I still can't get over the fact that the Mariners are currently leading the AL West despite being 10 games out in Mid-July. Yet, here we are looking at a Mariners team that is 74-56 with just 32 games left in the season, a game up on Houston and Texas, who are in turn 2.5 games up on Toronto. We will keep an eye on that as the season goes along, but for now, we stick to the task at hand... the Oakland Athletics.
It's easy to overlook a team, especially when they have the worst record in baseball, and are a divisional foe at that. Add in the fact that the Mariners have yet to lose to the Athletics this season, and it has all the makings of a series that you can lose if you don't stay focused.
The Mariners are 7-0 against the Athletics so far in 2023
Mariners vs Athletics: The Pitching Matchups
Monday, August 28th @ 6:40 PM - Bryan Woo vs Kyle Muller
Tuesday, August 29th @ 6:40 PM - George Kirby vs Ken Waldichuk
Wednesday, August 30th @ 1:10 PM - Bryce Miller vs Zach Neal
I'm focusing mostly on the Athletics pitchers here, although the Mariners are throwing their babies in this series, with their youngest pitchers taking the mound.
Muller has really struggled on the road, sporting a 10.43 ERA in five starts. He's been absolutely lit up, with a 2.143 WHIP and 2.3 HR/9. The Mariners saw him in Seattle back in May, playing six runs across five innings of work, and hitting two bombs. He didn't pitch again til July 1st for Oakland, and then made two more starts on 8/15 and 8/22.
Waldichuk has been bitten by the HR bug as of late, giving up five of them in his last two outings. He's had wierd outings against the Mariners, striking out 15 across 7.2 innings of work, but also allowing 11 hits while walking 5. If anything, there is a possibility for a lot of exciting ABs here. Will he strikeout, or will he get on base? Seems like the only two options with Waldichuk in his limited outings against the M's.
This is going to be Neal's second start of the season, having worked in relief mostly. He got hit around by the White Sox a bit in his last outing, but just two of his five runs allowed were earned. He doesn't strike out many and has a WHIP of 1.82, so the Mariners bats should have a great chance to score early here.
Mariners vs Athletics: Hitters to Watch
I can't stress enough the opportunity the Mariners have here against Oakland and their struggling pitching. The three starters they face will have a combined ERA of 6.52, a WHIP of 1.755, and allow 1.88 HR per 9. I'll predict they score 24 runs in the series with 7 HR total. Why not. Go big, right? With ten regulars hitting .246 or better in August, and five of them at .290 or better, the opportunity is ripe for success.
Let's talk about the Oakland hitters, though. Zach Gelof (one of the few Zach hitters in baseball) is dominating in August. He's slashing .312/.381/.624 with 7 HR and 8 2B. Shea Langeliers and Brent Rooker have shown pop as well with 5 HR apiece, but are each hitting around .230. Estuery Ruiz has struggled since coming back from injury, but is one of the fastest players in baseball and a threat anytime he is on the bases. He has seven hits and two walks this month... and eight steals.
Mariners vs Athletics: Final Thoughts
I will not lie. I'm actually worried. There is always a part of me that gets nervous about overlooking a team. Of course I want the Mariners to score a bunch and sweep the Athletics to get to 77-56. Who doesn't? I still think there is a great chance they win the series, and that's what everything points to. There's just something I can't shake here, but I hope I'm wrong.
The 2023 fan side of me thinks we sweep. The mid 2010's fan that worries constantly thinks we barely lose this series somehow. Let's hope the 2023 fan wins out.