This past week cemented the direction that this team is headed. The series against Baltimore was challenging, with rain delays forcing two doubleheaders to ensure completion of the 4-game stint. While it would have been understandable for the Mariners to tie the series 2-2, or perhaps even lose 1-3, they walked away with a 3-1 series victory.
Their next opponent: the Houston Astros. Historically, the Astros always seem to find a way to win when they come to town. In looking back at the 2019 and 2020 seasons, the Mariners had managed to only win a total of 4 games against Houston (3 of those wins coming in 2020).
While there was a reason for optimism, given the COVID-related Astros’ absences, facing the Astros will always make Mariners fans uneasy. As any Mariners fan will say: it doesn’t matter who the Astros roll out, taking a series from that squad is a big accomplishment for this young clubhouse.
Before we get started, a brief recap on the format: the bright spots are represented by bases, as the biggest highlight of the week represents the runner on 3rd base. The low points are represented by the two outs, with the lowest point of the week being represented by the 2nd out. Before getting into the highs and lows of the week, it’s worth giving an honorable mention to Chris Flexen and his start against the Astros.
While the Mariners lost 1-0, Flexen threw 6.0IP and held the Astros to 1ER on 10H while striking out 3. Anytime a team holds the Astros to 1ER, it’s an impressive feat that deserves recognition. Without further ado, below are the three baserunners from this past week’s action against BAL and HOU:
Seattle Mariners on First Base: J.P. Crawford’s hit streak
J.P. Crawford hit safely in 6 of the Mariner’s 7 games this past week, boosting his batting average above .260 for the first time this season. He now stands as one of only three Mariners players hitting above that mark (I’m sure you can guess who the other two players are – Mitch Haniger and Vive Le Ty France).
Additionally, he’s boosted his OBP to .304 and it appears he’s found his niche at the last spot in the batting order. His continued production at these levels is paramount to the Mariners, particularly at a time when the top half of the batting order is generating so much offense.
Seattle Mariners on Second Base: Mitch Haniger and Vive Le France
The only reason these two are not the brightest spot for the Mariners over this past week is that the Mariners took the opening series against the Astros. Mitch Haniger has the most total bases (41) and the highest batting average (.338) on the Mariners roster. His OPS+ is 186, demonstrating that his league-wide normalized OPS is 86% better than the league average.
He is one of three Mariners players with 10+ RBIs, a trend that will hopefully continue provided that J.P. Crawford and Evan White can continue to be productive. Ty France has the highest OBP (.400) on the team and slightly trails Haniger in OPS+ (172). He’s also generated a team-high .400 OBP, thanks to his roster-leading 10 walks (7BB, 3 HBP). Hopefully, these two can continue to generate offense, as they’re two big reasons the Mariners sit atop the AL West.
Seattle Mariners on Third Base: Taking out the Trash(stros)
This is far and away the top Mariners highlight from this past week. This was a complete team effort. The bottom of the lineup produced (Evan White’s homer was hopefully a confidence booster to get his bat hot, and J.P. Crawford’s hitting streak), the top of the lineup continued to hit as if we’re in the midst of a wild card chase, and the pitching staff was excellent.
In fact, my unsung heroes this past week are without a doubt the Mariners relief pitchers. The following stats prove this beyond a doubt: the Mariners relievers leading the majors in opponent batting average (.184), and have held opposing hitters to a tOPS+ of 67 (this means that opposing batters hit 33% worse than the league average when facing the Mariners bullpen).
They’ve also held opposing hitters to the lowest OPS (.581) and slugging (.381) in the league, as well. The Mariners bullpen has been nothing short of stellar this past week. Mariners fans are seeing what this team can do when there’s a viable backup for the starting rotation. It only gets more exciting when you consider that we’re one of four teams with 10 wins, and we don’t have the reigning AL ROY back in the lineup yet. BIG things ahead, Mariners fans.
Unfortunately, there were a few low points from this past week that deserve discussion:
Seattle Mariners with One Out: Lack of Plate Discipline
While the Mariners have generated excellent offense, and offensive contributions are beginning to come from more than just the top 4 hitters in the lineup, the strikeout rate and general lack of discipline at the plate is still concerning. The Mariners are currently 10th in the majors with 149 strikeouts, yet are 12th in the league with 52 total walks. The ability to generate a walk has been a big part of the offense, yet that number could be far higher with improved plate discipline.
In watching the Mariners, we are very good at forcing deep pitch counts that generally lead to 3-2 full counts. If the Mariners can manage to lower the strikeout rate and possibly convert some of those strikeouts to walks, we’d not only see OBP numbers rise throughout the lineup but we’d also give more opportunities to generate stolen bases and get baserunners into scoring positions.
Seattle Mariners with Two Outs: Margevicius’ short outing
Nick Margevicius got off to a hot start during the rubber match on Sunday against the Astros but was removed after giving up just 1ER on 1H and 3Ks in 4IP. He threw two fastballs over the catcher and bounced a curveball halfway to the plate before he was removed from the game as a precautionary measure. He was visibly experiencing discomfort, so the move was made to ensure that he can continue to be a crucial member of the Mariners’ 6-man rotation.
After the game, Scott Servais confirmed that he’ll be able to make his next start and that he was removed from the game due to arm fatigue. While it doesn’t sound serious, it’s worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses because the M’s don’t have room to lose another starting pitcher.
Next up for the Mariners is a short 2-game series (that they split) against Los Doyers (LA Dodgers) to wrap up the homestand before hitting the road for a 4-game series at Fenway against the struggling Red Sox.