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Series Preview: Mariners (43-39) vs. Rangers (32-49)

The Mariners return home for a long homestand that takes them into the All-Star break.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Oakland Athletics D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

The Mariners wrapped up a solid month of June with a 14-12 record and a -5 run differential. They weren’t facing the dregs of the American League either. Emphatic series wins against the Rays, White Sox, and Blue Jays — all teams in the middle of the AL playoff race — have surprisingly pushed the Mariners into Wild Card contention. They now head into the All-Star break with a nine-game homestand that includes a visit from another Wild Card hopeful and two division foes. This stretch of really encouraging play couldn’t have come at a better time. The Mariners are opening T-Mobile Park to full capacity this weekend with a Grand Re-Opening Night celebration scheduled for Friday night.

At a Glance

Rangers Mariners
Rangers Mariners
Game 1 Friday, July 2 | 7:10 pm
RHP Kyle Gibson RHP Logan Gilbert
46% 54%
Game 2 Saturday, July 3 | 7:10 pm
RHP Jordan Lyles LHP Marco Gonzales
38% 62%
Game 3 Sunday, July 4 | 1:10 pm
RHP Mike Foltynewicz RHP Chris Flexen
45% 55%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Rangers Mariners Edge
Overview Rangers Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 90 (11th in AL) 90 (12th in AL) Rangers
Fielding (OAA) 7 (5th) -4 (10th) Rangers
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 109 (11th) 112 (12th) Rangers
Bullpen (FIP-) 98 (8th) 90 (3rd) Mariners

First up on the docket for this long homestand are the last-place Rangers. The last time the Mariners faced their rivals from Texas, they were rebounding from a six-game losing streak that included the no-hitter thrown by Spencer Turnbull. They swept the Rangers in four games at home to wrap up the month of May and launched them into the positive stretch of play we’ve seen recently. On the other side, Texas limped through an extremely tough month of June, winning just nine games during the month. Four of those wins came in the last week with a series sweep of the Royals last weekend and surprising series win against the A’s earlier this week.

Rangers Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Isiah Kiner-Falefa SS R 351 0.311 88 3.3
Nate Lowe 1B L 336 0.332 119 -2.1
Adolis García CF R 293 0.321 125 -1.3
Joey Gallo RF L 321 0.299 146 2.3
Andy Ibáñez DH R 59 0.204 32 -0.1
Eli White LF R 137 0.296 74 -0.8
Jonah Heim C S 117 0.250 80 -0.9
Nick Solak 2B R 328 0.288 87 0.6
Brock Holt 3B L 145 0.257 75 -1.5

One of the biggest reasons behind their recent surge is the hot bat of Joey Gallo. A week ago, his wRC+ was 124 with just 13 home runs to his name. He’s launched seven home runs in his last five games and boosted his wRC+ up to 146. Unfortunately, he’s essentially the only player producing in the Rangers lineup. Adolis García has slowed down considerably after his scorching hot start to the season. He’s still pounding the ball when he makes contact, but the lack of plate discipline has really caught up to him, as his strikeout rate just recently jumped over 30%. García and Gallo are the lone consistent threats in the Rangers lineup; the rest is filled with ineffective veterans, disappointing youngsters, and prospects trying to make the jump to the majors.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

Kansas City Royals v Texas Rangers

RHP Kyle Gibson

90 20.9% 7.3% 8.1% 51.8% 2.00 3.31
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 11.6% 93.2 2295 88 55 95
Sinker 34.3% 92.6 2157 115 118 100
Cutter 13.3% 89.3 2385 98 132 111
Changeup 14.3% 85.1 1660 123 87 124
Curveball 9.0% 79.3 2438 98 64 90
Slider 17.5% 83.3 2530 77 124 122

Kyle Gibson really scuffled in his first year in Texas after signing a three-year deal with them last offseason. But those struggles were mostly related to some health issues that he tried to pitch through and plenty of bad luck exacerbated by a shortened season. This year, he’s made some significant adjustments to his repertoire and has been one of the best starters in the American League. The biggest change has been the introduction of a cutter to his pitch mix. That new pitch is producing a fantastic whiff rate even though it does get knocked around a bit when it’s put in play. He’s also seen a drastic increase in vertical movement on both his sinker and changeup. That’s made both pitches more effective at generating whiffs and ground ball contact. Along with his already great slider, he now has a repertoire full of weapons to use to keep batters at bay.

RHP Jordan Lyles

84 1/3 18.2% 7.3% 14.5% 35.7% 5.12 5.07
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 42.1% 92.7 2311 86 91 84
Sinker 2.4% 91.3 2220
Changeup 7.7% 86.0 1690 50 75 92
Curveball 23.5% 80.0 2686 125 76 76
Slider 24.4% 84.3 2694 95 72 92
Lyles’s sinker does not have a large enough sample size for Stuff+ or pitch arsenal scores.

From a previous series preview:

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.

Lyles pitched six innings in his previous start against the Mariners, allowing three runs on six hits. He struck out eight, but didn’t get enough run support to come away with the victory.

RHP Mike Foltynewicz

87 16.7% 5.4% 17.1% 37.9% 5.17 5.40
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 33.3% 94.0 2164 105 50 94
Sinker 20.0% 93.6 2127 111 55 105
Changeup 12.9% 85.7 1795 84 87 53
Curveball 7.6% 77.6 2361 67 46 82
Slider 26.3% 83.1 2444 81 72 102

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.

Foltynewicz has now faced the Mariners twice this season and the second time went much better than the first. Last time in Seattle, he pitched seven innings and allowed just two runs on six hits. But like Lyles in that same series in May, he didn’t get enough run support to get a win.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 49-33 0.598 -- L-L-L-L-W
Athletics 48-35 0.578 1.5 L-W-L-W-L
Mariners 43-39 0.524 6.0 W-L-L-W-W
Angels 39-41 0.487 9.0 L-W-W-L-W
Rangers 32-49 0.395 16.5 W-W-W-L-W

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Rays 47-34 0.580 -- W-W-L-L-L
Athletics 48-35 0.578 -- L-W-L-W-L
Cleveland 42-36 0.538 3.5 L-W-L-L-L
Mariners 43-39 0.524 4.5 W-L-L-W-W
Blue Jays 41-38 0.519 5.0 W-W-W-L-L
Yankees 41-39 0.512 5.5 L-L-L-W-L

After such a strong run in the middle of June, the Astros really fell flat against the Tigers and Orioles. They split their series in Detroit last weekend and were swept by the Orioles earlier this week. They broke their four-game losing streak with a win in Cleveland, the first game of a four-game set there this weekend. Houston’s recent struggles have allowed the A’s to claw their way back towards the top of the AL West even though they lost their own series against the Rangers. Oakland will host the Red Sox in a battle of two of the top teams in the AL over the weekend. The Angels managed to sneak away with a series win in New York after a wild comeback win on Wednesday night and a rainout on Thursday. They return home this weekend to face the Orioles.

With that loss in the opening game of their series against the Astros, Cleveland is now just one game ahead of the Mariners in the Wild Card race. Their starting rotation has been absolutely decimated by injuries and they’re hoping to just hang on until the All-Star break when some of their starters might return from the IL. After losing their series to the Mariners and falling behind them in the standings, the Blue Jays will host the Rays over the weekend, the first of six games against Tampa before the All-Star break.