Mariners look to make-up ground in AL Wild Card race against Yankees

Chicago White Sox v Seattle Mariners
Chicago White Sox v Seattle Mariners / Alika Jenner/GettyImages

The Seattle Mariners are back to .500 at 35-35 after a series win against the Chicago White Sox. Now they look ahead to a road trip across the country to try to make up ground in the AL Wild Card Race—currently 3.0 games back of a spot, they head to the Bronx to take on the New York Yankees, the team currently in the final Wild Card spot. 

Not just specifically the Yankees, but the Mariners’ upcoming schedule through the rest of June looks to be a perfect opportunity to make up ground in the standings and place them firmly in playoff contention once again. 

Having faced each other earlier this season in Seattle, the Yankees took two of three games for the series win. A 10th-inning Walk Off on May 31 was the only game-win for the Mariners, and that win relied heavily on a masterclass from George Kirby. 

Seattle is coming off a series win while the Yankees are losers of four straight, including a sweep against the division-rival Boston Red Sox. Going further back, they are 2-6 in their last eight games and have yet to win back-to-back games since June 3–4 on the road against the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

While momentum might not be a factor, it certainly looks to favor the Mariners. 

Just three weeks removed from their last series, the teams face off once again, and both will feature a set of their best starters. 

Game 1: George Kirby vs. Gerrit Cole 

The Yankees throw their ace, Mariners throw the player that shut them down. Having not seen Cole the last time the two teams matched up, the ace will hold the advantage on that side, but Kirby looked fantastic in his previous start against New York.

Last time, Kirby went 8.0 shutout innings, giving up three hits and striking out seven. On Tuesday, his stat line may see a slight dip, given the unfavorable territory of being in an away stadium, as well as one as hitter-friendly as Yankee Stadium. It is also unrealistic to ask him to have as good a start as his last outing against the team, but he is one to be able to do it. 

As for Cole, he is 7-1 in his decisions for the year with a 2.75 ERA. For a Mariners team that has scored no more than five runs in their last four games, all against less talented arms, they may struggle to find their groove. 

With both the Yankees and Mariners harboring below-league-average lineups, pitching will be at the forefront of the series. So far, Seattle boasts a 97 OPS+ as a team and New York has a comparable 96 OPS+. Although the Yankees .412 slugging to the Mariners’ .382 may be a sign that their play style will help in their home stadium.n

Winning the first game of the series on the road is the most unrealistic, barring another fantastic start from Kirby. 

Game 2: Luis Castillo vs. TBD 

Given the injuries to the Yankees rotation, it is unclear who will mirror the Mariners ace on the bump. No matter who it ends up being, the M’s will be favored in the matchup.

While a Castillo vs. Cole face-off would be more intriguing, the stars aligned for them to have their own individual moments in the spotlight. Holding a 2.73 ERA through 82.1 2023 innings, he is looking to continue his Cy Young Award-level campaign against a probable playoff team in an important series. 

The mid-series match appears to be the most favorable for Seattle, given that their ace is healthy and looking to dominate. 

Game 3: Bryan Woo vs. Domingo Germán 

After his disastrous debut, Bryan Woo went 4.2 innings, giving up two runs against the Los Angels Angels and 5.2 innings, giving up two against the White Sox. If he can give the Mariners five to six strong innings of less than three-run ball, it will do the team well against Germán, who is coming off a start giving up seven earned runs in just 2.0 innings of work.  

With this start being in the most hostile environment of his young career, Woo will have something to prove that he is a pitcher more similar to his recent performances rather than his debut one. 

After facing off against the Yankees for three, the Mariners head to face the Baltimore Orioles in their home field for a three-game set, another tough AL East opponent that they may be competing with come September for a Wild Card spot.