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Series Preview: Red Sox at Mariners

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A look ahead to the weekend’s four-game set in Seattle

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation Blog

Lookout Landing

The Opponent in one sentence

The Mariners have surprisingly been one of the very best teams in baseball thanks to great play of late, particularly in close games.

Record

44-24

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 0, Mariners 0

Trend

Up. Seattle is one of the hottest teams in baseball and have been for a few weeks now. They are fresh off a series sweep of the Angels, and that’s just the latest in this hot run. The Mariners have won eleven of their last thirteen, and 20 of their last 25. This is not great news for a Red Sox team traveling to the opposite coast.

Pitching Matchups

6/14: David Price vs. Felix Hernandez, 10:10 PM ET

Between Steven Wright and Chris Sale, there are a couple Red Sox pitchers on incredible runs that justifiably have the attention of the fanbase. Don’t sleep on what Price has been doing lately, however, as he is just as big of a reason to be excited about the rotation right now. After his rough patch in late-April/early-May, the southpaw has been on a big run over the last month or so. In that time, he’s made six starts that have spanned 37 13 innings with a 2.89 ERA, 40 strikeouts and 14 walks. We‘ve said all year that Price is among the most important players on the team, and he‘s doing his part of late.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Just a few years ago, this would be a marquee pitching matchup that fans around the entire league would be dying to see. Price has been good for most of this year, but Hernandez isn‘t the Cy Young candidate he once was. The righty has made 14 starts this season, but he‘s pitched to an ugly 5.70 ERA. His strikeouts are down, his walks are up and he‘s succumbing to home runs, leading to peripherals that largely match the ERA. Two outings ago Hernandez looked like his old self, but he came back last time and allowed six runs in three innings. The righty and 2010 Cy Young winner throws two fastballs, both in the high-80s/low-90s these days, along with a changeup and a curveball.

6/15: Rick Porcello vs. James Paxton, 10:10 PM ET

It’s been a rollercoaster season for Porcello, as he started the year looking like he could potentially make another Cy Young run before quickly taking a turn and barely looking like a back-end arm. For the most part he’s always been able to make it relatively deep into games even when he’s struggling, but that’s about all the positives we can give. Over his last three outings, however, he’s sort of evened out. He’s made it through at least six innings in each of the last three starts and in each outing he allowed three runs with two of them being earned. The strikeouts are down and he’s still walking batters, though, so this will be a big test for the righty.

Over the last two seasons, Paxton has been one of the most underrated left-handed starters in all of baseball and will prove to be a tough test for this Red Sox lineup. This season, the southpaw has made 14 starts and has pitched to a 3.02 ERA with peripherals that say he should be even better that. He’s good at just about every aspect of pitching with solid walk and home run rates, but it’s hit strikeouts that are most impressive. Last season he struck out over ten batters per nine innings, and he’s upped that to over 11 per nine in 2018. He’s only had two really rough starts this year, and since the start of May he’s allowed as many as three runs only twice. Paxton throws a mid-to-high-90s fastball along with a curveball and a cutter.

6/16: Steven Wright vs. Wade LeBlanc, 8:15 PM ET

As I alluded to above, Wright has been incredible of late, particularly since joining the rotation. After coming back from a domestic abuse suspension in which he, at the very least, tried to prevent his wife from making a 911 call, he struggled upon his return before turning things around. Now, he’s up to 22 scoreless innings in a row and his two starts have combined for 13 23 scoreless innings with just six hits allowed between them. With the knuckleball it can be hard to trust it start-to-start, but I think that’s probably the case for most non-elite pitchers of any type. He’s earned some level of trust at this point.

If you’re looking for reasons that Seattle has been unable to outperform expectations, particularly over the last month-plus, look no further than LeBlanc being a legitimate pitcher on this roster. The lefty was released by the Yankees in spring training, and he’s been a big part of Seattle’s success since then. He’s made eight starts and five relief appearances, and in that time he’s pitched to a 3.00 ERA over 54 innings. His peripherals suggest he hasn’t been quite that good, though his DRA is still a solid 3.61. His FIP is over 4.00, if that’s more your style. He won’t miss a ton of bats and can get into home run trouble, though he doesn’t allow too many walks. LeBlanc throws a high-80s sinker to go with a changeup and a cutter.

6/17: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Mike Leake, 4:10 PM ET

I’m not sure how many more words I have to say about Rodriguez at this point. Earlier this week I wrote about how the southpaw has put up strong results while struggling with efficiency and tempting us with better performance. He continued that trend his last time out, and it‘s hard to expect anything else until we actually see it.

Leake has long been one of the most boring pitchers in the game, which is not the same as saying he is a bad pitcher. That has continued this year. The right-handed veteran is, once again, posting something close to a league-average ERA and peripherals that largely match it. The numbers come largely thanks to weak contact, too, as he hardly misses any bats. Like I said, he’s boring but somewhat effective. He’s also been much better than average of late, for what it’s worth, pitching to a 1.77 ERA over his last five starts. Leake throws a high-80s two-seam fastball along with a slider, a cutter and a changeup.

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Old Friends

Roenis Elias is, of course, a former Mariner who came to Boston in the Carson Smith trade and then was sent back to Seattle earlier this season. It was clear that the southpaw never had a role with the Red Sox, and after some time in the minors he’s made his way back to Seattle’s active roster as a low-leverage reliever. Better than being a swingman in Pawtucket.

Notable Position Players

Nelson Cruz is the face of this Mariners lineup right now thanks to a suspension that we’ll get to a little later. He provides no defensive value, but that’s not too important as he continues to hit for massive power while not really striking out much. He’s still somewhat underrated for his skill level and the fact that he’s still hitting this deep into his career makes him one of the most underrated free agent signings in recent memory. He’ll do damage in the middle of this Seattle lineup this weekend.

Jean Segura has been the best player on the Mariners this year and was a great trade acquisition prior to last season. The shortstop provides value in the field and on the bases while making a ton of contact and always hitting for a high average. He’s going to be frustrating to face.

Mitch Haniger is a sneaky All-Star candidate as the young outfielder is coming into his own. He had a big walkoff on Wednesday and has been hitting for plenty of power this year while also walking at an above-average rate.

Dee Gordon was acquired in a trade prior to the season and was interestingly converted to center field. He’s moved back to second base since then, but at the plate he’s had a down year thanks to his power and walk rate falling even lower than normal.

Kyle Seager has long been one of the more consistent and underrated hitters in the American League, but he’s struggled in 2018. The good news for Mariners fans is that it’s largely BABIP related and should bounce back.

Ryon Healy was another preseason acquisition and the corner infielder has hit for big power to help mask his so-so plate discipline.

Denard Span was recently acquired in a trade with the Rays and he’s been outstanding since coming to Seattle. He’s also made a point of killing the Red Sox all year with his old team.

Mike Zunino is going to strike out a ton, but if/when he makes contact it is always liable to go a long way.

Guillermo Heredia is playing center field these days and he doesn’t make much loud contact but still provides value at the plate thanks to strong plate discipline.

Bullpen Snapshot

Edwin Diaz has somewhat quietly been one of the very best relievers in all of baseball this season and really has proven he’s immensely talented over his career. Still only 24, he’s already up to 25 saves and is striking out over 14 batters per nine innings while limiting hard contact and keeping his walks in check. He’s going to lock down the ninth this weekend if given the chance.

Alex Colomé was the other part of the Span trade mentioned above and he’s done well in a setup role for Seattle, though the strikeouts haven’t really been there in a small sample since the trade.

James Pazos is the top lefty coming out of the Mariners bullpen, and he’s got a 24/1 K/BB ratio in 23 13 innings this year. That’s pretty good.

Injuries

Robinson Cano isn’t injured, but instead is the player suspended I mentioned above. The star second baseman was suspended for 80 games after a failed PED test, and while he’ll be back later this summer he won’t be eligible for postseason play if Seattle does indeed make it that far.

Juan Nicasio has an ugly ERA this year, but he’s really been outstanding as a setup man for Seattle this year and the results should start matching the skills when he returns. That shouldn’t be too long from now, though it probably won’t be for this series.

Nick Vincent is another potential late-inning arm for this bullpen and he should be starting a rehab assignment soon.

Dan Altavilla is yet another injured bullpen arm, though he’s expected to miss more time than Nicasio and Vincent.

Erasmo Ramirez has been out of the Mariners rotation since late-April, and he may not be back until after the All-Star break.

David Phelps underwent Tommy John surgery in March and is going to be out all season.

Chris Herrmann had just been called up for the Mariners before hitting the disabled list with an oblique injury.

Weather Forecast

The Mariners have a retractable roof so weather isn’t a major factor here. That said, the roof should be open for most, if not all, of the weekend. It’s shaping up to be a really nice weekend in the Pacific Northwest.