Keep Riding Mariners’ Red-Hot Paxton vs. Angels Thursday

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, August 9, 2017 8:15 PM UTC

Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017 8:15 PM UTC

It’s two wild-card hopefuls from the AL West Division facing off Thursday night (10:10 ET) in a series opener at Safeco Field as Seattle hosts the Los Angeles Angels. Read on for my pick.

MLB Season Record: 27-20

Los Angeles Angels at Seattle Mariners (-210)

Winning the AL West is out of the question for the Angels and Mariners as Houston has a massive lead in that division. Thus the only route to the postseason is via a wild-card spot, and both the Angels and Mariners are in the running for one as they open a series in Seattle on Thursday (10:10 p.m. ET).

It’s the start of what could be a season-defining nine-game road trip for the Angels, who have lost third baseman Yunel Escobar for 2-3 weeks to a strained right oblique. I highly doubt they have enough pitching to earn a playoff spot, and they can hardly afford to go something like 2-7 on this trip. How ridiculous is Angels star outfielder Mike Trout, by the way? He still has a shot at winning a third straight AL MVP Award despite missing six weeks earlier this season due to injury.

Because of that missed time, Trout isn’t qualified for the batting title yet, but he would rank second in the AL to Houston’s Jose Altuve while leading the league in on-base percentage and OPS. He’s fifth in the AL in WAR – again, crazy impressive with all that missed time. Altuve probably wins the award and is a -225 favorite at BetOnline, but Trout – who got his 1,000th career hit Monday on his 26th birthday -- could finish second for a fourth time and is +1200 to win.

Seattle has the longest playoff drought in baseball, last reaching in 2001, and the Mariners’ hopes of ending that took a bit hit recently when the team put former ace Felix Hernandez and reliever David Phelps, acquired at the deadline from Miami, on the DL. King Felix could miss a month and Phelps three weeks. The Mariners did improve their offense with a recent trade of A’s All-Star first baseman Yonder Alonso, and he was 1-for-5 in his Seattle debut Tuesday. Alonso has really been slumping since the break, though.

Thursday is the first game between the Angels and Mariners since the break. L.A. leads 5-4 in 2017 but has dropped the past two series after sweeping three at home from April 7-9. Seattle will be thrilled Escobar is on the DL as he’s 17-for-37 vs. Mariners pitching this year with a homer and six RBIs. Trout is 4-for-16 with two homers. Seattle’s Jean Segura is hitting .378 vs. Angels pitching this year with a homer and seven RBIs. Robinson Cano has five homers and a whopping 16 RBIs.


Thursday’s Probable Pitchers

Hernandez is one of the great pitchers of his era, but he’s not the Mariners’ ace this year. That would be Canadian lefty James Paxton, who is +1600 to win the AL Cy Young. Paxton (12-3, 2.70) won’t win that but is third in the AL in wins and would be third in ERA if he had enough innings to qualify. He missed nearly four weeks in May.

Paxton brings a seven-start winning streak into this one and hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in any of those outings. He’s only the third M’s pitcher to win seven consecutive starts, joining Scott Bankhead (1989) and Jamie Moyer (2003). No Seattle pitcher has won eight in a row. Paxton is 1-0 with a 1.54 ERA in two starts this year vs. the Angels, allowing an average of only .175. Trout is an ugly 2-for-22 career off him with 11 Ks.

Angels lefty Tyler Skaggs (1-2, 4.32) returned from nearly four months on the DL (oblique strain) Saturday and lost to Oakland, allowing three runs over four innings. Not bad considering it was his first MLB start since April 28. Skaggs had a 7.24 ERA over 13 2/3 innings in four rehab starts prior to that.

Skaggs hasn’t faced Seattle this year and was 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA in three starts against the Mariners in 2016. Cano is 6-for-12 career off him with three doubles. Kyle Seager is 6-for-13 with a homer.

Pretty easy call for my MLB pick as Seattle is 32-27 at home and Paxton is 7-2 with a 2.15 ERA there. L.A. is just 24-32 away from home.

Free MLB Pick: Mariners RLBest Line Offered: SportsBetting

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