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Series Preview: Rays vs Mariners

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Seattle Becomes First City To Reach Key 70 Percent Vaccination Rate Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays lost their first series since the beginning of May. It was an exciting series between the teams with the two best records in the American League but the Rays came up just short in game three. The Rays sit 0.5 game behind the Chicago White Sox and San Francisco Giants for the best record in the majors.

The Rays hold onto a 1.0 game lead over the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The New York Yankees sit 7.0 games back while the Toronto Blue Jays have fallen to 8.5 games back. The Baltimore Orioles have fallen well behind the pace set by the rest of the division at 20.0 games behind.

This weekend the Rays face a four game series against the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners have surprised most with a 34-36 record and are tied with the Los Angeles Angels for third in the American League West well behind the Oakland Athletics and Houston Astros.

Matchups:

Thursday 10:10 PM: Rich Hill vs Justin Dunn
Friday 10:10 PM: Michael Wacha vs Yusei Kikuchi
Saturday 10:10 PM: Josh Fleming vs Logan Gilbert
Sunday 4:10 PM: Shane McClanahan vs Marco Gonzales

Since Michael Wacha has returned from the Injured List (May 23) he has yet to complete more than 3.0 innings, so I expect the Rays will call up Luis Patino to be used as a piggy back on Friday.

The Seattle starting rotation has been their weak point. They have a 4.75 ERA/4.78 FIP/4.60 xFIP. All three metrics rank in the bottom ten.

Justin Dunn was acquired from the New York Mets in the infamous trade that sent Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to the Mets. In 48.1 innings he’s posted a 3.91 ERA/4.84 FIP/5.58 xFIP. The ERA isn’t bad, but the FIP and xFIP are well below average. His 22.7% strikeout rate is solid but he’s has run into trouble with a 13.7% walk rate. The Rays are a team that is going to give him fits if he has any trouble finding the zone consistently. Dunn throws a 93.7 mph four-seam fastball as his primary pitch and a 80.2 mph curveball as his secondary pitch of choice. He adds a 84.0 mph slider that he has thrown more frequently to lefties than righties which is odd considering he is a right handed pitcher.

Yusei Kikuchi has been the Mariners best starter this year. Over 73.2 innings he’s posted a 3.67 ERA/4.40 FIP/3.41 xFIP. He’s posted an above average 25.7% strikeout rate with a slightly above average 7.9% walk rate. The big problem for him this year has been the long ball. He’s allowed 13 homers and a 23.6% HR/FB rate. The left hander throws a 91.5 mph cutter as his most used pitch nearly 40% of the time. He adds a 95.5 mph four-seam fastball just over 30% of the time and a 83.1 mph slider 20% of the time. Against right handers he will throw a 86.9 mph changeup.

Logan Gilbert is a central Florida native from Apopka who attended Stetson University. The first round draft pick has been solid in his first cup of coffee in the majors. He has a 4.13 ERA/3.66 FIP/4.62 xFIP over 28.1 innings in six starts. He’s earned a 24.2% strikeout rate and 6.7% walk rate. Gilbert will primarily throw a 94.7 mph four-seam fastball around 60% of the time. His swing and miss pitch is a 81.4 mph slider that he throws roughly 25% of the time. His third pitch is a 73.9 mph curveball and he will occasionally throw a 78.9 mph changeup to left handed batters. Batters have hit his fastball when it’s in the zone and have had very little to show against his breaking balls.

Marco Gonzales is a soft tossing lefty. Gonzales has had a rough season so far. He has put up a 5.44 ERA/5.73 FIP/4.82 xFIP, but he’s been much better throughout his career posting a 4.19 ERA/4.07 FIP/4.45 xFIP. His strikeout rate has dropped to 20.3% but the biggest problem is his walk rate has spiked to 8.5%. 8.5% isn’t a bad walk rate by any means. It’s roughly league average, but it’s much higher than he normally has issued. He mixes five pitches with a 88.2 mph sinker as his most used pitch. His secondary pitch is a 74.6 mph curveball. Against right handers he throws a 79.4 mph changeup. Against left handed batters he will throw a 85. 2mph cutter. He will occasionally throw a 87.8 mph four-seam fastball.

The Mariners offense has been one of the worst in the majors.

As a team they have posted a .212/.289/.372 line and put up a 88 wRC+. They’ve been no-hit twice. Despite the lack of average and on base skills they have hit for power. Their 79 homer total is only four behind the Ray’s 83, putting them right in the middle of the pack. Their 26.6% strikeout rate is fourth highest while their 8.7% walk rate is average. They have averaged 3.96 runs per game.

Mitch Haniger has returned after missing the end of the 2019 and 2020 seasons due to injuries. He’s posted a .259/.309/.514 line and 127 wRC+. He leads the team with 16 homers.

JP Crawford (111 wRC+), Ty France (114 wRC+), and Kyle Seager (93 wRC+) have been solid contributors.

Former Ray Jake Bauers was picked up recently and has been on fire over his first 29 plate appearances hitting .333/.379//.481 and has put up a 144 wRC+.

Bauers isn’t the only former Rays farmhand that has stepped up recently. Jake Fraley has put up a .254/.463/.492 line and 173 wRC+ through 82 plate appearances.

Late night baseball

Fortunately for those whose life isn’t able to be able to deal with late start times this will be the last trip to the west coast time zone this year. Those of you with more flexible schedules, we hope to see you in the GDT.

The Mariners have over performed preseason expectations with a near .500 record. They have some youngsters they are starting to integrate into their major league club. They shouldn’t be viewed as a push over, but the Rays should be looking to win this series and continue their run towards the All Star break.