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Series Preview: Mariners (17-15) at Rangers (16-17)

The Mariners head down to Texas to face the Rangers for the first time this season.

Boston Red Sox v Texas Rangers Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

As much as getting no-hit in the final game of their homestand hurts, most of that disappointment was washed away with some truly exciting performances down in the minor leagues on Thursday’s off-day. Jarred Kelenic blasted two home runs in Tacoma’s home opener, Julio Rodriguez had two hits and two walks and Emerson Hancock made his pro debut for Everett. Logan Gilbert and George Kirby are scheduled to start on Friday in Tacoma and Everett, respectively, so if you’re tired of watching the big league club flail away at the plate, there’s plenty of exciting baseball happening around the Sound.

At a Glance

Mariners Rangers
Mariners Rangers
Game 1 Friday, May 7 | 5:05 pm
RHP Chris Flexen RHP Mike Foltynewicz
44% 56%
Game 2 Saturday, May 8 | 4:05 pm
TBD RHP Kohei Arihara
43% 57%
Game 3 Sunday, May 9 | 11:35 am
LHP Justus Sheffield RHP Dane Dunning
47% 53%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Rangers Mariners Edge
Overview Rangers Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 99 (10th in AL) 88 (14th in AL) Rangers
Fielding (OAA) 5 (3rd) 10 (2nd) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 114 (13th) 118 (15th) Rangers
Bullpen (FIP-) 95 (5th) 93 (4th) Mariners
2021 stats

After a disappointing end to their homestand, the Mariners head off on a short, five-game road trip beginning in Texas. In a weird quirk of the schedule, this will be the first time they’re facing the Rangers this season — and they still haven’t faced Oakland yet.

In many ways, this Rangers team has turned a corner from their aimless floundering. Many of the roster mainstays are gone — Elvis Andrus, Rougned Odor, Nomar, Mazara, and Shin-Soo Choo are all playing elsewhere this year — and it seems like they’ve committed to finding out which of their youngsters could be long-term contributors. They don’t have the deep stable of young talent on their farm system like the Mariners do, but it finally seems like they’re working towards a goal of competing in the near future instead of just existing at the bottom of the AL West standings like they had been for the previous four years.

Rangers Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Willie Calhoun DH L 68 0.354 157 -1.3
Nick Solak 2B R 139 0.333 137 0.6
Nate Lowe 1B L 141 0.354 137 -0.7
Joey Gallo RF L 135 0.377 127 -0.2
Adolis García CF R 97 0.314 137 -0.4
David Dahl LF L 106 0.257 53 -1.5
Isiah Kiner-Falefa SS R 144 0.301 117 2.2
Charlie Culberson 3B R 68 0.356 118 0.4
Jose Trevino C R 86 0.306 65 -1.1
2021 stats

Joey Gallo is the lone remaining holdover in this lineup and he’s having a pretty odd season this year. His massive power output has almost completely dried up, his hard hit rate is at a career low and he’s pulling the ball less often than ever before. He’s managed to put together a positive batting line because of some extraordinary batted ball luck. The rest of their lineup has been rather good so far this year. Willie Calhoun is finally healthy again and is crushing the ball, Nick Solak has bounced back after a disappointing sophomore season, and newcomer Nate Lowe looks like a long-term solution for the Rangers first base woes.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

MLB: MAY 02 Red Sox at Rangers Photo by Aric Becker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

RHP Mike Foltynewicz

33 1/3 22.3% 5.8% 21.4% 38.4% 4.32 5.56
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 39.4% 94.3 2178 131 61 105
Sinker 21.2% 93.7 2139 117 73 72
Changeup 9.5% 86.3 1729 73
Slider 25.7% 82.9 2452 76 82 135
2021 stats; Foltynewicz’s changeup does not have a large enough sample size for pitch arsenal scores.

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.

RHP Kohei Arihara

25 13.1% 8.4% 18.8% 38.3% 5.76 6.42
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 33.5% 91.3 2150 47 10 38
Sinker 12.2% 90.0 2084 72
Cutter 13.9% 87.5 2187 83
Changeup 12.5% 82.0 1444 134
Splitter 8.1% 83.1
Curveball 2.5% 74.7
Slider 17.3% 82.2 2180 89
2021 stats; Arihara’s pitches do not have large enough sample sizes for pitch arsenal scores.

After a six-year career in Japan playing for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, Kohei Arihara came over to the major leagues this past offseason, signing a two-year deal with the Rangers. He doesn’t possess the impressive raw stuff of his countrymen Yu Darvish, Kenta Maeda, or Yusei Kikuchi. Instead, he relies on an incredibly deep arsenal featuring seven different pitches. Only a few of his pitches grade out well on their physical characteristics alone, but the sheer number of different looks and speeds he can present during an at-bat definitely keeps batters off balance.

RHP Dane Dunning

28 1/3 24.6% 5.9% 4.3% 53.7% 3.81 2.26
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Sinker 59.7% 90.3 2058 98 103 99
Cutter 6.1% 86.6
Changeup 11.3% 84.3 1990 73
Slider 20.3% 79.8 2118 80
2021 stats; Dunning’s pitches do not have large enough sample sizes for pitch arsenal scores.

Dane Dunning was the headlining prospect in the Lance Lynn trade with the White Sox this offseason. He had made his major league debut with Chicago in 2020, putting together seven impressive starts on the Southside. He relies on a low-90s sinker to get plenty of contact on the ground and a good slider and changeup to get whiffs late in the count. With Texas, he’s ditched a four-seam fastball that had produced a good whiff rate but had been crushed by batters when they managed to make contact with it. Instead, his sinker usage is up over 50% and he’s added a cutter to his repertoire to give him another pitch to use against left-handed batters.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Athletics 19-14 0.576 -- W-W-W-L-L
Mariners 17-15 0.531 1.5 L-W-L-W-L
Astros 16-15 0.516 2.0 W-L-L-L-W
Rangers 16-17 0.485 3.0 W-L-W-W-W
Angels 13-17 0.433 5.4 L-L-L-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
White Sox 16-13 0.552 +0.5 L-W-L-W-L
Rays 18-15 0.545 -- W-W-W-W-W
Royals 16-14 0.533 0.5 L-L-L-L-L
Blue Jays 16-14 0.533 0.5 W-L-L-W-W
Mariners 17-15 0.531 0.5 L-W-L-W-L

The Angels made the surprising choice to cut ties with Albert Pujols yesterday in the hopes they could get their season back on track. After unceremoniously designating him for assignment in the morning, they lost in brutal fashion to the Rays yesterday evening. That completed a four-game sweep and was the fifth consecutive loss for the Angels. It doesn’t get any easier for them as they host the Dodgers this weekend. The A’s split their four game series against the Blue Jays and host the red hot Rays this weekend. The Blue Jays head to Houston to face the reeling Astros who managed to beat Gerrit Cole on Wednesday to salvage a win out of their three-game series against the Yankees.