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Game #36 Preview: Flexen vs Kikuchi

Mariners (16-19) vs Blue Jays (18-17)

Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

After a horrible road trip, the Blue Jays return home to welcome the Mariners into town to kick off a six game homestand, starting with three against Seattle. First pitch tonight, and for all three games in this series, is at 7:07 ET.

Blue Jays’ Starter

Yusei Kikuchi will face his former team, the one he spent his first three seasons in the Majors with. This will be his seventh start with his new team, and he’s coming in with solid numbers befitting a fifth starter. Through 26.0 innings, he is 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA. However, his FIP does sit a bit higher, coming in at 4.99. That’s thanks to a horrible walk rate (5.88 per 9 innings) and a home run rate (1.38 per 9 innings) that’s a lot higher than you’d expect to see from a ground ball pitcher. But the strikeouts are at least there, as he gotten 27 in his 26 innings.

Mariners’ Starter

Chris Flexen will get the ball for the Mariners, and he’s having a bit of a rough year. He enters play with a 1-5 record and a 4.24 ERA. The ERA isn’t bad, but the 5 losses in 6 starts is a pretty significant surprise on a team near the .500 mark and hoping for a playoffs. The Mariners’ bats have scored a total of 1 run in his 5 losses, while his lone win came in a 4-1 game. So the losses certainly can’t be pinned on him too hard.

Flexen has certainly had some high points to his season. Only once has he allowed more than 3 runs in a start, and he has thrown a quality start in 3 of his 6 outings. Through 34 innings, he has just 22 strikeouts against 10 walks, so he will get a lot of balls in play off him.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

George Springer returned to the lineup yesterday, but it probably wasn’t the smartest of choices. After limping out of the box on a foul ball in his first at bat, he had two very soft contact outs, a strikeout, and a routine fly ball, all while looking uncomfortable at the plate. He seems to be OK running, but it’s the rotation on the ankle that isn’t working. So he’s likely out of the outfield for a bit, but probably will continue to find himself at the DH spot.

Tyler Heineman had caught 4 of Kikuchi’s 6 starts, but with Heineman optioned to make room for Danny Jansen, he won’t be catching him today. Expect Jansen to catch Kikuchi today, and the likely workload going forward will be Kirk catching Manoah and Gausman while Jansen gets Kikuchi, Berríos and Ryu. Not sure we see much of Zack Collins behind the plate going forward.

Mariners’ Lineup

The Mariners enter play with a middle of the pack offense, maybe a bit better even. They’ve scored 3.97 runs per game, which is tied for 18th in the Majors. But overall they’re hitting .235/.317/.375 which gives them a 5th best 113 wRC+. However, their .311 wOBA is the same as Atlanta, but Atlanta comes in at a 98 wRC+, meaning that the Mariners have been playing in some very tough ballparks for hitters, which is why their runs scored is a bit more deflated.

The top of the order consists of their infield, with holdovers J.P. Crawford (175 wRC+) and Ty France (168 wRC+) having exceptional years. Newcomers Eugenio Suárez (122 wRC+) and Adam Frazier (114 wRC+) round out a very strong infield.

Top prospect Julio Rodríguez is finding himself in the Majors, and while he hasn’t fully embraced his power (2 home runs and 6 other extra base hits), he’s still holding his own with a 113 wRC+ and passable defense in CF.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Adolis García hit a pair of home runs and drove in 5, good enough to take home the Monster Bat award. Thanks to García, the Rangers beat up on the Red Sox 7-1.

Gavin Lux hit a 2-out, 2-run double in the bottom of the 9th, walking off the Phillies 5-4. Lux gets the WPA King trophy with that hit, giving him a .825 WPA in the Dodgers’ win.

Hunter Greene was part of a rare feat yesterday. He threw 7.1 hitless innings with 9 strikeouts, but in the process of walking 5, he also surrendered a run. His bullpen finished up his hitless outing, but his Reds still lost to the Pirates 1-0. Greene walks home with the loss, but we’ll still give him the Pitcher of the Day honours at least.

Find the Link

Find the link between Ty France and Brandon Guyer.

Stats retrieved from Fangraphs and Baseball Savant