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Game #78 Preview: Sheffield vs Matz

Mariners (41-39) vs Blue Jays (41-36)

Seattle Mariners v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Joshua Bessex/Getty Images

After a fun series opening win last night, the Blue Jays continue their 3 game set against the visiting Mariners this evening. Tonight’s game is set to get underway at 7:07 ET. And as a special treat, this game is available to watch on YouTube TV (and only YouTube TV). I’m curious what they’re going to do with the Buck and Tabby - the Jays still have a radio broadcast, and somehow I think the YouTube TV stream would be even worse for the radio. Anyway, hopefully you can get it to work out!

Blue Jays’ Starter

Coming in fresh off the COVID Injured List to make this start is Steven Matz. Matz has been out since June 13 after testing positive. It doesn’t seem like he was ever symptomatic, and everything seems to be good with him now. He threw a side session last week getting up over 60 pitches as well, so there shouldn’t be too many issues with his stamina. For all intents and purposes, he should be back to normal.

Hopefully his “normal” is a reflection of who he was before he went on the IL. Through his first 13 starts and 69.2 innings, Matz was 7-3 with a 4.26 ERA. His FIP has been a bit better than that, sitting on a 3.79 mark. That is thanks to solid but not quite spectacular numbers across the 3 categories important to FIP - strikeouts (9.69 per 9 innings), walks (2.71 per 9 innings) and home runs (1.16 per 9 innings). The league average rate for each of those in 2021 is 9.15, 3.40 and 1.21, and doing better than league average for each one is a rare achievement - of the 127 pitchers with at least 50 innings this year, Matz is one of just 28 pitchers who is better than league average in all 3 stats.

Mariners’ Starter

The Mariners will go with Justus Sheffield (of no known relation to Gary Sheffield), making his 14th start of the season as well. Sheffield has thrown 68.0 innings this year, and brings a 5-7 record and a 5.69 ERA into tonight’s action. His FIP isn’t any better, sitting right at 5.50. He doesn’t strike out many batters (7.15 per 9 innings), struggles a bit with walking guys (3.84 per 9 innings), and has allowed 13 home runs (1.72 per 9 innings).

The small lefty is pretty much a 3 pitch pitcher, having essentially dropped the 4-seam fastball he used to throw in lieu of a sinker he started throwing last season. The sinker is now his primary pitch, thrown about 42% of the time. He throws it in the 92-93 mph range, and it has helped him generate a groundball rate of almost 50%. Working off those pitches are a slider and a changeup, which righties will see about equally, although it is his slider that is his out pitch, accounting for 43 of his 54 strikeouts so far. As a result, Sheffield has some fairly strong platoon splits, with lefties hitting at a below average .301 wOBA (pretty much Gurriel this year), while righties are hitting at a .365 wOBA (pretty much Teoscar this year).

Blue Jays’ Lineup

Given the above splits, I think there’s a decent chance that the Jays goes with the all-righty lineup today. Cavan Biggio has been doing well since coming back from the IL, but Santiago Espinal has a pretty good chance of getting in the lineup today. Behind the plate, backup catcher Riley Adams probably should be in there, but Adams hasn’t seen the field in a week now. Reese McGuire has been too hot to take out of the lineup, but today could be the day.

Jonathan Davis was called up yesterday to fill the spot vacated by the traded Joe Panik. Davis came in as a late game replacement yesterday. With the lefty on the mound today, there’s an outside chance he gets the start, but with 4 righty outfielders already featuring heavy in the lineup, I don’t think we should ever really expect a start for him. He’ll just be a late game replacement, either for defense or baserunning.

Mariners’ Lineup

Early potential trade chip Kyle Seager, who has an unappealing player option if he does get traded, has had a very rough couple of months after getting out to a hot start. After waking up the morning of April 30 with a .257/.303/.485 (116 wRC+) line, Seager has hit .190/.269/.364 (77 wRC+), pretty much eliminating any interest teams may have had when considering the burden of his hefty option. It seems likely now that Seager will be a Mariner through the whole season.

It’s not all doom and gloom for the Mariners on offence though. Ty France, who hit the big home run yesterday, has hit .295/.370/.500 (142 wRC+) since coming back from a wrist injury on May 24. Jake Fraley has a .241/.427/.446 (151 wRC+) line over 110 PA this season.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Shohei Ohtani went 2-4 with a pair of home runs against the Yankees, and that’s good enough for the Monster Bat award. He drove in 3, but since he plays for the Angels, the Yankees still won 11-5.

Vince Velasquez threw 7 shutout innings, allowing just 2 hits and keeping his team right in it. His offence got him a couple runs early, but the game was still tight enough for Velasquez to accumulate a lot of WPA, taking home the WPA King award with a .434 mark. And the bullpen managed to just hang on, allowing the Phillies to beat the Marlins 4-3.

Velasquez is not the Pitcher of the Day though. That honour belongs to Germán Márquez, who took a no-hitter into the 9th inning, but lost it on a leadoff single. He still finished what he started, throwing the season’s first Maddux (complete game shutout in under 100 pitches),. He struck out 5 batters against 1 walk and that 1 hit, but got the win in the Rockies’ 8-0 win over the visiting Pirates.

Find the Link

Find the link between Kyle Seager, Christian Yelich and Juan Lagares.

Stats retrieved from Fangraphs and Baseball Savant