The Seattle Mariners are in Tampa Bay Saturday for game three of a four-game series with the Rays. Seattle has won the first two games of this series and seven out of their last eight games overall. Five of those recent wins have come against this Tampa Bay team. Tampa Bay has yet to win a game in the month of June, and they have now lost eight straight games. This is a classic matchup of two teams headed in different directions.
Starting tonight for the visiting Mariners is Felix Hernandez (6-4 5.33 ERA), and for the home team Rays, it is Blake Snell (7-3 2.36 ERA). The Rays are -150 home favorites. The game total over-under is set at seven runs. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 PM PST from Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
The Seattle Mariners own the Tampa Bay Rays this season. They have defeated Tampa in all five games they have played them this year. More interesting is the fact that all of those games have come in the last couple of days as these teams met up for a three-game set in Seattle the series before now meeting up in Tampa Bay. The Mariners swept that first series against the Rays, and they are well on their well to sweeping this one as they have taken the first two game of the series.
If you look at the final scores of these last two games, you would think this has been a very competitive series. It really hasn’t been all that competitive. The Mariners pitching staff has absolutely dominated the Rays in this series, except one guy. The newly acquired, from Tampa Bay, Alex Colome. Colome has made the Mariners sweat out the late innings of what looked like very comfortable games.
Colome came into both games in the eighth inning and allowed the runners he inherited to score as well as a giving up a couple more runs in both outings. Outside of runs allowed by Colome, this series has been very one-sided. And even with his struggles, the Mariners were able to take both games. Maybe Colome felt bad for his old squad and wanted them to feel a little better about themselves.
Maybe he just isn’t the guy the Mariners were hoping they were getting when they brought him over last week in a trade. Colome had been struggling badly in the ninth inning as the Rays closer and the Mariners had hoped that by moving him to a setup role in the eighth inning he would have better results. That just hasn’t been the case so far for Colome so far as he has struggled with Seattle.
Starting today for the Mariners is Felix Hernandez. Hernandez’s struggles have been well documented this season. He has struggled a lot. The one team that he hasn’t struggled against this year? The Tampa Bay Rays. Felix had what was likely his best outing of the season in his last start against Tampa Bay. The King threw eight innings of one-run ball and struck out seven while picking up his sixth win of the season. This Rays team is really struggling at the plate right now, averaging just over two runs a game during this recent eight-game losing streak, and Felix took full advantage of it and pitched very well. It will be interesting to see what Hernandez can do as an encore to that great performance from a week ago today.
The Rays will counter with Blake Snell. This kid has been absolutely on fire recently. His 2.36 ERA is good for fifth in the American League, ahead of guys like Chris Sale and Charlie Morton. He has been especially good over his last three starts as he has pitched seventeen and two-thirds of an inning and hasn’t given up a single earned run. But as good as this kid has been, he isn’t getting overly deep into games, and it is costing his team. This Tampa Bay squad wears their bullpen out more than any other team in the league, and they just can’t be counted on to hold games for Snell this year.
That explains why Snell has lost four out of his last seven starts, despite pitching very well. We saw that in his last start, against these Mariners. Snell pitched six shutout innings and allowed just two hits while striking out twelve. And the Rays still lost the game as the bullpen couldn’t hold it for him. Between getting no bullpen help and this weak Rays lineup that doesn’t like to score for him, wins have been much harder to come by for Snell than they probably should be.
Blake Snell is the better pitcher in this matchup. My heart tells me the Felix still has a little bit left in the gas tank, but his stats tell me otherwise. But when you look at these teams as a whole, it is hard not to like the Mariners in this one getting such a great price. Yeah, Snell will likely be pretty good. But he isn’t getting you more than six innings, seven max. And even if Hernandez doesn’t have his best stuff, this Rays lineup can make just about anybody look good.
So, I see this game as yet another low scoring one run type of game as many of the games in this series have been. The Seattle Mariners are the best one-run team in the major leagues this year. A combination of clutch hitting, solid bullpen work, and an elite closer, has made Seattle tough to beat in close games. They are red-hot right now, and the Rays can’t win for losing. I think Seattle finds a way to win the game tonight. Give me the Seattle Mariners and a bunch of dog money at +130 in this one!