The battle of the AL West basement dwellers starts on Thursday as the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels kick off a weekend series in the Emerald City. The Mariners are on an insanely bad streak of losing as of late, losing 11 of their last 13 games and winning only two series since April 23. Quite the fall after winning 13 of their first 15 games of the season. For the Angels, much of the same story as the last couple seasons: wasting the prime years of Mike Trout’s career because they can’t put a halfway decent team around him.
For the M’s, Japanese sensation Yusei Kikuchi gets the ball, looking to bounce back after a rough last start. Lasting only 3 1/3 innings, giving up 10 hits and four earned runs, it ended a streak of great starts for Kikuchi. For four straight games prior, he went at least six innings, giving up three runs only once, with the other three games giving up one.
Kikuchi was dominant in Japan for the last couple of years. From 2016-2018, he struck out 497 batters in 494 1/3 innings. Since coming to the States, he’s only had a strikeout-per-inning game twice, and one of those games was only a one-inning start. A big reason for this difference is his swing-and-miss percentages. He is getting a measly 28% swing and miss on balls in the strike zone. Overall, batters are making contact 81% of the time.
The Angels will be using an opener on Thursday, followed by Felix Pena getting the ball. This has been a strategy that has worked pretty well so far for the Halos. Over the course of three games in mid-May, Pena pitched a total of 17 innings and only gave up four earned runs. The Angels have blown the last two games in which they employed this strategy. Both times they started with an opener, and then Pena came in to pitch the next five innings. Both games were against the Twins, and both games were very much there for the Angels’ taking.
Mariners’ Extraordinary Losing Streak
Would anyone believe you if you said the Mariners came into this month four games over .500? Probably not. Their run differential is one of the worst in the American League, only being out-sucked by the Tigers and Orioles. However, they are top 10 in the league in hits, home runs, RBI, slugging and OPS.
Where it really falls apart for the M’s is fielding and pitching. They have one of the worst team ERAs in the league at 5.17 and have a batting average against of .271! As bad as that is, their fielding is even worse. They have by far the most errors in the league with 60. The next worst team is only at 44. That leads to an MLB-worst fielding percentage as well, at .971, six points worse than second place.
This is a tough one. If there’s a possible way to avoid this game, you probably should. But for some reason, I have a good feeling about the Mariners in this game. If Kikuchi can get deep into the game like he’s shown he’s capable of, that will mitigate the bullpen’s chances of blowing the game.
Mike Trout may also be out of this game as he is suffering from a sore right foot. Kikuchi gives the Mariners a quality start, and the second best team in MLB in homers hits a couple out of the park, and we could see Seattle back in the win column. Go with Seattle in this one.