Seattle Mariners Preview: Toronto Blue Jays Edition

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JUNE 19: Logan Gilbert #36 of the Seattle Mariners pitches the ball during the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at T-Mobile Park. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JUNE 19: Logan Gilbert #36 of the Seattle Mariners pitches the ball during the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at T-Mobile Park. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) /

After the Mariners completed another series win against the Texas Rangers yesterday (shoutout to Marco Gonzalez for throwing an absolute gem – talk about a guy rounding into form at just the right time), our beloved Seattle Mariners sit at 4.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot (NYY at 2 games back and TOR at 2.5 games back).

Fivethirtyeight is currently projecting the Boston Red Sox to finish as the second Wild Card team with a forecasted 91 wins. For the Mariners to have any hope of clearing 90 wins (let alone eclipsing the Red Sox), they need to take care of teams worse than them, while stealing some games from better teams. Enter the Toronto Blue Jays.

It’s easy to say this series is a must-win, but it feels like that’s been the Mariners’ summer mantra. Instead, we’ll let the matchups decide who tilts the scales in one direction or another. One statistic that all Mariners fans hope carries into this series: the Mariners starting rotation has one of the best collective staff ERA’s in the majors.

If the Mariners can keep their dominant starting pitching rolling to pull of a series win against TOR, it’d mean back-to-back series wins and the potential return of some mojo/team swag/momentum going into a key 10-day road stretch (4G @ TX, 3G @ HOU, 2G @ OAK).

Mariners vs Blue Jays Game 1 (8/13): Chris Flexen (10-5, 2.72 home ERA) vs. Robbie Ray (9-5, 3.03 away ERA)

This first game tonight is going to be a pitching slugfest. The ERA comparison between starting pitchers shows no significant advantage, so I’m inclined to think this game is another 1-run game going into the later innings. Enter the Mariners bullpen, although it’s worth noting that Paul Sewald was placed on the Paternity List yesterday and won’t be available in this series.

Erik Swanson will almost certainly see some action in this game, so it’ll boil down to if he can lock down 1 (possibly 2) innings of Blue Jays offense. If that can happen, I think the Mariners have an opportunity to win the game. Prediction: Coin Toss

Mariners vs Blue Jays Game 2 (8/14): Yusei Kikuchi (7-6, 4.57 home ERA) vs. Hyun Jin Ryu (11-5, 3.17 away ERA)

The stats listed above for Yusei Kikuchi require some clarification: in the month of August, he’s thrown against two of the best teams in the American League (NYY & TB) and has posted the following stat line: 1-0, 11.0 IP, 0.82 ERA, 10H, 1ER, 5BB, and 11K. After a rough July, he’s found the ace-worthy stuff that got him selected for the 2021 All-Star Game.

While Kikuchi is red-hot, Ryu has trended in the other direction in August in his two home starts against Cleveland and Boston (1-0, 10.2 IP, 7.59 ERA, 17H, 9ER, 1BB, and 9K). This game tilts heavily in Kikuchi’s favor and is hopefully one where we can jump on Ryu early to give Yusei some room to operate. Prediction: Mariners W.

Game 3 (8/15): Logan Gilbert (5-3, 4.76 home ERA) vs. Steven Matz (9-7, 4.19 away ERA)

In the series finale, Logan Gilbert has the tough task of dueling Steven Matz. Matz has been in good form, putting together two quality starts in August. He’s only improved throughout the summer (June ERA: 6.39, July ERA: 4.50, August ERA: 1.69), while Logan Gilbert has trended in the opposite direction (June ERA: 2.79, July ERA: 3.76, August ERA: 4.09).

I’d tilt this game in favor of the Blue Jays, but LoGi did look a lot better in his most recent home start against the Rangers (6.0IP, 5H, 2ER, 0BB, 5K) so this could actually end up being a closer game than broader statistics suggest. Prediction: Blue Jays W.

Mariners Series Prediction

It really looks like this series could be decided by the opening game scheduled for later today. It feels like the Mariners’ starting pitching will continue to hold up their end of the bargain, so the biggest question mark for me is the offense. Whenever a starting pitcher gets some run support, they’re far more confident in attacking the strike zone.

Getting our bats going in Game 1 will be critical because stealing that game and picking up Game 2 means another series W and some series confidence to take on the road. Prediction: Mariners provide just enough offense to win Game 1, Yusei throws another gem to take Game 2, and the Mariners win the series 2-1.