Both the Seattle Mariners and Boston Red Sox entered this season with high expectations.
Seattle was an up-and-coming team that had just signed the defending AL Cy Young winner to be its ace. Plus, a rising star in prospect Julio Rodriguez was on the cusp of breaking out.
Meanwhile, Boston fell just two games short of reaching the World Series last year and returned almost its entire core.
Both have disappointed in the early going.
The two teams have posted a combined 30-43 record this season and a combined -34 run differential. Boston finds itself 12.5 games back of the Yankees in the AL East race, while Seattle is eight games back of the Astros in the AL West.
Therefore, these two are looking to save some face. A series win here for either team would be massive.
So, who has the edge?
Let’s dive into the starting lineups, betting odds, and my prediction for this Game 1.
Seattle Mariners vs Boston Red Sox Odds
As the home team, the Red Sox are going to be the favorite. Plus, Boston has the known commodity on the mound, while Seattle has the unknown.
Neither team has shown valuable in their respective spots. The Mariners are now 9-17 as an underdog, while the Red Sox are 7-9 as a favorite.
But these have been two overvalued, poor-performing teams. We’ll have to look further to find any value in this game.
Seattle Mariners Starting Lineup
2B Adam Frazier L
1B Ty France R
CF Julio Rodriguez R
DH Eugenio Suarez R
LF Jesse Winker L
3B Abraham Toro S
RF Steven Souza R
SS J.P. Crawford L
C Luis Torrens R
Seattle Mariners vs Rich Hill
Rich Hill is 42 years old. So, let’s preface any discussion of Dick Mountain with that fact.
Hill also recently tossed three straight scoreless starts. Here’s what he did between April 24 and May 5:
- 4/24 @ TBR: 4.0 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, 1 K
- 4/29 @ BAL: 4.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 4 K
- 5/5 vs LAA: 5.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K
Hill wasn’t excellent in his last outing against the Rangers. But, Red Sox fans are quite pleased with this innings eater.
But, is this sustainable?
Every aging pitcher is going to replace strikeouts with soft contact. Hill is punching out an abysmally low 6.75 hitters per nine innings this season, and that number would be a career-low over a full season. But he’s kept his avg. exit velocity around 87mph, which ranks above the 75th percentile of qualified pitchers and has kept his xERA in the low-3.00s.
Hill’s ground-ball rate and strand rate have remained steady, although his HR/FB rate has been cut in half and should slightly jump. His .268 BABIP seems low, but not when you take into account that his career-average BABIP is a remarkably low .275.
Hill likely won’t boast a sub-3.00 ERA for a full season, but this isn’t too far off where he should end up.
I think this boasts badly for Seattle. The Mariners are relatively disciplined at the plate, but they’re tied for dead last in MLB with an 87.3mph avg. exit velocity.
Hill will allow contact, but I don’t see where in the lineup Seattle will find hard contact. Eugenio Suarez, Ty France, and JP Crawford lead the team in SLG% and home runs, but none have an avg. exit velocity above 88mph.
Boston Red Sox Starting Lineup
CF Kiké Hernandez R
3B Rafael Devers L
DH J.D Martinez R
SS Xander Bogaerts R
LF Alex Verdugo L
2B Trevor Story R
1B Franchy Cordero L
C Christian Vazquez R
RF Jackie Bradley Jr L
Boston Red Sox vs George Kirby
Despite all the doom and gloom, I’m still high on this Boston lineup.
Yes, the Red Sox are chasing more than ever. And yes, they’re swinging at more pitches outside the zone than any team in the league. But these are correctable mishaps, and the Red Sox are mashing the ball.
On the season, Boston has posted a .293 wOBA but a .327 xwOBA. And I think the luck is about to turn, as the Red Sox have posted the seventh-best wRC+ over the past week (132). During that stretch, the lineup has posted a .807 OPS.
This is such a talented lineup. The Red Sox still lead the league in doubles (80) and are 10th in hits (292). Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and J.D. Martinez all have an OPS+ above 150, and Martinez is working on an 18-game hit streak.
If I were a Boston fan, I’d hope they could deliver against a Seattle prospect. But it’s tough to decipher George Kirby.
Kirby is Seattle’s No. 3 pitching prospect, and he’s proven his worth through two starts. He’s gone five innings in each with just one run allowed, striking out eight in the process.
Kirby has a plus-fastball (four-seam) that he compliments with a slider, and he was able to strike out north of 11.50 batters per nine innings in Double-A.
Kirby has talent, but there are some concerning metrics surrounding his initial MLB innings. His .233 BABIP is low, and he has yet to allow a homer. Plus, his 94.4mph avg. exit velocity doesn’t inspire confidence.
But this is far too small a sample size to judge Kirby. This will be a huge test against Boston.
Look for a fastball-slider combo with a changeup mixed in. All three pitches can be plus-pitches when needed, so it could be a tough night out for the Red Sox.
Seattle Mariners vs Boston Red Sox Pick & Prediction
My pick: Seattle Mariners ML (+120 at Fox Bet)
Some sharp money has already come in on Seattle, which I attribute to the potential of Kirby.
The young starting pitcher is potentially undervalued due to how unknown he is. It’s clear that Kirby has talent, and we could see him being favored in this spot in starts in the future.
Therefore, we should take advantage of that now. I’d project this game closer to a coin flip, and will happily back the team catching +120 or better on the ML in that spot.
Either way, there’s no reason to trust Hill too much. And while Seattle has the seventh-best reliever xFIP this season (3.48), Boston has the 22nd best (3.98). So, the back-end advantage remains firmly with the Mariners.
However, if the line moves and you’re getting less than +120 with Seattle, I’d likely stay away. I’d need something around +118 to see value with the Mariners ML at Fenway.