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Game #77 Preview: Flexen vs Ray

Mariners (41-38) vs Blue Jays (40-36)

Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

The Blue Jays welcome the Seattle Mariners to Buffalo to kick off a 3 game series between a pair of third place teams. Tonight’s game is scheduled to get underway at 7:07 ET.

Blue Jays’ Starter

Robbie Ray will start the opener for the Jays, making his 15th start of the year. He brings a 5-3 record and a 3.35 ERA into battle. Through 80.2 innings, Ray seems to have balanced his strikeout rate in the 11.5 per 9 inning range, pretty much where he has been for the last several seasons.

But it’s the walks and home runs that continue to be the big stories for him. On the walk side, things are going great. His walk rate of 2.34 per 9 innings is easily the best of his career, beating his career mark by nearly 2 per 9 innings. The home runs continue to be his challenge this season though, as he has now allowed an American League leading 18. The saving grace for him here is that 14 of them have been solo shots, while the other 4 have been with just 1 runner on. That makes 22 of his 31 runs allowed coming on home runs, which is a byproduct of having so many strikeouts and so few walks.

Mariners’ Starter

The Mariners will go with their de facto Ace Chris Flexen. Flexen, who signed with the Mariners over the winter after spending 2020 in the Korean Baseball Organization, has made 13 starts so far this year. Through 74.1 innings, Flexen is 6-3 with a 3.87 ERA. He is very much a pitch to contact pitcher, striking out just 50 batters so far. But he finds success there by allowing just 14 walks so far to go along with 8 home runs, avoiding free baserunners and keeping the ball on the ground.

Flexen throws a solid 4 pitch mix, which surprisingly doesn’t include a sinker, despite the 50% ground ball rate. His primary pitch is a low-90s 4-seam fastball, which he throws about 36.5% of the time. He’ll mix that up with a cutter that he’ll throw about 30% of the time, which sits in the high-80s and touches into the 90s on occasion. Working off those 2 pitches are a changeup that he’ll use against lefties, and a curveball which he’ll use to get righties out. Both have been fairly useful as out pitches for him so far this year.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

Riley Adams seems to be 100% an emergency catcher at this point. Considering how well Reese McGuire has been doing, and the struggles that Adams has had with the bat, it’s understandable. Alejandro Kirk had his rehab assignment moved to AAA over the weekend, and it’s seeming fairly likely that he’ll be activated on Thursday when he’s first eligible. Until then, expect McGuire to get pretty much all of the playing time, against both righties and lefties. But if he keeps hitting like he has over the last week, then there’s nothing wrong with that.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. won the Player of the Week award for his work last week, and that one surprised me. Not that I don’t think he was deserving, but his last week didn’t feel all that special to me. Which just goes to show how incredible he has been this year, and an award winning week where he was the best player seems normal.

Joe Panik played 3B again on Sunday, and while it sucked, it probably will continue to happen on occasion. Hopefully the starts for Panik are few and far between, and he settles into a more reserve role off the bench, but I won’t hold my breath.

Mariners’ Lineup

The Mariners as a whole enter play with the 9th fewest runs scored in baseball, averaging 4.06 per game. That’s more than a full run lower than the Jays, and ahead of only the Tigers, Orioles and Yankees in the Majors. They’ve gotten there with a combined line of .217/.291/.380 (90 wRC+), coming in as 1 of the 3 teams to be no-hit twice already this year.

Of the 7 players who have at least 150 PA, 3 of them are batting below .200. Dylan Moore (.190) seems to still be in a full time starter role at second base, while a bit of funky platoon exists between Tom Murphy (.179) as the backup catcher and Taylor Trammell (.168) playing CF.

On the positive side of things, the Mariners have a trio of regulars with a wRC+ over 100. Mitch Haniger (117) and Ty France (117) lead the way, while shortstop J.P. Crawford checks in with a 110 mark. Jake Fraley, who has been pressed into action a lot recently, has a 156 wRC+ in 106 PA.

On the Injured List is Kyle Lewis, last year’s Rookie of the Year, and he is probably out for the year after tearing his meniscus. The Mariners are holding out hope that he’ll be back, but I personally would be surprised.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Nick Castellanos went 3-5 with a home run and double, driving in 7 runs on his way to the Monster Bat award. He really helped lay on the runs as the Reds beat the Phillies 12-4. And somehow, despite it being such a blowout, Castellanos gets the WPA King award as well. He drove in the first 2 runs of the game with a single, then in the bottom of the 7th, with the Reds still down 4-2, Castellanos hit a Grand Slam. That all adds up to a .693 WPA. The Reds just kept piling on from there.

It was a rough day for pitchers across the league, but we’ll give the Pitcher of the Day award to Freddy Peralta. Peralta went 6 innings, allowing 2 runs on just 2 hits, walking 4 and striking out 8. He held the Cubs down as his offence really took flight late, giving Peralta a no-decision in the Brewers’ 14-4 win.

Find the Link

Find the link between Dylan Moore and Ryan Church.

Stats retrieved from Fangraphs and Baseball Savant