MLB Regular Season

Matchup: Los Angeles Angels at Seattle Mariners

Date/Time: September 15, 10:10 p.m. ET

Pitching Matchup: Nick Tropeano (1-2, 5.66) vs. Felix Hernandez (17-8, 3.49)

MLB Betting Odds From BetDSI Sportsbook

Moneyline: Seattle -185

Total: 7

The reports of the demise of Felix Hernandez seem to have been premature. He’ll take the mound in search of his 18th win of the season as the Seattle Mariners host the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Tuesday night. Nick Tropeano will take the mound for the Angels, who are on the fringes of the AL Wild Card chase. The Angels were blasted 10-1 on Monday night after a devastating loss on Sunday to the Houston Astros and that may be a sign of things to come for the Angels the rest of the way. Seattle is a big favorite with its ace on the mound in this matchup.

The Angels are four games out of the wild card hunt and just 4.5 games out of the division, but it certainly seems like a lot more than that. On June 23, the Angels were 36-36. By the All-Star Break, they were 48-40 and had moved into first place in the AL West. They went 7-3 out of the Break and held a one-game lead into July 28 action. The Angels lost that game and fell to 55-44. They are just 17-27 since and only five of those 27 losses have been by one run. The Mariners have never been a factor in the playoff race. They haven’t been over .500 since April 6 and last held a share of the lead on April 12. To their credit, the Mariners are playing hard for potentially lame duck manager Lloyd McClendon with a 9-4 mark this month.

Nick Tropeano will try to slow down the Mariners on Tuesday night. Tropeano, a fringe rotation starter with a quality changeup but not much else, has made just four starts for the Angels this season. He has a 5.66 ERA, but a 2.08 FIP and a 4.00 xFIP. Tropeano has had no luck whatsoever with men on base so far. His 59.4 percent strand rate and .394 BABIP against are both signs of just how badly balls in play have gone for him. These starts are really spread out, however, with one in April, one in July, one in August, and one in September, so we can’t really gather much data from these outings.

Theoretically, Tropeano, who tends to leave his sinker up in the zone a little bit, should have success at Safeco Field with the pitcher-friendly elements, but I wouldn’t be so sure about that. Scouts do rave about Tropeano’s pitchability and ability to manage his emotions on the mound, which allows the raw stuff to play up a little bit. We haven’t seen it at the big league level yet, however, and it’s tough to say when we will. The command seems to be a problem, given a .353 BABIP against in Triple-A this season over 16 starts. Tropeano isn’t getting hit out of the ballpark, but hitters are making quality contact.

For the longest time, we could rely on Felix Hernandez for more than a strikeout per inning, at least seven innings with two or fewer runs allowed, and not many walks. Is the workload catching up with the 29-year-old? Maybe our expectations are too high. A “bad” season for Hernandez consists of a 3.49 ERA, 3.52 FIP, and a 3.24 xFIP. Of course, the increase in home runs and regression to circa 2011 walk rates is a problem, but Hernandez is still one of the game’s elites. Some baseball insiders believe that the 2,000-inning threshold is when pitchers start to deteriorate. There are plenty of examples to the contrary, but King Felix will cross 2,250 career innings if he throws 6.1 innings here.

Felix has had some losses of velocity and the raw stuff does seem less sharp this season. Since back-to-back bad outings on August 21 and 26, Felix has allowed five earned over 24 innings with 24 strikeouts and five walks. He just hasn’t passed the eye test. The stats tell us a lot and so do the eyes. The thing about Felix is that it seems like he has had to battle through his good starts and other starts have completely gotten away from him. Of his 72 runs allowed this season, 32 of them have come in four of his 28 starts. He has also allowed four runs in a start on four occasions. Which Felix do we get in this start?

MLB Prediction: Seattle Mariners

I’m not sure which Felix we get, but I’m not ready to back Nick Tropeano either. Also, the Angels seem to be in one of their lulls again. They had one stretch of really good play and have been unimpressive otherwise throughout the 2015 season. I wouldn’t lay the price with Felix here, but I’d play the game alternatively by taking the Anaheim team total under if you like the Mariners. If it loses, at least you paid a lot less juice than you would have otherwise.