Quick-Starting Mariners a First-Five Play vs. Oakland

Rainman M.

Thursday, May 3, 2018 11:26 AM UTC

Thursday, May. 3, 2018 11:26 AM UTC

Seattle closes a three-game series tonight at 10:10 vs Oakland. The A's won with late-game magic on Wednesday, but can the underdog Mariners finish the series on a high note?

Oakland Athletics (15-15) at Seattle Mariners (17-12)Free MLB Pick: Seattle 1st 5 MLBest Line Offered: Bookmaker

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Seattle and Oakland have been displaying opposite tendencies, both of which speak for a first-half play on the Mariners tonight. In its last three games, Seattle has achieved 11 of its 18 runs in the first five innings. Consequently, they've won four consecutive first-five ML plays. Conversely, Oakland has scored only two of its last 10 runs in the first five innings and is winless in eight straight first-five plays. After a late-inning loss Wednesday, Seattle will be extra motivated. The M's are undefeated in three first-half ML bets after a one-run loss and have won two out of three first-five bets after losing.

Wade LeBlanc (0-0, 4.61 ERA) starts for Seattle. LeBlanc is normally a reliever. He earned a reputation as the Pirates' key reliever and appeared in 50 games for them last year. But the veteran also has 79 career starts under his belt. He matches up well against the A's, who are winless in their last three first-five plays against left-handed starters.

The key for LeBlanc, as a fly-ball pitcher, is to keep the ball inside the ballpark. He's allowed only one homer in the past 16.1 innings. He benefits in this cold time of year in pitcher-friendly Safeco Field, which, since last season ranks in the bottom half in terms of home runs allowed. He needs to keep the ball low in the strike zone. He throws in the lower quadrant of the zone at least as often as he does anywhere else. In this part of the zone, he hasn't been hittable in terms of opposing batting average and slugging percentage.

Sean Manaea (4-2, 1.03 ERA) counters for Oakland. Manaea's last two starts against Seattle were poor. He yielded an FIP (like ERA, but factors out luck) over 4 in them. Manaea will encounter the additional difficulty of seeing the same lineup twice in a month. In his last three times where he's faced the same team twice in a month, he's allowed an ERA over 4 every time. He lacks the stuff to pitch consistently well against a team that is so familiar with him. He only has three different pitches, the fastball, change-up and slider.

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Manaea has a harmful tendency to rely too heavily on his change-up. Three of the last four times that he has thrown his change-up over 30% of the time, he threw it much less frequently the next outing and yielded an FIP over 4. After Manaea relies on his change-up so heavily, he tends to transfer this reliance onto the fastball, which is also his favorite pitch. Since last season, the M's rank in the top 10 in both slugging and BA against the fastball at the maximum of Manaea's average velocity, 92 mph, and below it.

With the exception of Houston, which is notorious for struggling against southpaws at home, Manaea has yet to pitch well, meaning with a sub-4 FIP, in his other two road starts. The dominance with which he has garnered fame this season (no-hitter vs. Boston) has primarily come in Oakland. He has been weakest against right-handed hitters on the road. So watch out for Mitch Haniger, who is batting .301 with 10 homers. Jean Segura is batting .313 against southpaws. Seattle had been hot, producing 28 runs in three games before unfortunately only managing two Wednesday thanks to a very low BABIP (batting average of balls in play).

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