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Down By the Bay: Mariners at Athletics Series Preview

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Houston Astros
Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

The Mariners make their last trip to Oakland to start this week.

The Mariners see a lot of the Oakland Athletics these last few weeks of the season. After these three games in Oakland, the M’s will host the A’s for three more the last weekend of September in what would, sans lockout, have been the final series of the season. Whether that’s good or bad remains to be seen; while the Athletics are decidedly the worst team in the AL by record, they did take two of three when the Mariners were in Oakland a month ago.

Playing the bottom-dwelling A’s gives the Mariners a chance to redeem themselves after a demoralizing weekend series loss to the Angels. Eugenio Suárez (finger), Julio Rodríguez (lower back), and Cal Raleigh (thumb) sustained injuries in Anaheim or shortly before, so the Mariners’ ability to win in the postseason appears much more precarious than it did last week. With luck, however, both Rodríguez and Raleigh will be back in the lineup in Oakland, and after next weekend’s games in Kansas City the Mariners will return home for the rest of the regular season, where the hometown fans and T-Mobile’s familiar medical and training resources await them.

This time last year Oakland was two games up on Seattle and the two were in a furious race to eke into the second Wild Card spot (neither did). After going 86-76 in 2021, the Athletics are currently 53-94 and likely to lose 100 games this season. Their loss and Tampa Bay’s win on September 7th made Oakland the first AL team to be eliminated from playoff contention, and they can’t even play spoiler for anyone but the Mariners; from here on out the A’s play only teams who have clinched a playoff berth (the Astros and Mets), who are eliminated from contention (the Angels), and your Seattle Mariners. Instead, the Athletics have called up several young players who will benefit from these weeks of big-league experience.

Oakland has two hitters with 100 plate appearances who rank above league average by wRC+. One of those is catcher Sean Murphy, whose 4.8 fWAR is more than double the next highest Oakland position player’s fWAR. The Athletics drafted Murphy in the third round in 2016, and the 28-year-old righty is the team’s everyday catcher. The second above-average hitter is right fielder Seth Brown (picked by the A’s in the nineteenth round of the 2015 draft), who hits for the most power in Oakland’s lineup. Last weekend when outfielder Ramón Laureano hit the 10-day IL with a hamstring strain, the A’s called up their number eight prospect Jordan Díaz. Díaz slashed .326/.366/.515 in Triple-A this season and started at first base Sunday for the Athletics.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

From a previous series preview:

Originally drafted by the Mariners in the 11th round of the 2017 draft, JP Sears was one of the prospects sent to the Yankees in the ill fated Nick Rumbelow deal. He developed through New York’s pitching pipeline and made his major league debut in pinstripes earlier this year. He was sent to Oakland in the big Frankie Montas trade and is an immediate plug-and-play starter for the A’s as they continue to rebuild their pitching depth. He possesses good command of a flat four-seam fastball that he pairs with a good slider. His changeup has standout physical characteristics too, but it’s clearly a distant third option behind his two other pitches.

Sears held the Mariners to just a single run across five innings in his previous outing against them. He allowed six hits, one walk, and struck out three.

From a previous series preview:

James Kaprielian missed nearly three and half years of development after multiple injuries to his throwing arm kept him off the mound from early 2016 through 2018. Finally completely healthy, he made 21 starts for the A’s last year and enjoyed some solid success. He posted a 4.07 ERA that was backed by a 4.33 FIP and a decent 3.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Those injury concerns cropped up again this spring, as some shoulder irritation sidelined him until May 1. He has a solid four-pitch repertoire with his slider and changeup grading out much better than his mediocre fastball.

This will be Kaprielian’s fifth start against the Mariners this year. He had a string of solid starts this summer — 2.88 ERA in 11 outings from late June to mid August — but has looked a bit worn down in his last few starts as he recently surpassed his career high in total innings pitched.

From a previous series preview:

Adrián Martínez was one of the prospects the A’s acquired from the Padres for Sean Manaea right before the season started. He was never ranked on the Padres prospect lists but he’s put together decent performances in the upper minors. He posted a 3.14 FIP in 17 appearances in Double-A last year, though he struggled upon reaching Triple-A later on in the year. He made his major league debut on May 10 in a spot start against the Tigers, holding them scoreless over 5.1 innings. A sinker-heavy approach should help him keep the ball on the ground regularly, with an okay slider and a promising changeup providing some whiffs.

The Mariners rocked Martínez for seven runs in his second career start back in June. He’s been up-and-down with the A’s since then and has mixed in a few decent outings with a bunch of clunkers.

The Big Picture:

With their series loss to the Angels last weekend, the M’s dropped from first to third seed in the Wild Card race, but still hold a five-game lead over Baltimore in the next (non-playoff) spot. They did officially eliminate the Angels from the playoffs with their win on Monday, so there’s your silver lining. If the season ended today, Toronto would host Tampa Bay for three, and the Mariners would play three against the Guardians in Cleveland. That’s not ideal in terms of playoff baseball in Seattle, but it may well be the most favorable possible matchup for the M’s. Toronto moved into first place in the Wild Card standings by taking two of three against the Orioles over the weekend. They’ll play two games in Philly starting today and then head to Tampa Bay for four starting Thursday. The Rays just took two of three from Texas at home but lost to Houston yesterday; they play two more at home against the Astros before Toronto comes to town. Mariners fans will hope that the Phillies and Astros sweep Toronto and Tampa, and then that the Rays and Blue Jays split their series next weekend.

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