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Series Preview: Red Sox vs. Mariners

A look ahead to the weekend series against the Mariners

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MLB: Boston Red Sox at Seattle Mariners Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation Blog

Lookout Landing

The Opponent in one sentence

The Mariners continue to stick around as one of the very best teams in the American League and can relate to the Red Sox by being stuck with a juggernaut in their division as well.

Record

46-28

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 2, Mariners 2

Trend

Down, slightly. For the first time in quite a while, the Mariners are trending in the wrong direction. They’ve dropped three in a row heading into Thursday’s action as well as four of their last six. Of course, the Red Sox were a part of that by splitting the four-game set in Seattle just last weekend.

Pitching Matchups

6/22: Steven Wright vs. Wade LeBlanc, 7:10 PM ET

Wright continues to impress in his starting role and will get the chance to keep that run going on Friday night back at Fenway. His scoreless streak ended last time out against the Mariners, but he still only allowed the one run in seven innings of work in Seattle. The Red Sox picked up the loss in that game, but that was clearly not Wright’s fault. He’s now made three starts since Drew Pomeranz hit the disabled list and has allowed only one run over 20 23 innings (0.44 ERA) while holding batters to a .171/.253/.171 line. Eventually, he’s going to have a lackluster outing, but let’s hope this is not when it happens.

It feels cruel that the Red Sox will have to go up against Wade LeBlanc already after so recently being embarrassingly shut down by the Mariners’ left-handed starter. If you’ve repressed last weekend’s night against the southpaw from your memory, I’m sorry for bringing this back up. LeBlanc, of course, retired 22 batters in a row and the Red Sox couldn’t score a single run in this game, giving Wright a loss in a 1-0 game. Lefties have given the Red Sox issues all year, and LeBlanc has found some sort of perfect mix of all of his pitches and has looked dominant for the better part of a month. Let’s hope Friday is the end of both of those trends.

6/23: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Mike Leake, 7:15 PM ET

Rodriguez is pitching extremely well this year and, perhaps more importantly, the Red Sox are playing extremely well in games he pitches. Boston has lost just one of the lefty’s 14 starts, and he’s obviously a big part of that. Despite some continued efficiency issues, he just keeps limiting damage when he is in the game. After allowing just two runs over six innings against the Mariners in his last time out, Rodriguez has now allowed two or fewer runs in six consecutive outings, seven of his last eight and nine of 14 overall. That’s incredible, and he probably hasn’t gotten enough credit for that.

Leake always has the potential to be frustrating for his opponents, particularly because he is not an overpowering pitcher. It’s not even in the same way as LeBlanc, who at least can throw a lot of nasty junk that is typical of veteran righties. Leake has somehow gotten by with lackluster stuff from the right side for a long and solid career, but he’s also not close to unbeatable. The Red Sox managed five runs and eight hits off the righty when they faced him last weekend, and they’ll look for a similar performance on Saturday.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Minnesota Twins Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

6/24: Chris Sale vs. Marco Gonzales, 1:05 PM ET

Sunday is Sale Day, and that has gotten back to being the best day of the week. The Red Sox ace has been absolutely incredible in his last few outings, and there’s no sign of it slowing down. His fastball velocity is consistently in the 95-97 range, and his slider command has been on point. When those two things are happening at the same time, it’s amazing that anyone makes contact. Unfortunately, the offense is back to not giving Sale any run support. The lefty said he might have to give his teammates some popsicles before this game to try and bribe them into some run support. Whatever works, my dude.

On Sunday the Red Sox will see the only starter they didn’t see in their last series, and it’s another lefty. Gonzales is a former Cardinals prospect who was shipped to Seattle last summer, and after a rough 2017 he’s settling in this year. The 26-year-old doesn’t really stand out in any one area, but he’s solid across the board and that has led to a 3.80 ERA, a 3.59 FIP and a 3.28 DRA. He’s also been on something of a roll, at least he was until he last start. On June 19 the Yankees scored six runs in 6 13 innings, but before that Gonzales had pitched to a 1.41 ERA over 38 13 innings over six starts. The lefty will mix up a large arsenal, throwing both a four-seam fastball and a sinker that sit in the low-90s, a changeup, a curveball and a cutter.

Editor’s Note: The rest of this preview (besides the Weather) is (mostly) copied and pasted from last weekend’s series preview because not much has changed in seven days.

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’s had some big walkoffs this year

MLB: Seattle Mariners at New York Yankees Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Juan Nicasio is one new face we’ll see this weekend as he was on the disabled list last weekend. The righty has a ugly 5.34 ERA, but has been much better than that lets on. He misses a ton of bats and hardly walks anyone, leading to a 2.55 FIP and 1.80 ERA. It’ll be a tough trio to face late in games.

James Pazos is the top lefty coming out of the Mariners bullpen, and he’s got a 24/1 K/BB ratio in 23 1⁄3 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.

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.

Weather Forecast

For the most part it should be a relatively nice weekend at Fenway Park, though there is some weather in the area. Both Saturday and Sunday could be affected by showers and thunderstorms, though if there is any effect at all it should be a delay rather than an outright cancellation.