Mariners vs. Cubs: First interleague matchup of the season

Seattle Mariners v Cleveland Guardians
Seattle Mariners v Cleveland Guardians / Jason Miller/GettyImages

After 10 games, the Mariners are set for their first bout of interleague play as they head to the North Side of Chicago to take on the Cubs. Coming in, the Mariners are 4-6 with seven games played against the Guardians and three against the division-rival Angels. 

The Cubs finished 2022 with a 74-88 record, on the outside looking in of the playoff picture. However, they made significant additions over the offseason, notably the signing of Dansby Swanson among other acquisitions, so 2023 was a year that started with higher expectations. So far, they are 4-4 with several players playing well above their projected values. 

Playing below expectations, the Mariners are coming in looking to play fierce. With how the schedule has played out early, they certainly have a pitching advantage in the upcoming series, something they should be able to use to their advantage.

Mariners vs. Cubs: Pitching Matchup 

  • Mon. April 10: Luis Castillo vs. Drew Smyly 
  • Tue. April 11: Chris Flexen vs. Hayden Wesneski 
  • Wed. April 12: Logan Gilbert vs. Marcus Stroman 

The Mariners get their top three starters with Robbie Ray hurt and the Cubs start with the bottom two of their rotation, a significant sign of hope for the Mariners to take the series. The best matchup of the series will easily be Gilbert vs. Stroman, as both have been good to start the season. 

Both teams have had a starter off to a scorching hot start to begin 2023, as both Castillo and Stroman have made two starts and have yet to give up an earned run. While a battle between the two would have been electric in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, Gilbert will not disappoint in matching production. 

For the opener of the series, Castillo boasts extremely impressive stats across the board. Pitching in 11.2 innings, he’s given up just three hits and has struck out 12 batters and has yet to walk anyone. Opposing him is someone who made just one start but it did not go his way. Smyly went just 4.2 innings in his first start, giving up seven runs, six of which were earned. 

In game two, the matchup still favors Seattle but it’s a little more even. Comparing their WHIPs on the year, Flexen has a 1.222 in 9.0 innings, and Wesneski a 1.714 in 4.2 innings. In 33.0 innings in 2022, Wesneski was rather dominant. 

He had a 188 ERA+ and struck out 9.0 batters per nine innings to just 1.9 walks. While his first start of the year was nothing to write home about, he should perform better in this upcoming start with how nasty his pitchers are. 

In the rubber game, the Cubs have their first clear advantage on the mound in terms of 2023 production. In 12.0 innings, Stroman has yet to give up a run and has struck out 14 and given up just five hits. The caveat for the righty is that he has walked six batters already, nearly doubling his career walks per nine innings. 

As for bullpens, the Mariners certainly have the advantage, even despite the recently injured Andrés Muñoz. Still, Matt Brash, Penn Murfee, and Paul Sewald have better stuff than the Cubs do. 

Hitters to watch 

For the Cubs, this is pretty easy, it is Dansby Swanson. In 32 AB, he has 12 hits but has yet to lift the ball for his first long ball in a Cubs uniform. He does still have two doubles, leading to a slash line of .375/.459/.438, an OPS of .897 and an OPS+ of 142. 

Ian Happ and Patrick Wisdom both also have had strong starts to the season, but after the top three, the production falls off a cliff for the Cubs. After Swanson, who is third with his .897 OPS, no other Cubs player has an OPS cracking the .700 line. 

Seattle also has had offensive struggles to start 2023, having five batters over an OPS+ of 100, but notably having a couple of the new additions sitting rather low. Those two additions are the hitters to look out for. 

Both Teoscar Hernández and Kolton Wong are poised to hit their stride. Hernández looked to have his breakout with a two-home run performance against the Angels, but he’s back to struggling again so it seems. Wong has yet to have his breakout at all, starting the year 2-27 and without an extra-base hit. 

Final Thoughts 

With the theoretical advantage in two of the three pitching matchups, the Mariners are in line to win the series. While the Cubs play streaky, the three pitchers in line for Seattle do a good job combating that potential. 

The Mariner’s offensive weapons, while not up to par for fan expectations, have outperformed the bats of Chicago in the early goings.