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Series Preview: Mariners (23-32) vs. Rangers (25-25)

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The Mariners begin a long homestand hoping to break their six-game losing streak.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Los Angeles Angels Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Unless they can turn things around quickly at home, the Mariners are on the verge of posting one of their worst months in team history. They’ve won just five times this month and just ten times since their ridiculous 13-2 start. Even the poor Marlins have won more games this month after putting together a six game win-streak last week. If you can believe it, there are four teams in the American League and three in the National League with a record worse than the Mariners. It’s bad, but it could be worse.

At a Glance

Rangers Mariners
Rangers Mariners
Game 1 Monday, May 27 | 6:10 pm
RHP Lance Lynn LHP Tommy Milone
50% 50%
Game 2 Tuesday, May 28 | 7:10 pm
RHP Adrian Sampson LHP Marco Gonzales
41% 59%
Game 3 Wednesday, May 29 | 12:40 pm
LHP Drew Smyly LHP Wade LeBlanc
47% 53%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Rangers Mariners Edge
Overview Rangers Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 106 (7th in AL) 110 (3rd in AL) Mariners
Fielding (DRS) -19 (13th) -46 (15th) Rangers
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 101 (8th) 114 (12th) Rangers
Bullpen (FIP-) 107 (12th) 116 (13th) Rangers

The Mariners play the Rangers for the second time in a week. Beginning with their road trip last week, the Mariners will face AL West opponents for 20 straight games. Thankfully, they’ll play the Astros just once during this stretch. There really isn’t anything new to add to what I said about the Rangers a week ago. They’re sticking around in the Wild Card race because of their strong offense, but the red-hot Twins passed the Rangers in runs scored per game to take the major league lead.

Rangers Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Shin-Soo Choo LF L 208 0.361 141 -0.9
Elvis Andrus SS R 178 0.369 130 1.5
Hunter Pence DH R 135 0.300 153 0.9
Nomar Mazara RF L 189 0.280 85 -1.1
Joey Gallo CF L 196 0.378 170 1.8
Rougned Odor 2B L 152 0.200 47 -1.0
Asdrúbal Cabrera 3B S 171 0.226 84 -1.1
Ronald Guzmán 1B L 83 0.250 84 -2.0
Jeff Mathis C R 86 0.218 7 -0.1

Last week, I wrote about the resurgent Hunter Pence who has forced his way into an everyday role—helped by Willie Calhoun’s quad injury. The Rangers have also enjoyed a surprisingly strong performance from Logan Forsythe as well. The last two seasons have been a nightmare for Forsythe but he’s posted a solid .294/.408/.468 slash line this year. He’s walking a bunch, hitting for decent power again, and has played all four infield positions for the Rangers. With the return of Elvis Andrus and Ronald Guzmán from injury, Forsythe has been relegated to a utility role again. If Rougned Odor continues to struggle, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Rangers option him to help him figure things out while giving Forsythe a regular job again.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Lance Lynn

61 2/3 22.7% 7.2% 9.5% 39.9% 4.67 3.49
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 46.7% 94.6 2445 99 147 92
Sinker 20.9% 93.0 2289 148 123 92
Cutter 17.6% 89.3 2552 111 112 79
Changeup 4.9% 86.8 1762
Curveball 10.0% 81.2 2301 94 82 47
Stuff+ Explainer; Lynn’s changeup does not have a large enough sample size for Stuff+ or Pitch Arsenal scores.

From the previous series preview(s):

Lance Lynn is a throwback to an era when the fastball reigned supreme. No starter threw more fastballs than he did last year. He throws three varieties, a four-seamer, a sinker, and a cutter, and they’re all effective pitches. None of them have overpowering velocity, but he’s able to mix and match them with different movement profiles and locations to keep hitters off balance. Two years ago, he outperformed his 4.82 FIP by over a full run, riding a .244 BABIP to a 3.43 ERA despite seeing his walk rate and home run rate rise to career highs. The script was flipped last year. He lowered his FIP to 3.84 by cutting his home run rate back towards league average and posting his highest strikeout rate since 2013. Unfortunately, he was done in by a .336 BABIP and a poor strand rate.

This will be the third time the Mariners have faced Lynn this season, and the previous two times he’s held them in check. He’s allowed a combined three runs in fourteen innings while striking out 20.

RHP Adrian Sampson

46 2/3 14.3% 5.9% 11.5% 40.1% 4.44 4.83
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Sinker 56.9% 93.2 2056 123 105 98
Changeup 12.6% 87.9 1859 75 51 91
Slider 30.4% 84.7 2596 98 94 84

From the previous series preview:

After a terrible start to his career with the Mariners, Adrian Sampson has latched on with the Rangers as a back-end starter. His pitch repertoire isn’t really good enough or deep enough to thrive as a traditional starter so the Rangers tried using him with an opener before his last two “starts”. And it kind of worked. He allowed just two runs in five innings against a very good Cardinals offense and then just a single run in five innings against the Mariners.

It’s likely the Rangers will use an opener again on Tuesday. José LeClerc opened against the Cardinals but he’s since regained his role towards the back of the bullpen. Jesse Chavez opened against the Mariners and I’d expect him to do it again.

LHP Drew Smyly

33 2/3 22.0% 15.1% 18.2% 28.3% 6.15 6.34
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 53.1% 91.0 2107 67 98 95
Cutter 8.8% 87.1 1896
Changeup 10.3% 82.8 1190
Curveball 27.8% 77.0 2001 52 124 52
Smyly’s cutter and changeup do not have large enough sample sizes for Stuff+ or Pitch Arsenal scores.

Drew Smyly looks like he’s still working out all the kinks after missing all of the last two years due to Tommy John surgery. His strikeout rate looks okay but his control just hasn’t returned. And it’s not like he’s just missing off the plate a ton, even though he is walking a ton of batters. He’s also grooving a ton of pitches and batters are just crushing those pitches. Over 50% of the contact he’s allowed has been hard contact, and almost three quarters of that contact has been in the air. It’s no surprise that his already poor home run rate has only gotten worse.

The Big Picture:

AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 35-19 0.648 -- L-L-W-W-L
Athletics 28-25 0.528 6.5 W-W-W-W-W
Rangers 25-25 0.500 8.0 W-W-W-L-L
Angels 24-28 0.462 10.0 L-L-L-W-W
Mariners 23-32 0.418 12.5 L-L-L-L-L

Wild Card

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Rays 31-19 0.620 +4.5 W-W-L-W-W
Red Sox 28-25 0.528 -- W-W-L-L-W
Athletics 28-25 0.528 -- W-W-W-W-W
Cleveland 26-26 0.500 1.5 L-L-W-L-L
Rangers 25-25 0.500 1.5 W-W-W-L-L

The Astros won their series against the Red Sox and host the Cubs for three games this week. With their sweep over the Mariners, the Athletics have pushed themselves into playoff position. They’ll host the Angels this week. The Red Sox hope to maintain their hold on the second Wild Card spot as they host Cleveland this week.