Oakland Athletics catcher Sean Murphy
Oakland Athletics catcher Sean Murphy goes for the tag on Seattle Mariners' J.P. Crawford for the out at home plate in the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Jason Redmond)

SGG Pick of the Day, Sept. 29

Mike Shara

Oakland at Seattle

Frankie Montas – 13-9, 3.48 ERA vs. Logan Gilbert – 6-5, 4.83 ERA

MONEY LINE: Oakland -110 (DraftKings)

RUNLINE: Oakland +1.5 (DraftKings)

OVER/UNDER: 8 (-110) (DraftKings)

If I told you in April that in 2021 the Seattle Mariners would have reigning AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis healthy for less than 150 at-bats, a run differential of -52 and had traded away their closer at the trade deadline (to a division rival!), you probably wouldn’t have bet that they were closer to the Wild Card spot than the veteran-laden roster of the Oakland A’s.  Yet here we are. As of this morning, the Mariners were just ½ a game out of the Wild Card spot, with Oakland 3 ½ games out and all but buried. This team of young Seattle players has coagulated perfectly in spite of some key injuries and strange deadline deals from G.M. Jerry DiPoto. They are 14-7 in extra-inning games and an incredible 33-18 in one-run games but just 11-28 in blowouts. Their Pythagorean record, based on their run differential, is about 15 less wins than they currently have.

There are two ways of seeing this from a bettor’s point of view: (1) the Mariners are a fraud and are overdue to be exposed at crunch time, or (2) they are an absolute unicorn of a young team – with a superb bullpen – who have figured out a way to manufacture key runs and play good defense in close games and not worry about the games where it’s not their day. The Math Nerds™  that rule baseball’s front offices will argue that unicorns don’t exist, and that a team like that will eventually be exposed over a 162 game season. Well, Seattle only has 4 games left and their fairy dust is still very much in the air of the Pacific Northwest.

Their Emerald City magic will face a significant test tonight, as they face Oakland’s most consistent starting pitcher in righty Frankie Montas, who hasn’t lost a decision since mid-August and has allowed more than 3 earned runs in just 1 of his last 16 starts – and he only allowed 4 in that ‘bad’ one. He has struck out 105 batters in his last 89.2 innings, but the A’s have won just 17 of his 31 starts, with a leaky bullpen and mediocre run support limiting his ‘back of the baseball card’ stats. The current Mariners roster has good numbers against him, batting a collective .280/.333/.573. He is 0-1 with a 5.25 ERA vs. the M’s in two starts so far this season.

Seattle will oppose him with rookie Logan Gilbert, who has pitched admirably since his callup in mid-May. The A’s haven’t seen him much yet, but their numbers are pretty dismal against him so far, with a collective slash line of .219/.297/.375. Gilbert has improved as the season has gone on, averaging over 6 innings in his last 3 starts. 

The Mariners have owned Oakland this season, winning 13 of 18 meetings in 2021 and there just isn’t any reason to bet against that trend continuing. I think Gilbert can hang with Montas long enough for this game to get to the bullpens, and from there Seattle will have a distinct advantage, especially at home. Mariners fans will be fired up for this game. Despite down-ballot MVP-type seasons from Matt Olson and Starling Marte, the A’s look dead in the water. I think they cover but lose (what else?) a close one.  I also am taking the UNDER. With Oakland’s best starter throwing, Seattle’s lockdown bullpen and neither offense being particularly hot, I don’t see either team running the score up here.

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