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Series Preview: Mariners (86-72) vs. Rangers (66-92)

The Mariners wrap up their season with a four-game set against the Rangers.

Texas Rangers v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

It’s been pretty difficult to watch the Mariners over the last few months. Their downward spiral in July and August stole a lot of joy from this summer. Frustration slowly turned to a quiet resignation as we realized that the Mariners just couldn’t make up the vast divide between them and the Athletics. Most of the games in September have been pretty meaningless and this last series against the Rangers feels like a formality of the MLB schedule. I wouldn’t blame you if you simply checked out and ignored these final four games.

But my heart is torn. These are the last games of the regular season, and no matter how frustrating the summer has been, we’re on the brink of a five-month hiatus of the game we love. We’ll be deprived of Edwin Díaz’s slider and James Paxton’s fastball until March. Dee Gordon’s beaming smile won’t grace our screens regularly until spring training. This may be the last time we see Nelson Cruz in a Mariners uniform (please re-sign Cruz). I guess what I’m trying to say is enjoy these last few games. Baseball is good and fun. There are no strings attached to these games, no postseason implications. They won’t alter the trajectory of the franchise in any meaningful way. So just enjoy them for what they are: four baseball games at the end of September between our favorite baseball club and the dang Texas Rangers.

At a Glance

Rangers Mariners
Rangers Mariners
Game 1 Thursday, September 27, 7:10 pm
RHP Ariel Jurado LHP Marco Gonzales
39% 61%
Game 2 Friday, September 28, 7:10 pm
LHP Martín Pérez LHP Wade LeBlanc
39% 61%
Game 3 Saturday, September 29, 6:10 pm
RHP Adrian Sampson LHP James Paxton
38% 62%
Game 4 Sunday, September 30, 12:10 pm
RHP Yovani Gallardo RHP Mike Leake
40% 60%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Mariners Rangers Edge
Overview Mariners Rangers Edge
Batting (wRC+) 102 (7th in AL) 91 (12th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (UZR) -7.5 (11th) 27.1 (5th) Rangers
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 101 (6th) 119 (13th) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 94 (6th) 98 (8th) Mariners

I don’t really have anything to add about the Rangers that I didn’t already write in the series preview last week. The organization is in a weird limbo until their new stadium opens in 2020. With their most promising prospects at least a couple years away, they’re stuck with the talent they have now for the foreseeable future.

Rangers Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Shin-Soo Choo LF L 657 0.327 118 0.6
Rougned Odor 2B L 518 0.310 101 -0.1
Elvis Andrus SS R 416 0.287 76 2.0
Nomar Mazara RF L 524 0.295 98 -1.4
Adrián Beltré DH R 470 0.312 99 -1.3
Jurickson Profar 3B S 580 0.266 109 4.3
Joey Gallo CF L 565 0.253 113 2.4
Robinson Chirinos C R 422 0.302 100 -1.6
Ronald Guzmán 1B L 416 0.299 91 0.8

It’s been weird to see Willie Calhoun sit on the bench for most of September. He’s the closest thing they have to a top prospect but they’ve elected to keep him off the field for the most of September. Perhaps it’s because they’re not convinced he can play the field and they’re more interested in giving Adrián Beltré a final hurrah in a Rangers uniform as their designated hitter. The Rangers will need to figure out where to play Calhoun eventually, his offensive ceiling is too high to let him flounder on the bench.

Probable Pitchers

Texas Rangers v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

RHP Ariel Jurado

48 2/3 8.6% 8.1% 13.7% 50.3% 6.66 5.35

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 Martín Pérez

83 2/3 12.9% 8.0% 18.2% 50.7% 6.13 5.63

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 15.9% 93.0 2106 (-0.88) 81 86
Sinker 51.2% 93.0 2007 (-0.90) 110 117
Changeup 17.2% 84.5 1759 (0.30) 106 111
Slider 6.8% 84.0 2287 (-0.14)
Curveball 9.0% 78.2 2631 (0.73) 43 50
Pérez’s slider does not have a large enough sample size for pitch arsenal scores.

After two relatively healthy seasons, Martín Pérez has spent most of this year on the disabled list. An injury to his non-throwing elbow cut into his preseason work and he missed two months of the season because of elbow inflammation in his left elbow. He returned to the rotation in mid-July but hasn’t really been all that successful. Because he allows so much contact, he’s exactly the kind of pitcher who has been hurt the most by the changing offensive environment the past few seasons. The last three seasons, he’s seen his hard contact rate jump up to 30% and now 44% after managing contact fairly well earlier in his career. With a good ground ball rate, some of that hard contact is mitigated, but he’s also see a ton of balls fly over the fence too. With one of the lowest strikeout rates in the majors, he really needs a ton of good batted ball luck to survive in the “juiced” ball era.

RHP Adrian Sampson

16 1/3 15.9% 5.8% 30.0% 44.2% 4.96 7.69

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.

RHP Yovani Gallardo

90 13.7% 11.5% 14.7% 44.4% 6.40 5.55

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 30.3% 91.9 2092 (-0.82) 68 98
Sinker 23.6% 92.1 2043 (-0.84) 101 106
Changeup 12.9% 86.5 1892 (0.64) 94 104
Slider 20.9% 89.5 2214 (-1.01) 63 105
Curveball 12.3% 79.9 2342 (-0.71) 93 64

After his ugly season in Seattle, Yovani Gallardo signed on with the Brewers during the spring. He couldn’t crack their rotation and was bounced to the Reds who let him make three relief appearances before cutting him loose. He was picked up by the Rangers and toiled away in Triple-A until they called him up in mid-June. If you need one more reason to ridicule pitcher wins, just look at Gallardo’s line. He’s 6-1 across eight starts for the Rangers despite running an ERA of 5.24 with them. He did pitch back-to-back scoreless starts against Cleveland and Houston right after the All-Star break but was knocked around by the Orioles in his last start. His strikeout rate has fallen even further this year and he’s continued to struggle with his command and with the long ball. So, basically, the same things he struggled with in Seattle.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 100-58 0.633 -- W-W-W-W-L
Athletics 96-63 0.604 4.5 W-L-W-L-W
Mariners 86-72 0.544 14.0 W-L-L-W-L
Angels 78-81 0.491 22.5 L-L-W-W-W
Rangers 66-92 0.418 34.0 L-W-L-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Yankees 97-61 0.614 +1.5 W-L-W-W-L
Athletics 96-63 0.604 -- W-L-W-L-W
Rays 88-70 0.557 7.5 L-W-L-L-W
Mariners 86-72 0.544 9.5 W-L-L-W-L
Angels 78-81 0.491 18.0 L-L-W-W-W

The likelihood that the A’s will be able to catch the Yankees for the first Wild Card spot is diminishing with each day. The Yankees wrap up their series against the Rays today and travel to Boston for their final series before the postseason tomorrow. Oakland has a travel day today and will wrap up their season with three games in Anaheim. Both teams may choose to focus on preparing for the Wild Card game this weekend, rather than chasing (or holding onto) the home field advantage.