TORONTO — Breaking down the Mariners’ American League Wild Card Series against the Blue Jays, which starts Friday in Toronto.
Ty France: After a blazing start to the season — a .316/.390/.476 slash line in his first 70 games — that saw him make the AL All-Star team, France cooled off significantly in the second half. The combination of nagging injuries, timing issues and an over-aggressive approach, dropped his numbers to .276/.340/.437 with 20 homers and 94 RBI.
Vlad Guerrero Jr.: After finishing second in AL MVP voting last season, Guerrero couldn’t replicate his prodigious numbers in 2022. He still played in 160 games, posting a .274/.339/.480 slash line with 32 homers and 97 RBI.
Edge: Blue Jays
Adam Frazier: With Toronto expected to start all right-handed pitchers, Frazier will get the start over Dylan Moore. It’s been a disappointing year for him going into free agency. He’s posted a .238/.301/.311 slash line with three homers and 42 RBI. He came into this season with a career .281/.344/.412 slash line.
Whit Merrifield Jr.: The veteran utility player will likely see playing time over Cavan Biggio and Santiago Espinal, who has been out with an oblique injury. Merrifield, who was an All-Star with Kansas City, has struggled. He’s had a .281/.323/.446 slash line with five homers and 16 RBI in 44 games since joining the Jays.
Eugenio Suarez: Suarez, who has been dealing with a broken index finger on his throwing hand, has been a major contributor to the Mariners’ success. In 150 games, he’s posted a .236/.332/.459 slash line with a team-high 31 homers and 87 RBI.
Matt Chapman: A player the Mariners tried to acquire during the A’s fire sale, Chapman posted a .229/.324/.433 slash line with 37 homers and 76 RBI while playing his usual strong defense. It’s not the type of production of his pre-hip surgery days seasons in Oakland.
J.P. Crawford: After a blazing first month of the season, Crawford has struggled to find consistent production. Nagging injuries to a knee and lower back have lingered and he’s had some bad luck, but he’s still got a .243/.339/.336 slash line with six homers and 42 RBI.
Bo Bichette: There might not be a hotter hitter over the last month of the season. Bichette’s .406/.444/.662 slash line in September are a major reason the Blue Jays were able to secure home-field advantage. Bichette will boot the occasional routine ground ball, but his offense makes up for those miscues.
Edge: Blue Jays
Jarred Kelenic: Recalled in the final weeks, Kelenic’s numbers over 14 games don’t look great, a .180/.293/.420 slash line with three homers and five RBI. But the M’s are pleased with his swing changes and approach. He is a significant upgrade defensively over Jesse Winker, who is out with a neck issue.
Raimel Tapia: Filling in for the injured Lourdes Gurriel, the speedy Tapia has posted a .265/.292/.380 slash line in 128 games. He’s a solid fourth outfielder that’s starting. Toronto might turn to veteran Jackie Bradley Jr.
Edge: Blue Jays
Julio Rodriguez: The expected rookie of the year has put together a monster season despite missing 30 games because of various injuries. Rodriguez posted a .284/.345/.509 slash line with 28 homers and 75 RBI.
George Springer: The veteran has dealt with injuries that cost him games, but the Mariners shouldn’t throw him a first-pitch fastball. He’s posted a .267/.342/.472 slash line with 25 homers and 76 RBI.
Mitch Haniger: Injured for much of the season, Haniger has started to turn it on in the final week of the season. He has 13 hits, including two doubles, four homers and 10 RBI in his last nine games. His overall numbers aren’t eye-popping with a .246/.308/.429 slash line.
Teoscar Hernandez: After a 2021 season where he made the All-Star team, Hernandez’s numbers dipped in 2022. He posted a .267/.316/.491 slash line with 25 homers and 77 RBI.
Cal Raleigh: The Big Dumper has blasted 27 homers, which is the most by any catcher in baseball. An aching left thumb that bothers him when he catches certain pitches and bats right-handed has kept him out of the lineup at times, but with the Jays starting all right-handed pitchers, he will start every game if healthy.
Alejandro Kirk: A beer keg that can hit baseballs all over the field, Kirk was an All-Star this season. He has a .285/.372/.415 slash line with 14 homers and 63 RBI.
Edge: Jays only because of Raleigh’s thumb
Mariners: Luis Castillo, Robbie Ray, Logan Gilbert and George Kirby. The four starters have the ability strike people out and work deep into games. Ray has struggled at times, including recently, with allowing home runs. But he’s had plenty of success in the Rogers Centre.
Blue Jays: Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman, Jose Berrios and Ross Stripling. Had Berrios been better this season, the quartet of pitchers might have edged out the Mariners. Manoah is a horse that will work deep into games. Gausman’s splitfinger will cause problems.
Mariners: The bullpen has produced a 4.1 wins above replacement this season, which is seventh best in the AL. The relievers have combined for a 9.70 strikeouts per nine inning which is the third highest, while their 2.99 walks per nine innings is the second lowest.
Blue Jays: Toronto’s bullpen has a 3.0 WAR with an 8.92 strikeouts per nine innings and a 3.12 walks per nine innings. Closer Jordan Romano racked up 36 saves this season and posted a 2.11 ERA in 63 appearances with 73 strikeouts in 64 innings.
Mariners: They will carry two extra catchers along with utility players Abraham Toro and Dylan Moore. Veteran switch hitter Carlos Santana is expected to serve as the designated hitter. The Mariners will have outfielder Taylor Trammell and possibly Cade Marlowe as additional bench players.
Blue Jays: Toronto’s bench is yet to be determined based on the health of Gurriel and Espinal. Bradley Jr. has plenty of postseason experience and backup catcher Danny Jansen, who has hit 15 homers, represents their best power threat.
Mitch Haniger: In his last nine games, Haniger is slashing .371/.425/.771 with four homers and 10 runs batted in.
Julio Rodriguez: After coming off the IL (back) for the season-ending series against Detroit, Rodriguez went 5 for 11 with a double and homer. But if you go back to Sept. 1, Rodriguez finished the year on a .394/.456/.747 run with seven homers in 19 games.
Bo Bichette: Bichette has been one of the hottest hitters in the league in the second half, putting up a .921 OPS (.337/.378/.543) with 10 homers and 43 RBI.
Alek Manoah: Toronto’s Game 1 starter went 4-0 with a 0.88 ERA in six starts in September and October.
J.P. Crawford: The veteran shortstop has just one homer since June 1 and has a .211/.332/.268 slash line since the All-Star break.
Jarred Kelenic: This is a deceptive one. Kelenic has just one hit in his last 23 at-bats since a two-homer game against Texas, but the Mariners are delighted with the growth in his mechanics, swing decisions and process and believe he’s hitting in bad luck.
Matt Chapman: The third baseman, a nemesis of the Mariners during his days with Oakland, hit .198 in August and .194 in September/October.
Alejandro Kirk: The 5-foot-8, 245-pound catcher, an All-Star in 2022, hit .188/.291/.246 with just one homer in his last 28 games.
Matchup to watch
Andrés Muñoz vs. George Springer, Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Muñoz, in his first full season with the Mariners, has been one of baseball’s most dominant relievers in the second half of the season. Figure he will be called on early and often to face the top of Blue Jays’ lineup. Can he cool down one of the hottest offenses in MLB?