Every Wildcard matchup is electric, and this is no exception.
When the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays meet on Friday, we’ll get Luis Castillo against Alek Manoah. We’ll get Julio Rodriguez against Vladimir Guerrero Jr. We’ll get Bo Bichette and George Springer against Ty France and Eugenio Suarez.
It will be an electric, star-studded series. It will also be one filled with young superstar players, proving the game is in good hands going forward.
But there’s a more pressing matter: Who are we betting on?
Let’s dive into the starting lineups, betting odds, and my prediction for Game 1 of this AL Wildcard series.
Seattle Mariners vs Toronto Blue Jays Odds
The Mariners seem to be far too big of underdogs here.
They opened at +125 for this game and +154 for the series, but both numbers are coming down as the sharp money hits it.
But does that mean the Mariners are an auto-bet here? Let’s break it down.
Seattle Mariners Starting Lineup
CF J. Rodriguez R
1B T. France R
RF M. Haniger R
3B E. Suarez R
DH C. Santana S
C C. Raleigh S
SS J. Crawford L
LF J. Kelenic L
2B A. Frazier L
Seattle Mariners vs Alek Manoah
Alek Manoah will get Cy Young votes this season. He’s been that good.
Putting up almost 200 innings with an ERA under 2.25 is no small achievement. The big boy righty has a plus-fastball and one of the best sliders in the game. He’s managed plenty of strikeouts but has improved mostly this season in avoiding hard contact – his 31.5% Hard Hit rate ranks in the 92nd percentile of qualified pitchers this season.
Alek Manoah has a ___% chance of winning the AL Cy Young Award this year. 🏆 pic.twitter.com/wwbUNNCPtS
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 6, 2022
Manoah rounds out his arsenal with a sinkerball that furthers his weak contact and a changeup that drops off the planet.
Manoah also ended the season strong. The Jays went 5-1 in his last six starts behind his .88 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 41 innings. However, his BABIP was just .196 during the stretch so some regression could be coming.
Can the Mariners take advantage of that?
Everything with the M’s starts with rookie phenom Rodriguez. After a tough April, Rodriguez went on a tear. Julio slashed .297/.355/.550 from May 1st onward, knocking 28 homers and 21 doubles in 111 games.
At the end of the season, Rodriguez ended up leading the Mariners in wRC+ (146) and fWAR (5.3), and those numbers might understate just how good he’s been. He earned a massive contract extension thanks to his performance.
Julio Rodríguez is the 4th rookie age 21-or-younger with a 6.0+ WAR, 145 OPS+ season in MLB history, joining Ted Williams (1939), Albert Pujols (2001) & Mike Trout (2012).
— Alex Mayer (@alexmayer34) October 6, 2022
The Mariners ripped off a 63-31 stretch from July 1st onwards behind one of the best offenses in baseball. The M’s are cooking, posting the fifth-best wRC+ (116) in September and October.
For what it’s worth, this might be a bad matchup. The Mariners posted bottom 10 marks in Weighted Slider, Changeup, and Sinker Runs Created this year.
And in one start against Seattle, Manoah tossed 7 ⅓ innings of two-run ball while striking out seven. But he did walk four, which was a problem down the stretch for Alek.
Toronto Blue Jays Starting Lineup
CF G. Springer R
SS B. Bichette R
1B V. Guerrero R
DH A. Kirk R
3B M. Chapman R
RF T. Hernandez R
LF R. Tapia L
C D. Jansen R
2B W. Merrifield R
Toronto Blue Jays vs Luis Castillo
Everything for Castillo starts with the fastball. The righty has gas.
Not only can he pound in an elevated high-90s four-seam…
Luis Castillo, Elevated 97mph ⛽️ pic.twitter.com/ZukII73IT7
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 1, 2022
But he also can rip in a 98mph sinker with some arm-side run that he can backdoor on righties or break away from lefties.
Luis Castillo, 98mph ⛽️ and 🔥 K Strut. pic.twitter.com/Ckprd2qRN0
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 1, 2022
After a tough 2021, Castillo has bounced back strongly in 2022. All the positive regression he was due for last season has finally come, and he finished the season with a K/9 over 10.00 and an ERA below 3.00.
It’s going to be tough to keep down the Blue Jays. Nobody hits the ball harder than Toronto does, as the lineup led MLB in avg. exit velocity (90.2mph) and Hard-Hit rate (44.3%). The Blue Jays ended up leading the league in expected batting average, too, at .257.
It’s nice when a down year for Vladdy jr. is 32 bombs and 97 RBIs. But there is no question he took a step back this year. His batted-ball statistics are elite, but he chased more and his walk rate dropped significantly.
No matter, as Springer and Bichette stepped up, with those two leading the team in fWAR (for the lineup). The duo combined for 50 home runs and 25 stolen bases, and both finished with a wRC+ over 130.
Springer has been in the postseason before. His leadership qualities will be tremendous for the youngest roster in baseball – and one that went 92-70 this season.
If you don't follow non-Jays baseball too closely, you're in for a treat because you're about to meet Playoff George.
Here are some George Springer stats from his 63 career playoff games:
19 HRs, 43 Runs, 140 wRc+
.349 OBP, .546 SLG
5th highest cWPA all-time.
— Eephus Curve (@eephusasher) October 6, 2022
Overall, the Blue Jays took a step back in discipline but hit the ball harder and the results evened out. Toronto finished second in wRC+ on the full season (118) and second over the past month (128). The Jays finished the season 22-11 after a mid-season slump.
This team is ready.
Seattle Mariners vs Toronto Blue Jays Pick & Prediction
My picks: Seattle Mariners ML (+120) at Fox Bet Sportsbook
The Mariners are taking all the smart money. They’ve been just as deadly from an offensive standpoint as the Blue Jays and have played just as well.
But the Mariners have a huge advantage in the bullpen. Seattle was a top-10 bullpen in terms of reliever xFIP over the last 30 days (3.54), while the Blue Jays were in the back half of the league in both reliever xFIP (3.91) and ERA (4.13) during that stretch.
Plus, I’m worried about Manoah. He posted an ERA below 1.00 over the past month, but his FIP was over 3.00 and he walked 12 batters in 41 innings. I think he could be slightly vulnerable at home in Game 1.
The value is with Seattle.