The Seattle Mariners Roadshow: Yankees Preview

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JULY 26: A Seattle Mariners fan holds a sign after Dylan Moore of the Seattle Mariners grand slam home run in the eighth inning of the game against the Houston Astros. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JULY 26: A Seattle Mariners fan holds a sign after Dylan Moore of the Seattle Mariners grand slam home run in the eighth inning of the game against the Houston Astros. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) /

The Seattle Mariners are currently in the middle of a long, 10-day road trip spanning from Arlington, TX, to New York City. Going into this 7-game stretch against TB and NYY, I felt like the Mariners needed to win at least 4 of 7 to maintain pace with the other teams in the Wild Card chase.

While the series against the Rangers didn’t exactly go according to plan, the first away game of the series against the Rays extends our winning streak against Tampa Bay to 5 games (dating back to the 6/17-6/20 series at home). The gem thrown by Chris Flexen meant an off-night for the bullpen, which should pay dividends when looking down the road at who we play next: the New York Yankees.

NYY: Where They Currently Stand

The NYY (56-39) are currently tied with our Seattle Mariners at 3 games behind the Oakland A’s for the second Wild Card spot. They’ve just returned from a long road trip that included a 4 game series in Boston (lost 1-3), 3 games in Tampa Bay (won 2-1), and 3 games in Miami (won 2-1).

Their 7-game homestand began last night with the first of three games against Baltimore, wherein the Blackbirds used four long balls to chase newly-acquired starter Andrew Heaney (4.0IP, 6H, 4R, 0BB, 4K) out of his first start at Yankee stadium.

While Anthony Rizzo is absolutely destroying the ball in his new home (.556/.692/1.222), Joey Gallo has yet to catch fire (.083/.214/.167). The stat that catches my eye, and defines the Yankees season thus far: they are 33-34 against teams with records above .500 (the Mariners are currently 30-28 against >.500 teams).

A few interesting twists to the upcoming series against the Mariners: On Monday, news broke that Gerrit Cole tested positive for COVID-19. No further reporting has revealed if this is a false positive result, or a breakthrough positive case (Cole is vaccinated). Additionally, injury announcements were made regarding Domingo German (rotator cuff, 10-day IL) and Gio Urshela (hamstring strain, 10-day IL).

German’s injury and its impact on Game One is discussed more below, but Urshela’s injury likely means the Yankees have to start either Rougned Odor or DJ LeMahieu at third base for this series. LeMahieu has been dealing with a slight right tricep injury himself, which hurts the Yankees even more since he’s a better defensive third baseman than Odor.

Mariners Game One: Tyler Anderson (5-8, 4.39 ERA, 1.2 WAR) vs. TBD

The series starts on August 5th, with the Mariners throwing Tyler Anderson. His first start in Arlington against the Rangers was exactly what the Mariners expect to get from him this year: 3 earned runs in 5-6 innings pitched with a couple of strikeouts and no walks.

In fact, his only big mistake of the start was leaving a breaking ball out over the plate for Jonah Heim to smack 409ft to surrender a 2-0 lead. That type of start is significantly better than the patchwork bullpen starts Mariners fans lamented during the first half of the season.

The injury to Domingo German directly impacts this game, as this would be his game to start. Given that he’s dealing with a rotator cuff strain, Aaron Boone has already announced his move to the 10-day IL. If Tyler Anderson can deliver something similar to his first start in a Mariners uniform, and our bullpen can take over in the sixth inning with a close game, I like our chances at coming away with a win.

Mariners Game Two: Marco Gonzalez (3-5, 5.15 ERA, 0.3 WAR) vs. Jordan Montgomery (4-5, 3.69 ERA, 2.7 WAR)

Game two has the potential to either be a battle or a rout, and it doesn’t feel like there’s any middle ground. Gonzo looked like his old self in his last start against the Rangers, throwing six full innings with four strikeouts and surrendering one run on five hits.

If the Mariners truly want to contend down the stretch, they need Marco to piece together starts like this. Montgomery had a similar stat line to Gonzo’s in Miami, throwing five full innings with five strikeouts and one run on three hits.

The top concern I have for Gonzo in this start is the long ball – in games where he’s struggled, it’s largely been because he’s given up multiple home runs. For the Mariners to have any success in this game, Gonzo can’t give up more than a single home run – a tall task when you look at the batting order for the NYY. This is a game where I think the Yankees likely inflict some damage early, and only a comeback similar to what our guys did to the Astros would bring a W.

Mariners Game three: Chris Flexen (10-5, 3.75 ERA, 1.5 WAR) vs. Andrew Heaney (6-7, 5.27 ERA, 1.0 WAR)

Chris Flexen has looked to be every bit of the starter the Mariners hoped he’d be when they signed him this past offseason to a 2yr/$4.75M contract. In the first game against the Rays, he threw a gem: 6.2IP, 7H, 2R, 2BB, and 6K. In fact, take his May stats out of the equation and he’s likely considered one of the top starters in the American League. Heaney, meanwhile, appears to be on the opposite trajectory when considering his stat line in his first start against the Orioles: 4.0IP, 6H, 4R, 4HR, 0BB, and 4K.

I love our chances any time Flexen has the ball. While he’s typically been a much better pitcher within the confines of T-Mobile Park, his last start against Tampa paired with his ground out/air out ratio (1.03) shows that he’s ready to pitch in Yankee stadium. While Game Two looks like a romp for the Yankees, Game Three has the feel of a big Mariners win – especially when considering the number of long balls Heaney gave up to the Orioles.

I’d love to see some stat-padding for Seager and France (it’d be pretty awesome for one of the young guys to hit a homer in Yankee stadium, too). It’s quite possible the Mariners will be turning to the bullpen in the first two games, so another quality start from Flexen would give those guys a much-needed day’s rest.

Mariners Game 4: Yusei Kikuchi (6-6, 4.01 ERA, 1.8 WAR) vs. Gerrit Cole (10-6, 3.11 ERA, 4.1 WAR)

The final game of the series has the Mariners starting our All-Star pitcher, Yusei Kikuchi, against the Yankees ace, Gerrit Cole. Kikuchi throws tonight against the Rays, so there will be a lot to glean from how he looks against one of the best teams in the American League. His July stat line was the opposite of what got him the All-Star nod, throwing 5 starts and posting a 1-3 record with a 6.11 ERA.

While Cole’s stat line listed above is impressive, it’s worth noting that his June and July stats were less-than-stellar (5 June starts: 2-2, 4.65 ERA; 5 July starts: 2-2, 4.71 ERA). Outside of the complete game shutout he threw on July 10 against the Astros, his stats from the last two months suggest that the Mariners could put together some offense and get him pulled early.

This is the game that could potentially be impacted by Gerrit Cole’s positive COVID-19 test result. He’s scheduled to make this start, but the Mariners could end up not having to face the Yankees’ ace if his positive test result is deemed to be valid and not a false positive (nothing definitive has been reported as of the time this article was written).

If Cole is able to go, I don’t see the Mariners getting a win. I do think that Kikuchi’s season-long ground out/air out ratio (1.59) makes him a great pitcher to start at Yankee Stadium, but if his recent form continues in Tampa it’ll likely mean another brutal game in the Bronx. If Cole ends up being put on the COVID-19 list, I love our chances at stealing a game and possibly winning the series.

Mariners Series Prediction

I think the Mariners should absolutely be happy with a series split at Yankee Stadium, but it does feel like they will need some help to get them there. Quality starts from Anderson and Flexen will certainly go a long way, as those are easily the games the Mariners should look at as favorable. If Cole ends up having to go on the COVID list, and the Mariners miraculously avoid having to face the ace of their rotation, that game also turns into a favorable matchup.

While I have confidence that the walk-offs given up in Arlington were flukes, it’ll be interesting to see how the bullpen looks in the remaining games against the Rays. Ensuring that our relievers are primed and ready to go will be incredibly important in ensuring a series split. The Mariners will need to have a “Refuse to Lose” mentality to battle against the Yankees, but I think we’re good enough to win two (maybe three?) in the Bronx.