Mariners vs. Angels Series Preview: Does the playoff run start now?

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JUNE 15: Chris Flexen #77 of the Seattle Mariners reacts during the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at T-Mobile Park on June 15, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JUNE 15: Chris Flexen #77 of the Seattle Mariners reacts during the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at T-Mobile Park on June 15, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /

The Mariners are set to start the second half the same way that they finished the first by playing a series against California… I mean Anaheim… I mean, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim by way of Artie Moreno.

If the Mariners want to be series about making a run at the playoffs, then they are going to need to start out strong against the Angels. With a great trio taking the mound this weekend, they have a strong chance of doing just that. It’s going to help that Ohtani isn’t taking the mound for the Angels, but as a division rival, you should never take anything for granted.

Well, who throws this weekend? What can we expect from the Angels? Let’s take a look at the matchups and more for this week’s series against the Halos.

Mariners vs Angels: Pitching Matchups

Friday 07/16 @ 06:38 PM: Flexen vs Heaney

Saturday 07/17 @ 06:07 PM: Kikuchi vs Cobb

Sunday 07/18 @ 01:07 PM: Gilbert vs Sandoval

The series starts off with the Mariners best home pitcher, Chris Flexen, toeing the rubber down in Anaheim. He has been two completely different pitchers in his home starts as opposed to road starts this season, and the matchup Friday night will be a big litmus test to see if Flexen is ready for road games finally.

  • Home: 61.1 innings, 1.76 ERA, .946 WHIP, 3 HR
  • Away: 31 innings, 6.97 ERA, 1.742 WHIP, 5 HR

Kikuchi was roughed up a bit in his last start before the break, and it will be interesting to see how he fares after the Covid situation with him, as well as the WD from the All-Star game. With a strong second half, Gilbert will have a legit argument for ROY.

On the other side, Heaney has struggled his last four starts, with an 8.38 ERA in 19.1 innings. Alex Cobb had a dominant May with a 0.53 ERA in 17 innings, before posting a 7.32 in June. July has been just like May, with just one run allowed in 13 innings. Lastly, Sandoval has been a welcome surprise since becoming a starter. His ERA is 3.33 during that time, and the consistency is what stands out. Two starts he gave up three runs, one start was zero, and the other six he gave up two.

Mariners vs. Angels: Watching Ohtani after the derby

Ohtani provided some newsworthy fodder at the All-Star game by nearly hitting one out of the stadium during batting practice. He LAUNCHED the ball to right, and almost carried it out. He provided more fireworks in a double-overtime loss to Juan Soto that ended his night.

It’s always interesting to watch hitters after the derby, as it has had a negative effect on many of them throughout the years. It’s hard to tell what’s going to happen with Ohtani though. He never takes batting practice, so it could easily mess him up having finally done that. On the flip side, he may be able to fall right back into a rhythm since he already has such a fast and violent swing.

We don’t have to see him pitch this weekend, so the only place we have to worry about him is at the plate. As Marco can attest, Ohtani can still do massive damage there. For the Mariners, shutting down Ohtani doesn’t just mean shutting down their best active player (okay, that might be David Fletcher with his 24-game hit streak), but possibly shutting down the flow of the entire offense.

Mariners vs Angels: Final thoughts on the series

The Mariners are sitting five games above .500 at 48-43. It’s not going to be an easy path to the playoffs, but they do seem talented enough to stay in the mix. Getting off to a good start is paramount though, especially in the division. After the Angels series, they have two with the Rockies. Following that, they play four vs Oakland, three vs Houston, and three @ Texas. That’s 13 of 15 against divisional opponents. A tough stretch for sure.

For them to continue to stay in the hunt, especially with the Texas series falling in the midst of the trade deadline, they are going to need to play .500 ball at a minimum. The series against Oakland may be the most important, as that is who they are immediately chasing in the Wild Card. Without looking ahead though, taking two out of three in Anaheim should be the goal, repeating what happened in the series before the All-Star break.