Seattle looks for first playoff win in two decades as Toronto takes centre stage
By: Eli Silverstone
The MLB playoffs are starting off with a bang this Friday afternoon as the Toronto Blue Jays (92-70) will be facing off with the Seattle Mariners (90-72) at 4:07 PM ET. The youthful talent will be on full display as both rosters boast some of the top young stars in the game. We’ll also see two passionate fan bases who are starving for playoff success bump heads. Something to note; all three games will be played in Toronto. This will be Toronto's first home playoff game since 2016.
But before any games are played, we need to see how these teams stack up against each other. We’ll be comparing each position unit and form of strategy these teams might use to see where each team has the edge.
This is close. If this were a seven game series, I’d give the edge to Seattle. However, Toronto's top-end arms are on another level. The Blue Jays will throw Cy Young candidate Alek Manoah, ace Kevin Gausman and then Ross Stripling or Jose Berrios out for Game 3 (if needed). As for Seattle, expect to see the newly extended Luis Castillo, former Jays Cy Young winner Robbie Ray and sophomore stud Logan Gilbert for game 3 (if needed). Castillo has been great this year and can always steal a game for Seattle, but Manoah is coming off a season where he almost led the league in ERA (2.65). Ray vs. Gausman will be a battle of great veterans, but Gausman has been just a little better this year. However, I like Seattle's chances if it goes to a game 3 with Gilbert/George Kirby vs Stripling/Berrios.
The Mariners have one of the best bullpens in baseball. They rank second in WHIP (1.08) and sixth in ERA (3.33) while the Jays rank ninth in WHIP (1.22) and 10th in ERA (3.77). In the playoffs, there’s a great need for late inning pitchers who can shut the door and Seattle's high-leverage relievers have been borderline unhittable. Andres Munoz, Penn Murfee and Paul Sewald all boast a 0.96 WHIP or lower. Toronto has some solid guys, but doesn't possess any reliever with a WHIP under 1. Seattle gets the edge here.
Just like how Seattle wins the bullpen unit by a fair margin, this is the Jays' time to shine. Toronto leads the league in batting average (.264) and ranks second in OPS (.760). The Jays have seven players who have been all-stars in the past three years in their lineup for Friday afternoon. Toronto also has five players with an OPS over .800 while Seattle only has one being Julio Rodriguez (.854). Seattle will need a big series from Rodriguez, Eugenio Suarez, Mitch Haniger, and Ty France if they want to pull off some wins.
The M’s rank 2nd in fielding percentage (.988) and boast many slick fielders like 2020 Gold Glover JP Crawford, as well as Julio Rodriguez and Adam Frazier. Toronto ranks 11th in fielding percentage (.986) and are defensively captained by 3x Gold Glove winner and 2x Platinum Glove winner Matt Chapman at 3B. Toronto has some good defensive players but we have to give Seattle the edge here.
Both teams started slow this year. On Toronto’s side, that led to firing Charlie Montoyo and promoting John Schneider. The Jays have been playing a lot better but still go through some inconsistent patches. He’s given his bullpen pitchers defined roles which has helped.
Scott Servais is popular with the fans and has let Rodriguez flourish while also managing a bullpen that became elite under his wing.
Winner: Blue Jays in 2, but both games are very tight.
The Blue Jays star-filled lineup and top two pitchers are just a couple of notches better than what Seattle brings to the field. Then again, if the Mariners starters can hand the lead to that bullpen, they gain complete control. Overall, this is going to be an exciting matchup filled with young superstar talent and great pitching. This series starts an exciting new era for both these teams as they will contend not just this season, but for years to come.