Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com (June 12, 2018 – Source: Greg Fiume/Getty Images North America)
The Boston Red Sox just got their best player back in Mookie Betts and are riding a series sweep over the Baltimore Orioles. They’ll need that strong momentum as they kick off a four-game series against the Seattle Mariners. While not many had their eyes on Mariners entering the season, Seattle is currently in first place in the AL West with a 44-24 record. This should be one of the better battles of the season, and here is the Boston Red Sox vs Seattle Mariners series preview.
West Coast Battle: Boston Red Sox vs Seattle Mariners Series Preview
The Mariners as a Whole
Seattle’s success is interesting, as they aren’t particularly dominant at any one thing. Instead, they boast a squad that can do everything well, albeit nothing at an elite level. Their offense ranks 11th in runs scored, and 9th in bWAR. Additionally, they have the 13th best ERA in baseball, and the 9th best pitching staff based on bWAR.
Being good at everything but great at nothing has led to a high amount of close ballgames, and Seattle has thrived at pulling out close victories. Of the Mariners 44 wins, 21 have come by just one run. Historically, this level of success typically has more to do with luck than skill and isn’t sustainable going forward, so perhaps the Mariners aren’t quite as good as their record says they are.
Despite losing Robinson Cano to an 80-game suspension, the Mariners offense has still managed to stay afloat. Most of that is due to phenomenal performances by shortstop Jean Segura, right fielder Mitch Haniger, and designated hitter Nelson Cruz.
Segura has always been a solid shortstop since establishing himself in 2016, but 2018 has proven to be his best year to date. The 28-year old is currently hitting .346/.367/.487 with a 137 wRC+. While he hardly ever draws walks, he strikes out just 13.5% of the time. However, he also has an unsustainably high .383 BABIP, so his numbers could drop moving forward.
Haniger is performing just as well as Segura but in a different way. While both post identical 137 wRC+, Haniger is more of a power hitter. The 27-year old outfielder already has 15 home runs on the year and has an isolated power of .247. He already owns a fWAR of 1.9, and he’s on pace to shatter his former career high of 2.5.
Nelson Cruz isn’t the player he used to be, but he’s still pretty damn good. Despite being 37 years old, the longtime designated hitter has been one of the better hitters on the Mariners squad. Like Haniger, Cruz has knocked 15 pitches out of the park and has a .265 ISO. His wRC+ of 139 puts him right around the ranks of Haniger and Segura. Together, this is a hard trio to slow down.
Game 1: David Price vs Felix Hernandez
Felix Hernandez was once one of the best pitchers in the league, and the thought of going against him used to send fear through opposing lineups. However, King Felix hasn’t been at his best during the 2018 season.
Through 14 starts, Hernandez owns a 5.70 ERA, 4.77 FIP, and just a 0.3 fWAR. King Feliz is striking out just 7.45 batters per nine innings while walking 3.49 per nine. He still relies primarily on his fastball, but he struggled to consistently reach 90. The Red Sox should be able to muster some offense on the series opener.
Price, meanwhile, has been on an absolute tear. Outside of his five-game hand injury, Price has been one of the best pitchers in baseball and is starting to silence his doubters. In his last five appearances, Price boasts a 2.81 ERA and a 2.82 FIP while striking out 27.2% of the batters he faces. All signs point to the Red Sox taking game one of the series.
Game 2: Rick Porcello vs James Paxton
This game should be a harder victory for the Red Sox, as James Paxton is in the midst of a very solid season. Through 14 starts, Paxton owns an impressive 3.02 ERA and a 2.80 FIP. He’s a strikeout machine, fanning 11.18 batters per nine innings. Paxton throws an impressive mid-90’s fastball, complemented by a low 80’s curveball and a high 80’s cutter. Technically, he also throws a changeup, but those are few and far between.
Rick Porcello hasn’t been as dominant as he was at the start of the season, but he’s still been a good mid-rotation arm. While he doesn’t always dominate, he never gets shelled. He always gives his team a chance to win, and that shouldn’t change Friday. This game could go either way, but it should be a close matchup that goes down to the wire.
Game 3: Steven Wright vs Wade LeBlanc
Another strong arm in the Mariners rotation, Wade LeBlanc definitely has the ability to slow down the Red Sox offense. LeBlanc has spent time as both a reliever and a starter this season but has performed better as a starter. The lefty owns a seemingly strong 2.45 ERA in 40.1 innings as a starter, but the peripherals suggest he might not be as good as his ERA indicates.
LeBlanc is striking out just 6.9 batters per nine innings and is allowing a below average .259 BABIP. Additionally, he’s stranding an unsustainably-high 93.3% of batters. Due to these poor peripherals, LeBlanc owns a 4.32 FIP and isn’t quite as unhittable as he looks at first glance.
Regardless of how good LeBlanc is, it’s hard to bet against Steven Wright right now. Ever since returning from the disabled list, Wright has been a phenomenon both in the bullpen and in the rotation. Wright’s only started two games, but he’s yet to allow a run as a starter. His knuckleball is borderline untouchable, and he’s reverted back to his 2016 All-Star form. Expect another Red Sox win on Saturday.
Game 4: Eduardo Rodriguez vs Mike Leake
The Red Sox will take on Mike Leake in the final matchup of the series, and they should like their chances. Leake owns an unimpressive 4.26 ERA, 4.45 FIP, and strikes out just 5.61 batters per nine innings.
Leake wins by inducing weak contact and surprising the hitter, as evidenced by his 48.4% ground ball rate. Instead of having one go-to pitch, Leake constantly rotates between his five pitches. He throws his fastball 37.8% of the time, his slider 12.5% of the time, his cutter 22.3% of the time, his curveball 10.1% of the time, and his changeup 17.3% of the time.
Leake succeeds when he’s able to keep batters guessing. His stuff alone isn’t good enough to consistently get major leaguers out, so he relies on fooling batters at the plate. If the Red Sox are able to accurately guess what’s coming, then it’s game over.
By now, everyone knows what to expect from Eduardo Rodriguez. He’s great for anything from 5-6 innings while allowing zero to three runs. He’ll keep the game close, but he won’t go deep into the game. While he’s certainly capable of more, there’s still a lot of value in a pitcher like that. This is another game that the Red Sox should pull off.
While the Mariners are one of the better teams in baseball, the Red Sox should still be able to handle them. Expect the Red Sox to take at least three of four, and continue to establish themselves as one of the top teams in baseball.