The Los Angeles Angels are in Seattle Thursday for game one of a four-game set with their AL West Division rivals, the Mariners. The Angels have been inconsistent all season long but are playing better as of late as they have won four out of their last five games, with all of those games coming against divisional opponents. The Angels trail the Houston Astros by a whopping eleven games in the chase for the division title. However, they are still very much in the mix for the second wild card in the American League as they are just three and a half games back.
For Seattle, this has been a season of two halves. The Mariners had the best record in baseball when they jumped out to a 13-2 start, but they have fallen off a cliff since that hot start. The M’s are just 11-31 since that great start to the year, and they are quickly falling out of contention. Trade rumors are swirling around all of their best players as the Mariners start to accept their fate as a team that won’t be playing in the postseason this year.
Starting for the Angels is Felix Pena (2-1 3.22 ERA), and for the Mariners, it is Yusei Kikuchi (3-2 3.82 ERA). The game total over-under is set at nine runs. The Mariners are -112 home favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PM PST from T-Mobile Park in Seattle.
Coming into this season, most expected the Seattle Mariners to struggle. So, when they jumped out to the major’s best record early in the year, many were skeptical. But they quickly regressed back into what most thought they would be, and right now, wins are hard to come by. Seattle has lost eleven out of their last thirteen games, and the big reason why is their awful pitching staff.
The Mariners continue to hit the long ball, and score runs, but the pitching staff, specifically the bullpen, has been terrible. The Mariners are without a closer, and their bullpen ERA is sky-high at 5.31. That is the third highest bullpen ERA in the game. The starters haven’t been great in Seattle either, but no lead is safe once the bullpen gets into the game for Seattle. One guy that has actually been decent for Seattle is tonight’s starter, rookie Yusei Kikuchi.
Kikuchi made his MLB debut earlier this year after coming over from Japan. Kikuchi has shown some flashes of brilliance in limited work. In back to back starts in early May, Kikuchi tossed fourteen and two-thirds of an inning against the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees and allowed just two earned runs. Since those two starts, he has struggled some.
In his last three starts, he has pitched fifteen and a third innings and has given up eleven runs. Several of those runs were unearned, so his ERA is still a respectable 3.82, but his performances haven’t been all that great. Against these very same Angels on April 20th, he allowed a season-high ten hits and four earned runs.
Felix Pena has bounced back and forth between the starting rotation and the bullpen this year for LA and has had success in both roles. He has a 3.22 ERA, and forty-three strikeouts in forty-four and two-thirds of an inning worked. He will be making his fifth start of the season tonight. The Mariners have a penchant for hitting the long ball, but their .246 team batting average is amongst the worst in the American League and their run production has really fallen off recently.
I like what Yusei Kikuchi has been able to do this year. But to see the Mariners as a favorite when they can’t win a game right now is surprising. Yeah, Pena and the Angels aren’t exactly world beaters right now either but getting to fade the Mariners right now getting dog money seems like much too much value to pass up on. This mariners team shouldn’t be favored against anybody with the way they are playing.
Kikuchi might end up pitching decent, or he might get lit up like the last time he faced the Angels. But one thing we know won’t happen is that Kikuchi won’t be pitching the entire game. Kikuchi has pitched into the seventh inning just twice this season which means this awful Mariners bullpen is likely to have to pitch at least a third of the game. That is bad news for Mariners fans.
I’m not sure when the runs are going to come, but they are going to come for the Angels. When you look back at the last couple of weeks for the Mariners, they have games where they have given up 14 runs, 11 runs multiple times, and 18 runs. Just this last week they allowed nineteen runs in the final two games against the Texas Rangers. That trend should continue tonight. Give me the Los Angeles Angels as road underdogs tonight in what could be a shootout!