Robbie Ray vs. Yordan Alvarez was part of the Mariners’ ‘plan,’ but here’s why the matchup will likely backfire – CBS Sports

Robbie Ray vs. Yordan Alvarez was part of the Mariners' 'plan,' but here's why the matchup will likely backfire - CBS Sports

The Seattle Mariners scored in the top of the first inning in Game 1 of their ALDS game against the top-ranked Houston Astros. They scored three times in the top of the second and held a 6-2 lead in the middle of the fourth. It was 7-3 going into the eighth. It was still 7-5 with two outs in the ninth inning. And yet, the Mariners still lost.

They controlled the entire game until there were two outs in the ninth, even if the Astros‘ stellar offense was crumbling. The Mariners still really should have won. Just look at the earnings expectation chart:

That’s about as steep as you’ll ever see it. Off a cliff, actually.

what happened Well, the Astros’ loaded offense helped. Yordan Alvarez being the second scariest hitter — after Aaron Judge — on the planet helped, too. But the decision-making of he Mariners was quite suspect.

Alvarez’s walk-off home run came off Robbie Ray, a starting pitcher who had been called up in relief just to face Alvarez.

So why did the Mariners make this decision? Let’s break things down.

Reasons to bring Ray

1. He is left-handed. That’s what it’s about. Ray, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, has been much tougher on lefties throughout his career and has held them to a .212/.260/.387 line this season. He only gave up four home runs to fellow lefties, though it was only in 137 at-bats.

If the Mariners really wanted the squad advantage on Alvarez, it was either Ray or Matthew Boyd. There are no other lefties on the roster. All of the Mariners’ best relievers are right-handed. Ray started Game 2 of the Wild Card Series against the Blue Jays and continued to be called up on Tuesday.

Of course, have you ever seen Alvarez’s splits? He basically hits both sides the same. Here are his career slash lines:

vs. LHP: .303/.381/.582
vs. RHP: .292/.386/.594

He hit .321 against southpaws this season!

If you care about head-to-head history, Alvarez was 1 for 3 with two walks against Ray before this one. It’s too small a sample to really matter, but it wasn’t like there was a ton of success story out there for Ray coming into the matchup.

Reasons not to bring Ray

1. He is a beginner. Starting pitchers are used to longer, more prolonged warmups. All players are regulars anyway, so it’s always risky to bring in a beginner. Some handle it well, but you never know until you try it. Ray has only appeared in relief four times in his entire career, with three of them coming his rookie year in 2014 and one coming in 2020. That’s it.

2. He gives up a lot of home runs. Ray finished second in the AL in home runs allowed this season with 32. Even last year, when he won the Cy Young, he was fourth with 33 allowed. Alvarez is one of the best power hitters in baseball and exactly one play beats you: A home run.

3. He hasn’t been throwing well lately. Ray had a 5.27 ERA with eight home runs allowed in 27 1/3 innings in his last five regular-season starts. He then coughed up four runs on six hits, including two home runs, in three innings in Game 2 of the Wild Card Series.

4. The Astros owned him. Ray has made three starts against the Astros this season. He gave up 23 hits and 13 earned runs in 10 2/3 innings (10.97 ERA, 2.81 WHIP). Astros hitters slashed .442/.509/.865 against him. A small sample? I guess Nothing really ranks as encouraging here, though.

5. He’s a fastball guy. Ray throws fastballs almost 40 percent of the time. That is his most common offer. Alvarez was the second most valuable hitter against fastballs this season (behind Judge, unsurprisingly), hitting .355 with a slugging percentage of .752 against the heater. The homer came on a sinker, but I’m just talking about the thought process to bring in Ray.

On the surface, I have five pretty good reasons not to use Ray when there was one reason — however weak — to use him. It was a no-brainer to avoid pulling the trigger on the move.

“We talked about it coming into the series,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said after the game. “We talked about it before the game today. I looked at it in the seventh inning and said, ‘hey, this could happen.’ So that was the plan going in. End of the day, you have a plan, we still have to execute it .”

It’s true. It was the plan and they had to execute the plan better. But it’s also pretty easy to argue that it was a bad plan.

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