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- Mariners (.247 BA, 3.96 RPG) vs. Angels (.259 BA, 4.65 RPG)
The Mariners spent big in the offseason to shore up their offensive attack, and while Robinson Cano has performed at an elite level once again, the team's other acquisitions wound up being flops.
However, Kyle Seager and Dustin Ackley have both elevated their games this season, and the deadline pickups of Austin Jackson, Kendrys Morales and Chris Denorfia have helped turn this into a unit that is at least respectable from top to bottom.
On the other hand, the Angels are perhaps the best offensive team in baseball right now, led by AL MVP front-runner Mike Trout and a rejuvenated Albert Pujols.
It goes beyond those two, though, as the unheralded middle infield duo of Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar have been rock solid. Kole Calhoun is enjoying a breakout season in the leadoff spot, and catcher Chris Iannetta has been an on-base machine with a .375 OBP.
If Los Angeles can get Josh Hamilton going, this offense could be lethal come October, and that would help take a lot of pressure off an inexperienced rotation.
Starting Pitching Overview
- Mariners (3.36 SP ERA) vs. Angels (3.63 SP ERA)
- Hisashi Iwakuma (13-6, 2.90 ERA) vs. Jered Weaver (15-8, 3.56)
- James Paxton (5-1, 1.91 ERA) vs. Matt Shoemaker (14-4, 3.14 ERA)
Felix Hernandez (14-5, 2.18 ERA) vs. Hector Santiago (4-7, 3.28 ERA)
Chris Young (12-7, 3.46 ERA) vs. C.J. Wilson (10-9, 4.66 ERA)
The big story here is the Angels' loss of ace Garrett Richards to a season-ending knee injury, but the team has rallied around that to this point and has thrown the ball better in the past month than at any other point in the season.
Jered Weaver has returned to the role of staff ace and is having a very nice season, but it's rookie Matt Shoemaker who could really make a difference in the postseason. He's gone 7-2 with a 1.67 ERA since the All-Star break.
"When G went down we all knew we were all going to pick each other up," Shoemaker said of Richards to Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times. "We were going to pick it up for us, pick it up for him. That's a testament to such a good group of guys that we have. We're able to do that and rally around each other and keep getting better."
A potential Game 4 matchup of C.J. Wilson and Chris Young would be interesting, as both pitchers have struggled at times this season, and Young in particular has been roughed up of late. If he continues to struggle, Seattle could tap Roenis Elias or Taijuan Walker to make that start.
Not having Felix Hernandez available until Game 3 works against the Mariners, but they have a legitimate second ace in Hisashi Iwakuma to take the ball in Game 1.
That would make rookie James Paxton the likely Game 2 starter, setting up a matchup of perhaps the two best rookie pitchers in baseball right now.
"With way James Paxton is throwing now, alongside Felix and Iwakuma, Mariners would be a dangerous postseason team if they get in," tweeted Jon Morosi of Fox Sports.
The advantage has to go to the Mariners with their pair of aces, but the Angels rotation is far from the glaring weakness that some have made it out to be.
- Mariners (2.42 RP ERA) vs. Angels (3.32 RP ERA)
This was a slam-dunk advantage for the Mariners heading into July and still is, as they have the best bullpen ERA in baseball.
However, the Angels' relief corps has been significantly improved since the additions of Huston Street (19 G, 11 SV, 1.00 ERA) and Jason Grilli (31 G, 2.36 ERA). Those two are joined by Kevin Jepsen (66 G, 2.03 ERA) and Joe Smith (66 G, 2.07 ERA) to form a terrific foursome at the back of the pen.
Meanwhile, the Mariners have had the best bullpen in the league this year. They may not have the lights-out trio that the Washington Nationals or Kansas City Royals do, but they have seven truly reliable arms.
Closer Fernando Rodney (60 G, 41 SV, 2.51 ERA) has been joined by left-handers Joe Beimel (48 G, 1.99 ERA) and Charlie Furbush (57 G, 3.76 ERA) and righties Yoervis Medina (56 G, 2.27 ERA), Danny Farquhar (55 G, 2.43 ERA), Tom Wilhelmsen (48 G, 2.02 ERA) and Dominic Leone (48 G, 2.34 ERA).
Both of these teams are capable of shortening games with their late-inning arms, but the Mariners are better equipped to deal with a short outing from their starter, as Elias and/or Walker will likely join the aforementioned group.
All stats courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted and accurate through Wednesday, Sept. 3.