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Series Preview: Mariners (23-27) vs. Rangers (22-29)

The Mariners return home after a surprising series win in Oakland.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Los Angeles Angels Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Mariners halted their six-game skid after being swept by the Padres (unsurprising) and the Tigers (surprising, and bad) with a series win against the kings of the AL West in the Athletics. This weekend they’ll take on a slightly less fearsome AL West foe in the Rangers, but since we’ve seen this team flail against the literal Detroit Tigers, one cannot discount the Rangers too quickly. Texas recently lost two games against Anaheim but before that swept the Astros, for which we thank them for their service, despite having been swept by the Astros right before that series, because the AL West schedules this year are a mess.

At a Glance

Rangers Mariners
Rangers Mariners
Game 1 Thursday, May 27 | 7:10 pm
LHP Kolby Allard RHP Chris Flexen
48% 52%
Game 2 Friday, May 28 | 7:10 pm
RHP Jordan Lyles LHP Justus Sheffield
43% 57%
Game 3 Saturday, May 29 | 7:10 pm
RHP Mike Foltynewicz RHP Justin Dunn
46% 54%
Game 4 Sunday, May 30 | 1:10 pm
LHP Hyeon-Jong Yang LHP Yusei Kikuchi
43% 57%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Rangers Mariners Edge
Overview Rangers Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 96 (10th in AL) 84 (14th in AL) Rangers
Fielding (OAA) 4 (6th) 1 (8th) Rangers
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 112 (12th) 120 (15th) Rangers
Bullpen (FIP-) 95 (7th) 94 (6th) Mariners

Despite batting below the Mendoza Line as a team, the Mariners have somehow stayed out of the cellar of the AL West, thanks largely to the Angels and the Rangers slugging it out with soggy pool noodles for that honor. While Anaheim uses the stars-and-scrubs approach, led by a pair of generational talents in the Trout-Ohtani dyad, the Rangers offer a balanced offensive attack that puts them just behind LAA in offensive stats. What Texas lacks in generational offensive talents, though, they make up for by not being quite as putrid in the pitching department, and in fact, nip right at the heels of Seattle for pitching. The Rangers are currently a more complete team than Seattle, and the Mariners will have a tough time getting past them if Seattle’s pitching falters at all, meaning it could be a three-team race to the bottom.

Rangers Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Willie Calhoun LF L 139 0.272 114 -1.9
Nick Solak 2B R 219 0.315 117 0.4
Nate Lowe 1B L 220 0.344 125 -2.0
Adolis García CF R 170 0.313 157 0.6
Joey Gallo RF L 202 0.302 114 0.2
Khris Davis DH R 41 0.273 63 -0.6
Isiah Kiner-Falefa SS R 216 0.325 110 3.3
Brock Holt 3B L 67 0.293 112 -0.9
Jose Trevino C R 119 0.314 60 -1.4

Remember that bit about how the Rangers don’t have a Trout-Ohtani type talent? Well, what they do have is Adolis Garcia, who is currently second behind Ohtani for the MLB lead in Barrels/PA—better than Acuna Jr., better than Vlad Jr. (although Kyle Seager checks in at 7th on that list, hi Kyle!). “El Bombi”, who was DFA’d by the Cardinals in 2019, is having a career year on both sides of the ball—he ranks in the 96th percentile for Outs Above Average and Outfielder Jump as well as in Max Exit Velocity and Hard Hit %. He will strike out a lot, but if Garcia gets the bat on the ball, chances are it’s doing damage. Garcia and the always-dangerous Joey Gallo make up the major power threats in Texas’s lineup, but there are a bunch of pesky hitters here; if you want to continue the comparisons to Anaheim’s lineup, there are a lot of David Fletcher high-contact/on-base types in Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Nick Solak, and Nate Lowe. So, three David Fletchers instead of one. Cool, cool.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

MLB: Houston Astros at Texas Rangers Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

LHP Kolby Allard

20 26.7% 7.0% 9.1% 35.7% 3.15 3.03
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 53.8% 92.0 2224 69 118 60
Cutter 29.0% 86.7 2338 73 67 79
Changeup 8.5% 84.1 1701
Curveball 8.7% 76.5 2202
Allard’s changeup and curveball do not have large enough sample sizes for Stuff+ and pitch arsenal scores.

Injuries have depleted the Rangers’ already thin starting rotation so they’ll turn to Kolby Allard to make his first start of the season. He had been pitching out of the bullpen in a long relief role, with his longest outing sitting at three innings and fifty pitches. I’d expect he’ll likely go that long, depending on how quickly he can work through the Mariners lineup in the early innings. After that, it’ll be a parade of relievers out of the Rangers bullpen. Allard had been a starter for the Rangers but just couldn’t make the right adjustments to find success in longer outings. He tinkered with his pitch mix but really struggled with runners on base. And with a 13.2% walk rate last year, this issues were compounded even further, leading to a 7.75 ERA in 33 ⅔ innings.

RHP Jordan Lyles

50 19.8% 8.1% 15.4% 36.8% 5.94 5.12
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 45.7% 92.7 2345 93 93 90
Changeup 7.1% 86.0 1772 57
Curveball 18.7% 80.2 2730 135 79 71
Slider 27.8% 85.0 2688 102 73 96
Lyles’s changeup does not have a large enough sample size for pitch arsenal scores.

Jordan Lyles signed a two-year deal with the Rangers last year but was simply terrible in his debut season in Texas. He was slow to ramp up after the delayed start to the season and just never got on track as the season went on. His strikeout rate fell by nearly half and his ERA ballooned to 7.02. The biggest difference for him is a new slider that he’s throwing more than a quarter of the time now. He had relied on his curveball as his best secondary option — and it’s a phenomenal pitch per Stuff+ — but he’s swapped the usage rates of his two breaking balls this year. His strikeout rate has rebounded a bit this year, but he’s still been a liability on the mound since his ERA has only improved by just a single run.

RHP Mike Foltynewicz

55 2/3 17.9% 6.4% 15.5% 35.6% 4.53 5.12
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 37.6% 94.2 2180 117 48 91
Sinker 21.4% 93.7 2140 117 70 110
Changeup 10.2% 86.1 1784 76 98 72
Curveball 4.3% 77.7 2391
Slider 26.6% 83.1 2452 77 72 115
Foltynewicz’s curveball does not have a large enough sample size for Stuff+ and pitch arsenal scores.

From a previous series preview:

Back in 2018, Mike Foltynewicz’s fastball reached a peak velocity of 96.3 mph leading to a breakout season with a 2.85 ERA backed by a 3.37 FIP. But the next year, he struggled to follow up on his success and 2020 was an even greater disaster. After just one start last year where his fastball velocity was just 90.9 mph, he was designated for assignment and released by the Braves. He signed with the Rangers in the offseason in the hopes that his fastball velocity could return to its former glory. So far, it’s mostly returned, hitting 94 mph regularly. But that’s still well below what he was throwing in Atlanta during his peak seasons. His biggest issue is the long ball, as batters have crushed his fastball now that its elite velocity is gone.

In his previous start against the Mariners, Foltynewicz allowed four runs in six plus innings of work. He allowed six hits and two home runs while striking out five.

LHP Hyeon-Jong Yang

24 2/3 16.5% 11.7% 16.7% 43.1% 5.47 5.86
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 47.8% 89.7 2174 38 93 131
Changeup 27.8% 81.2 1699 92 100 68
Slider 22.6% 79.8 2381 78
Yang’s slider does not have a large enough sample size for pitch arsenal scores.

Hyeon-Jong Yang was one of the most successful pitchers in Korea during his fourteen-year career in the KBO. With little left to prove in his home country, he made the move to the world’s highest level this offseason. He was met with little fanfare, signing a minor-league deal with the Rangers. He wasn’t able to make their roster out of spring training but made his major-league debut in late April after the Rangers had a spot open up in their rotation. His fastball is surprisingly effective given it’s sub-90 mph velocity and unremarkable movement profile. He’s able to command it well and mixes in two above average secondary offerings.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Athletics 29-22 0.569 -- W-L-L-L-W
Astros 27-22 0.551 1.0 L-L-L-L-W
Mariners 23-27 0.460 5.5 L-L-W-W-L
Angels 22-27 0.449 6.0 L-L-W-W-W
Rangers 22-29 0.431 7.0 W-W-W-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Red Sox 30-20 0.600 +1.0 W-W-L-L-W
Yankees 28-20 0.583 -- W-W-W-W-L
Cleveland 26-21 0.553 1.5 W-L-W-W-L
Astros 27-22 0.551 1.5 L-L-L-L-W
Blue Jays 24-23 0.511 3.5 L-L-L-L-W

The Astros are getting their turn to match up against Slam Diego this weekend, followed by a slate against the Red Sox, who are currently fighting with Tampa Bay for possession of the top spot in the AL East. The rest of the AL West is playing against each other, though, with the Angels headed up I-5 to Oakland. If the Athletics bounce back and crush the Troutless Angels, that could create some breathing room between Seattle (.460) and Anaheim (.449) in the AL West standings, provided the Mariners are able to take care of business and keep the Rangers in the cellar in the AL West—but since this team was unable to take care of business against the literal Detroit Tigers, that’s not a guarantee, and the AL West could look very different come Monday morning.