only a .154/.203/.266, .209 wOBA against.

Former Rays fill out the bullpen.

Joaquin Benoit is currently on the disabled list, but the Rays may well face former teamates Joel Peralta and Mike Montgomery in relief.

The Mariners bullpen has been a stabilizing force them this year as they have pitched 93.2 innings of 2.50 ERA baseball.

Mariners Relievers vs Right Handed Batters:

Player IP K% BB% HR% AVE OBP SLG wOBA ERA FIP
Steve Cishek 106.1 24.1% 6.6% 5.9% 0.222 0.281 0.315 0.263 2.71 2.62
Joel Peralta 77.0 24.4% 7.5% 13.5% 0.236 0.297 0.451 0.325 5.26 4.54
Vidal Nuno 208.0 18.1% 6.1% 13.4% 0.266 0.318 0.473 0.342 4.50 4.72
Nick Vincent 86.1 32.6% 3.2% 2.4% 0.173 0.208 0.241 0.200 2.08 1.45
Mike Montgomery 76.2 15.5% 9.1% 12.7% 0.242 0.319 0.385 0.309 3.52 4.61
Mayckol Guaipe 22.1 20.0% 6.7% 15.4% 0.259 0.337 0.380 0.317 4.84 3.89
Steve Johnson 13.0 12.3% 12.3% 17.4% 0.240 0.333 0.580 0.388 6.23 7.61

Steve Cishek, closer, and Nick Vincent are the two pitchers right handed batters won't look forward to facing.

Mariners Relievers vs Left Handed Batters:

Player IP K% BB% HR% AVE OBP SLG wOBA ERA FIP
Steve Cishek 100.0 27.7% 10.6% 7.9% 0.226 0.313 0.352 0.291 2.97 3.05
Joel Peralta 99.1 27.2% 8.9% 7.3% 0.196 0.270 0.312 0.262 2.81 3.17
Vidal Nuno 72.1 24.0% 6.9% 7.5% 0.201 0.269 0.332 0.267 2.74 3.47
Nick Vincent 51.0 20.4% 10.2% 12.8% 0.275 0.359 0.434 0.345 3.71 4.29
Mike Montgomery 29.2 19.4% 10.1% 8.7% 0.272 0.357 0.407 0.337 6.37 3.83
Mayckol Guaipe 10.0 13.3% 16.7% 16.7% 0.420 0.517 0.694 0.504 7.20 8.42
Steve Johnson 11.1 34.5% 22.4% 10.0% 0.244 0.414 0.400 0.364 8.74 4.13

Cishek is joined by Joel Peralta and Vidal Nuno as above average options against left handed batters. Peralta is their top pitcher against left handed batters.

They might not have many elite options, but they have a lot of pretty solid options.  Given the success of their starters, however, getting into their bullpen will be a good thing.

Robinson Cano has carried the offense.

The Mariners possess a top 5 AL offense against RHP this season as they have hit .247/.323/.408, .321 wOBA, 111 wRC+ against them. They have been a tick above average against LHP at .232/.299/.410, .310 wOBA, 102 wRC+. This led to the Rays decision to move Matt Moore's start to tonight and give Matt Andriese a better matchup against the Angels.

Robinson Cano (.305/.355/.633, .419 wOBA, 182 wRC+) has been the driving force of the Mariners offense led by his 12 homers. He's been scorching the past week with a .516/.516/1.000, .645 wOBA, 347 wRC+ with four homers.

Kyle Seager (.233/.305/.509, .348 wOBA, 130 wRC+), Nelson Cruz (.268/.371/.455, .363 wOBA, 141 wRC+), and Seth Smith (.250/.360/.417, .344 wOBA, 128 wrC+) have also been impressive.

The two left handed starters should look to neutralize three of the four impact bats.  For example, Cano's OPS is about 520 points higher against righties than against lefties.  Only Cruz is a greater threat against lefties; he'll be the one Moore and Smiley have to work around.

Mariners Batters vs Right Handed Pitchers:

Player PA HR SB BB% K% AVE OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Robinson Cano 2158 74 19 8.2% 12.8% 0.305 0.366 0.482 0.364 135
Nelson Cruz 1921 116 12 8.5% 22.8% 0.280 0.347 0.530 0.376 141
Kyle Seager 2163 80 22 8.5% 16.6% 0.263 0.332 0.448 0.340 120
Adam Lind 1500 50 1 9.9% 18.3% 0.286 0.356 0.465 0.355 124
Ketel Marte 367 2 11 7.6% 18.0% 0.280 0.335 0.380 0.314 102
Franklin Gutierrez 385 25 3 6.5% 29.4% 0.266 0.320 0.535 0.365 137
Norichika Aoki 1747 14 53 8.1% 7.6% 0.282 0.350 0.364 0.320 103
Seth Smith 1483 36 1 11.4% 20.2% 0.256 0.345 0.426 0.337 118
Leonys Martin 1512 25 86 6.1% 21.3% 0.252 0.304 0.361 0.294 80
Luis Sardinas 254 1 6 4.3% 20.9% 0.226 0.268 0.272 0.242 45
Dae-Ho Lee 42 4 0 4.8% 16.7% 0.256 0.310 0.564 0.365 143
Steve Clevenger 257 3 0 6.2% 17.1% 0.245 0.292 0.361 0.285 77
Chris Iannetta 1178 30 3 14.9% 25.4% 0.223 0.344 0.365 0.319 107

The Mariners have brought in a plethora of left handed bats to surround Nelson Cruz. Their goal was to improve outfield defense with the signing of Nori Aoki and trade for Leonys Martin. In another offseason trade they acquired Adam Lind to replace Logan Morrison.

As expected, as a righty-dominated line up their strength is against right handed pitchers. Chris Archer has the talent to silence any lineup, but might have to lean on his much improved change up in this series.

Mariners Batters vs Left Handed Pitchers:

Player PA HR SB BB% K% AVE OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Robinson Cano 806 21 5 7.2% 14.6% 0.280 0.335 0.411 0.324 108
Nelson Cruz 513 31 2 12.1% 18.9% 0.320 0.404 0.593 0.421 173
Kyle Seager 777 30 77 4.8% 19.6% 0.252 0.295 0.428 0.315 103
Adam Lind 261 4 0 6.1% 27.2% 0.200 0.249 0.294 0.243 46
Ketel Marte 153 1 3 7.2% 19.6% 0.245 0.303 0.367 0.294 88
Franklin Gutierrez 204 11 0 6.9% 26.0% 0.283 0.333 0.519 0.365 137
Norichika Aoki 489 1 16 6.7% 8.4% 0.332 0.386 0.386 0.346 121
Seth Smith 214 3 0 11.2% 24.8% 0.223 0.315 0.324 0.289 83
Leonys Martin 429 6 17 4.0% 24.2% 0.228 0.271 0.294 0.254 51
Luis Sardinas 61 1 1 1.6% 18.0% 0.259 0.283 0.397 0.297 83
Dae-Ho Lee 25 2 0 4.0% 20.0% 0.217 0.280 0.478 0.328 116
Steve Clevenger 19 0 0 0.0% 5.3% 0.263 0.263 0.316 0.253 55
Chris Iannetta 420 16 0 16.4% 19.5% 0.270 0.390 0.463 0.373 144

Outside of Nelson Cruz there isn't really a significant threat against left handed pitchers. Franklin Gutierrez and Nori Aoki have put up good results in limited plate appearances.

Will the Rays tack on to their four game winning streak?

The Rays have the tough task of facing King Felix tonight. Even with his diminished velocity he has found a way to put up results.

If the Rays pitchers avoid mistakes to the middle of the lineup (Cano, Cruz, and Seager) they should continue to have the opportunity to win games.

The Rays look to make it five straight victories tonight in what should be an exciting installment of "Late Night with The Rays."