The AL West came down to the wire last season, as it took the Houston Astros until September to clinch the division. The Oakland Athletics essentially came out of nowhere and pushed Houston all the way to the end. Oakland won 97 games last season, which was good enough to secure the second Wild Card spot in the AL.
Some wondered whether the A’s would be able to repeat their strong showing again this year. While they didn’t really kick it into gear last year until the summer months, they’ve gotten off to a fairly inauspicious start in 2019. The A’s are currently just 19-23 on the season, which is good for fourth place in the division.
The Mariners were expected by many to finish dead-last. They still might, but this team has generally exceeded expectations to this point. Seattle has come back down to earth following a blazing start, though, and their 20-23 record has them in third place. The Astros’ 6.5-game lead atop the division is the largest division lead in the game, so it’s fair to wonder whether Houston’s third consecutive division crown has already been sewn up.
|2019 ATR Home||10-12-0||9-9-0|
|2019 ATR Away||7-13-0||14-11-0|
|2019 O/U Home||8-14-0||11-6-1|
|2019 O/U Away||13-7-0||18-6-1|
Mike Fiers has been in the midst of a mediocre season. The veteran right-hander is currently sporting a 5.48 ERA through his first nine starts of the season. He has allowed 28 earned runs through his first 46 innings of work.
However, he had an outing to remember last time out. Fiers twirled the 300th no-hitter in major league history against the Reds. It was actually Fiers’ second career no-no, as he accomplished the feat as a member of the Astros against the Dodgers four years ago. Fiers threw 131 pitches in last week’s no-hitter, but he’s apparently no worse for the wear.
Fiers owns a low 17.4% strikeout rate on the season. Rather than generating swings-and-misses, he manages to get through games by generating lots of fly balls. That tendency will play for him in his spacious home ballpark, but going into T-Mobile park tonight could be an issue.
Seattle’s home park is much more friendly for home run hitters, and he’ll be facing a Mariners offense that has been lighting up scoreboards all year. The Mariners lead the big leagues in home runs (78) and runs scored (230). Unsurprisingly, the Mariners have also been the most profitable “over” bet in the majors so far this season. Seattle’s over/under record of 29-12-2 is the best in the league by a massive margin.
Fiers has already allowed eight home runs this season after conceding 32 long balls a season ago. Fly-ball pitchers tend to give up more home runs than usual, and Fiers’ lack of strikeout ability helps inflate his home run totals. The Mariners certainly have an offense that profiles well against him.
Yusei Kikuchi is one of the more highly-touted Japanese prospects we’ve seen come to the big leagues in several years. The left-hander has had an uneven start to his first season in the majors, but he has rounded into form of late. On the year, the 27-year-old is 2-1 with a 3.54 ERA across his first nine starts.
He has had some rough showings, but he’s been strong in back-to-back starts. Kikuchi struck out a career-high 10 over seven innings against the Indians two starts ago, and he followed that up by holding the Yankees to just a run on three hits in seven innings last time out in New York.
Kikuchi has a middling 19.8% strikeout rate, but he’s kept the walks down and hard hits haven’t been much of an issue. That said, he has given up five homers in those nine starts, and this will be the first time he’ll have faced a team for the second time. The A’s got a look at Kikuchi when the teams met in Japan to begin this season back on March 21.
The over/under for this game is currently set at 8.5 runs, which surprised me. Fiers may have thrown a no-hitter in his last start but, on the balance of the entire season, he has been pretty mediocre. Fiers also faced these Mariners in Japan a couple of months ago, and it didn’t go well at all. He was tagged for five runs on four hits in just three innings of work in an eventual 9-7 defeat.
The A’s haven’t been as productive at the plate as the Mariners have been, but this is still an offense with no shortage of power. Khris Davis returned to the lineup over the weekend after missing a few days with a hip injury. Assuming he’s feeling good tonight, his presence obviously gives the Oakland lineup a major boost in the power department. This is still an Oakland team that finished third in the majors in home runs (227) a season ago.
In case you couldn’t tell, I like the over in this game. I wouldn’t be surprised if the total started to rise as the day progressed, so I’d be betting the over on 8.5 runs while I still can. There will be plenty of runs scored in Seattle this evening.
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