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Series Preview: Mariners (84-68) at Rangers (64-88)

The Mariners wrap up their road schedule this season with a three-game set in Arlington.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Texas Rangers Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

A couple of convincing series wins is too little, too late for the Mariners. Winning their season series against both the Angels (11-8) and the Astros (10-9) is a small consolation. With seven games against the Rangers and three against the Athletics to finish the season, the Mariners have a good chance to win their season series against each of their division rivals—a feat they haven’t accomplished since 2002. They only need to win four of seven against Texas and avoid a sweep against Oakland to secure those winning records.

At a Glance

Mariners Rangers
Mariners Rangers
Game 1 Friday, September 21, 5:05 pm
RHP Erasmo Ramírez RHP Ariel Jurado
50% 50%
Game 2 Saturday, September 22, 5:05 pm
LHP Marco Gonzales LHP Mike Minor
46% 54%
Game 3 Sunday, September 23, 12:05 pm
LHP Wade LeBlanc RHP Adrian Sampson
51% 49%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Mariners Rangers Edge
Overview Mariners Rangers Edge
Batting (wRC+) 101 (8th in AL) 92 (12th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (UZR) -12.7 (12th) 22.1 (6th) Rangers
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 100 (6th) 118 (14th) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 92 (4th) 96 (8th) Mariners

The prospect of facing the Rangers seven times to close out the season isn’t exactly exciting. Like the Mariners, the Rangers face a difficult choice this offseason. Their roster still has some promising young players on it but there are far too many holes to fill to really commit to trying to reload for next year. After graduating or trading away a lot of their minor league talent a few years ago, their next wave of prospects probably won’t be ready until 2020 at the earliest. Coincidentally, their new ballpark is scheduled to open in 2020, too. Until then, they’re kind of stuck in this weird middle-ground waiting for their prospects (and their stadium) while their current MLB talent grows older.

The Rangers biggest problem has been their pitching staff. Their patchwork rotation has only gotten more threadbare as the season has progressed. Mike Minor and Bartolo Colón have been the two constants this season, and that’s as damning as it could get. There’s a smattering of low-ceiling pitching prospects in the pipeline but the Rangers will probably have to look outside the organization to solve their pitching woes.

Rangers Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Shin-Soo Choo LF L 639 0.334 123 0.6
Rougned Odor 2B L 497 0.308 102 -0.1
Elvis Andrus SS R 397 0.287 76 2.0
Nomar Mazara RF L 504 0.300 103 -1.4
Adrián Beltré DH R 454 0.316 98 -1.3
Jurickson Profar 3B S 555 0.266 109 4.3
Joey Gallo CF L 545 0.258 112 2.4
Robinson Chirinos C R 408 0.301 101 -1.6
Ronald Guzmán 1B L 402 0.294 88 0.8

Nomar Mazara was one of those top prospects that graduated to the majors the last few years. Unfortunately for the Rangers, his developmental path has been rather sluggish. Development isn’t linear, and he’s still just 23, but he’s looking more like a complimentary piece rather than a star to build around. He has shown some signs of progress this season, but a career high ISO has also come with a career high ground ball rate. When he’s able to elevate his batted balls, he can do some damage, but putting more than half of his balls in play on the ground is a recipe only Eric Hosmer could appreciate.

The biggest success story for the Rangers this year has been the breakout season Jurickson Profar has finally put together. A perennial disappointment after years of top prospect billing, Profar has spent time at four different infield positions this year and has finally found some success at the plate. Like Mazara, he’s younger than you might expect—just 25—but has only a single season of arbitration left before hitting free agency. He probably won’t be part of the next great Rangers team.

Probable Pitchers

MLB: Texas Rangers at San Diego Padres

RHP Ariel Jurado

43 2/3 8.5% 8.5% 15.6% 51.8% 7.01 5.62

A few years ago, Ariel Jurado was rising through the Rangers organization as a promising pitching prospect, peaking at #3 on FanGraph’s organizational prospect rankings in 2017. His scouting report indicated great control of a sinking fastball and two okay secondary offerings. The profile was a low-ceiling, back-end starter in the mold of Martín Pérez. Unfortunately, TINSTAAPP struck in full force last year. Jurado struggled mightily in his second stint in Double-A as his fastball suddenly became much more hittable. He repeated Double-A for the third time this year and things didn’t get much better. With nothing to play for, the Rangers called him up in August to see if exposing him to major league coaching could solve his issues. So far, he’s been just as hittable and his trademark control hasn’t exactly translated to the majors either.

LHP Mike Minor

152 1/3 20.7% 5.7% 12.1% 34.9% 4.14 4.36

Pitch Arsenal

Pitch Type Frequency Velocity (mph) Spin Rate (z-score) Whiff+ BIP+
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity (mph) Spin Rate (z-score) Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 48.6% 93.2 2543 (2.13) 106 94
Changeup 18.7% 86.3 2198 (2.13) 123 116
Slider 20.9% 87.8 2520 (0.83) 55 116
Curveball 10.7% 80.9 2444 (-0.30) 87 132

After a very successful year in the Royals bullpen last season, many were curious to see if the Rangers could be successful in transitioning Mike Minor back to the rotation. Like you’d expect, the velocity boost he saw in short stints as a reliever hasn’t translated over to starting, but his velocity has trended upwards as this season has gone on. He’s also increased the usage of his changeup in the second half, an obvious improvement to his pitch mix since both of his breaking balls have been extremely mediocre this year. The combination of increased fastball velocity and more changeups has helped him add five points to his strikeout rate after the All-Star break and lower his ERA to 2.72. He is still a bit homer prone so his second half FIP has dropped to just 4.00 (from 4.56 in the first half), but the improvements he’s made to his repertoire seem to have his career rejuvenation back on track.

RHP Adrian Sampson (Triple-A)

126 2/3 15.8% 4.5% 7.6% 42.2% 3.77 4.35

Back in 2016, Adrian Sampson made a single start for the Mariners before being shut down with an elbow injury that derailed his career. He was picked up by the Rangers after that season, rehabbed with them in 2017, and was finally healthy again this year. Sampson spent all year at Triple-A before being called up in September when rosters expanded. He finally made his second major league start a few weeks ago and will be making his fourth start of his career against the team he debuted with. He has good control of a four-pitch repertoire, though none of his pitches really standout. Like Jurado, he’s a low-ceiling, back-end starter filling out innings for the rebuilding Rangers.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 95-57 0.625 -- W-W-L-W-L
Athletics 92-61 0.601 3.5 L-L-L-W-W
Mariners 84-68 0.553 11.0 W-L-W-L-W
Angels 75-78 0.490 20.5 L-W-W-L-L
Rangers 64-88 0.421 31.0 W-L-L-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Yankees 93-59 0.612 +1.5 L-L-W-W-L
Athletics 92-61 0.601 -- L-L-L-W-W
Rays 85-67 0.559 6.5 W-W-W-W-L
Mariners 84-68 0.553 7.5 W-L-W-L-W
Angels 75-78 0.490 17.0 L-W-W-L-L

There’s just one interesting race remaining in the American League: can the Athletics overtake the Yankees for the top spot in the Wild Card race and the right to host the play-in game. The Yankees lead by a game and a half, but the A’s might have the more favorable schedule over the next week and a half. Both teams finish their home schedule this weekend with the A’s hosting the Twins and the Yankees welcoming the Orioles.