Baseball can be a funny game. This twists and turns at the beginning of a season can really mess with your psyche if you allow it to. Staying even-keel throughout the process is probably the way to go, and can make for much less stress on your mind. I bring this up after watching the Mariners sweep the Rockies to get back to .500 only to they themselves get swept at the hands of the Brewers, falling back to 3 games under .500.
Mariners Series Preview: Cardinals come to Town in battle of 8-11 teams
That puts the Mariners at 8-11, just the like Cardinals. St. Louis comes to town with a similar run differential, also sitting 4th in their division. Neither team is happy with where they started, expecting to start this series with a flip-flopped record at this point in the season. As the series gets underway, let's take a look at what to expect in the last 3 games of the current Mariners homestand.
Mariners vs Cardinals: Pitching Matchups
Friday, April 21st @ 7:10 PM: George Kirby vs Steven Matz
Saturday, April 22nd @ 6:40 PM: Luis Castillo vs Miles Mikolas
Sunday, April 23rd @ 1:10 PM: Chris Flexen vs Jack Flaherty
The game everyone is focused on is easily the middle game of the series. Luis Castillo has been pitching incredibly well lately, to the tune of a 0.73 ERA across 24.2 innings of work. In three of his four starts, he hasn't allowed any runs, and he is coming off his most impressive start of the early 2023 season in which he was perfect through 6.
He is going up against Mikolas, who had three bad starts to begin the season (3.1, 6.0, 5.0 IP and 5, 5, 6 ER), although he did throw 5.2 and give up 2 in his most recent start. He's been hit hard this year, giving up 36 hits so far in those 19 innings.
In the opener, we will see Matz. He's been hit hard as well, giving up 3, 9, and 10 hits while walking 5, 2, and 1 in his three starts. The Mariners SHOULD have plenty of scoring opportunities early in this series if those two throw as they have to start the year. They finish with Flaherty, who had three solid starts to begin the year but got roughed up a bit (4 runs in 6 IP) against Arizona in his last outing.
Kirby will be looking for his third great start in a row, giving up 11 hits, three runs, and walking none over his last 12.1 innings pitched. Meanwhile, Flexen was better against Milwaukee, but still had a rough inning where he gave up three runs, finishing with 4 ER total across 6 IP.
Mariners vs Cardinals: Hitters to Watch
For the Mariners, it's going to be the youth in this series. Kelenic and Julio. Honestly, I hope that's a duo we can look at for the next decade with hope and pride. Kelenic is hitting quite well to start the season, with improvements to pitch selection, exit velo, chase rate, and hard-hit rate. People so quickly gave up on Kelenic, who was a top 5 prospect in all of baseball a few years ago. Just 23, the breakout season could continue against the Cards, and would go a long way in righting the Mariners ship.
Alongside him is the centerpiece of the Mariners organization in Julio. He hit well against Milwaukee but did fail in some high-pressure situations. A 5-14 stretch with 2 HR is helping him get back on track, seeing the "slumping" Julio hitting .259/.308/.482 to being the season. I air quoted slumping because I keep seeing that online. Oh, the joys of the vocal minority.
For the Cardinals, I'm not going with the obvious in Goldschmidt and Arenado. That's too easy, and you should all be watching the MVP's anyway. Instead, it has to be Tyler O'Neill and Nolan Gorman. Tyler O'Neill is obvious. Former Mariner, public spat with the manager, trade rumors, and a great young player with immense talent. He's a lot of fun to watch, and impresses on the field. It helps that he has started the season with a slash of .276/.333/.431.
Nolan Gorman is their best hitter in 2023 so far, over Goldschmidt and Arenado. He's hitting an impressive .316/.403/.649, leading the team with 5 HR and 18 RBI. He's a legitimate danger in the lineup, and one the Mariners will need to be wary of. OH! Keep an eye on Jordan Walker, too. Insanely high ceiling and a mountain of a man. He's 6'6-245 and can move. This is a receiving TE who decided to play baseball. He's a lot of fun to watch.
Mariners vs Cardinals: Final Thoughts
Be as worried as you want about the Mariners, but I hope calmer minds prevail. Milwaukee and Cleveland are good teams, and the Cubs have been playing well. For the Mariners to be "playing bad" and struggling, against those teams, and still be at 8-11? Well, things could be a lot worse.
I feel totally fine about where the Mariners are at as they open the series against the Cardinals. I'm not happy that they are 8-11, but I'm not worried either. Things are going to be okay in Seattle, and they will be back on track after a series win against the Cardinals.