The Mariners took the opening series from the San Francisco Giants and are 2-1 to start the 2021 season. Now, the M’s have a much tougher challenge than the Giants and will face the Chicago White Sox for three games before heading on a seven-game road trip.
The Chicago White Sox
The White Sox made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2008 and have become even better. They added a couple of big-name players this offseason and have become favorites to win the AL Central. Chicago might even have a shot at the World Series.
One of their biggest strengths is the starting rotation. They have Lucas Giolito, Dallas, Keuchel, Lance Lynn, Dylan Cease, and Carlos Rodon. The first three pitchers were great last season and should continue to be a problem for hitters in 2021. Cease and Rodon have less of a track record of success, but you could view them as breakout candidates just like Justin Dunn of the Mariners.
The White Sox also added the 2020 AL Reliever of the Year, Liam Hendriks, to add some stability to the bullpen. The Mariners are very familiar with how overpowering Hendriks can be.
Chicago also has a well-balanced offense and arguably one of the better lineups in the MLB. They have the young Luis Robert in center field who was the favorite to win the AL ROY but Kyle Lewis said “I’ll take that.”
They have one of the best infields led by Jose Abreu at first, Nick Madrigal at second base, Tim Anderson at short, and Yoan Moncada at third base (Tim Anderson was pulled from their game yesterday due to hamstring tightness). The big and powerful Eloy Jimenez is out with an injury so the team is down one star.
Game One: Today, the Mariners will have Justus Sheffield on the mound and will go up against Carlos Rodon. Sheffield had a fantastic 2020 season and it will be interesting to see if he can continue his impressive performance in 2020. Sheffield did allow eight runs in 13 innings in Arizona, so let’s hope he was just getting warmed up.
Rodon is an interesting guy… He was the third overall pick in the 2014 draft and is on the cusp of being deemed a bust. The southpaw owns a 4.14 career ERA and has been mediocre in six seasons in the big leagues. Rodon throws his four-seam fastball roughly half the time and uses his slider and changeup as his secondary pitches.
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Game Two: The second game will be a battle between two really good pitchers. The Mariners will be facing the White Sox ace, Lucas Giolito, and the Mariners will have James Paxton on the mound. Giolito was also a top draft pick and he has turned into one of the best pitchers in the league. He’s one of those players with a lot of red marks on Baseball Savant. The 26-year-old will be a good test for the young Mariners hitter. In his 2021 debut, he went 5.1 innings, allowed two runs, and struck out eight Angels batters.
For the Mariners, the Big Maple makes his homecoming debut and he is coming off of a great Spring Training. He threw 8.1 innings and struck out 17 batters while allowing just four hits and four walks. This will be a great pitching matchup with a lot of strikeouts on both sides.
Game Three: The final game of the series will be an interesting one. The White Sox will have Dallas Keuchel on the mound and he had a great 2020 season. The longtime Astros starter is a familiar face for the Mariners and I could imagine him giving us some trouble again. The 33-year-old went four innings against the Angels and allowed three runs in his 2021 debut.
Justin Dunn will be competing against the big White Sox bats and it could go great, or terribly bad. Dunn made some big changes and looked like an entirely different pitcher in the Cactus League, but he still struggled with his control. He walked nine batters in 11 innings and gave up seven runs. Chicago has a loaded offense so game three could be a rough day for Dunn if he doesn’t have his best stuff.
What to expect from the Mariners
The Mariners are 2-1 and must be feeling really good. The pitching was solid for the most part, and the bats put up enough runs for us to win two games. I think against the White Sox, the Mariners need to score a few more runs unless our pitching can lock them down. I am confident that Sheffield and Paxton will do a good job and keep us in the game, but I am worried about Dunn in game three.
For me, I think the Mariners have to win game one to give us a chance to win the series. Rodon is the fifth starter in their rotation for a reason, and we need to take advantage of it. Sheffield should do a solid job so I predict a win today.
Giolito is one of the top pitchers in the league and I’m not sure how the team will handle him. I think the White Sox end up taking game two in a tight game.
Game three is a toss-up for me. It heavily depends on which Justin Dunn we see. Dallas Keuchel is a good pitcher and on some days, he is a Cy Young caliber pitcher. If the Mariners can get on Keuchel early in the game, we have a great shot at winning. The Mariners bullpen has been good so we just need five innings of decent pitching from Dunn to keep the game close.
It will be an exciting matchup and if the Mariners want to be contenders in the next couple of years, they need to beat teams like the White Sox. Let’s hope for some more fireworks from Ty France and Mitch Haniger this series.