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Series Preview: Mariners (47-42) at Rangers (41-45)

The Mariners travel to Texas for their final series before the All-Star break.

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Minnesota Twins v Texas Rangers Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images

The Mariners arrive in Texas riding a ten-game win streak (the team’s first since 2002). Suspensions, postponed games, and All Star snubs haven’t stopped Seattle from clawing their way back up the Wild Card standings. They now sit in a three-way tie for the second and third Wild Card spots with the Red Sox and Blue Jays; It’s an electrifying time to be a Mariners fan!

This is the final series for the red-hot Mariners before the All-Star Break. There’s always a risk that the team loses some momentum in the four days without a game, but hopefully the non-Julio Rodriguez players will benefit from the extra rest and the team will return refreshed and joined by Mitch Haniger and Kyle Lewis (both of whom could be activated after the break). The Mariners are back home hosting the Astros for their next series, and then will face these Rangers again starting on the 25th. Though the weeks following the break will be challenging, John’s got some reassuring news about the rest of the schedule.

At a Glance

Mariners Rangers
Mariners Rangers
Game 1 Thursday, July 14 | 5:05 pm
LHP Marco Gonzales LHP Martín Pérez
45% 55%
Game 2 Friday, July 15 | 5:05 pm
LHP Robbie Ray LHP Taylor Hearn
55% 45%
Game 3 Saturday, July 16 | 1:05 pm
RHP Logan Gilbert RHP Spencer Howard
52% 48%
Game 4 Sunday, July 17 | 11:35 am
TBD RHP Glenn Otto
46% 54%
*Game odds courtesy of FanGraphs

Team Overview

Overview Rangers Mariners Edge
Overview Rangers Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 99 (8th in AL) 107 (5th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (OAA) -10 (14th) 5 (6th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 103 (8th) 110 (12th) Rangers
Bullpen (FIP-) 102 (10th) 101 (8th) Mariners

Texas has gone just under .500 since last facing the Mariners at the start of June, falling to third in the division. After finishing last in the AL West with 102 losses in 2021, the Rangers bought aggressively last offseason, signing several star free agents to multi-year contracts. Their most notable additions were Corey Seager (ten years), Marcus Semien (seven years), and John Gray (four years). The front office didn’t bill this year as a championship contention year, but as a re-shaping of the team around a new core, with an eye to a run in 2023 and beyond. Halfway through the season, that rings true. The Rangers have a good-hitting lineup, with six of their regular starting nine above 100 in wRC+ (and four of those above 120). However, they’re five games under .500 and 4.5 games back of a wild card spot. Their starting pitching depth is much weaker than their batting and will require bolstering before a championship run in the next few years.

Rangers Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Josh H. Smith 3B L 91 0.288 114 0.6
Marcus Semien 2B R 379 0.251 96 5.6
Corey Seager SS L 371 0.237 121 0.9
Adolis García RF R 352 0.289 104 3.9
Nathaniel Lowe 1B L 328 0.335 122 -1.4
Jonah Heim C S 237 0.278 123 -0.4
Kole Calhoun LF L 296 0.283 98 -0.9
Sam Huff DH R 80 0.388 84 0.1
Leody Taveras CF S 74 0.420 142 0.1

Last we saw the Rangers, Kole Calhoun and Jonah Heim were driving the team’s offense, with Semien just starting to get his footing on his new team. Heim continues to be a breakout star for the Rangers, but the offensive story of the last few weeks has been Corey Seager. Kyle’s Brother won AL Player of the Week last week and boasts a 219 wRC+ in July. Seager hit home runs in five consecutive games last week and the Mariners will need to be careful pitching to him. Leody Taveras, who was called up last month to play center field, has also had a breakout month, with a 190 wRC+ since July first. Missing from Texas’ lineup is Mitch Garver, who was DHing and pinch hitting through a flexor tendon injury the last couple of months. He opted to undergo season-ending surgery on Monday so he has a chance to be ready for the start of the 2023 season.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

Minnesota Twins v Texas Rangers Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images

LHP Martín Pérez

106 19.7% 6.0% 6.1% 52.4% 2.72 3.07
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 7.5% 93.0 2059 89 46 90
Sinker 36.2% 92.6 1983 107 94 87
Cutter 23.8% 89.7 2218 114 61 107
Changeup 27.2% 84.4 1653 130 109 109
Curveball 5.3% 78.7 2519 61

From a previous series preview:

Somehow, someway, Martín Pérez is leading all qualified starters in ERA this year. Across 10 starts, he’s allowed just 10 earned runs and hasn’t yet allowed a home run on the season. An effective innings eater for most of his career, Pérez has suddenly turned into a premier starter without any significant changes to his repertoire. The secret behind his success? Impeccable command. Nearly half of his pitches thrown this year have been located in the shadow zone — on the edge of the rulebook strike zone — a huge improvement in his ability to command his pitches. That has led to career-bests in ERA, FIP, xFIP, and strikeout and walk rates.

Pérez is the Rangers lone All-Star representative this year. He’s continued to pitch very well, though not up to the elite standard he established early in the season. In his last outing against the Mariners, he struck out a season-high seven batters in six innings, allowing just two runs on seven hits.

LHP Taylor Hearn

63 18.8% 10.3% 12.0% 38.1% 5.86 4.79
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 43.4% 94.4 2308 121 104 105
Sinker 16.4% 93.5 2191 89 107 119
Cutter 3.4% 88.6 2248
Changeup 10.6% 87.5 1781 77 74 52
Slider 26.2% 83.9 2127 102 65 68

From a previous series preview:

A lengthy injury history delayed much of Taylor Hearn’s development as a prospect. He debuted in the majors as a 24-year-old in 2019 in a disaster of a start against the Mariners. Working out of the bullpen for all of 2020 and the first half of last year, he was finally added to the rotation in late July. It wasn’t the smoothest transition but there were some positive signs. In particular, his two fastballs had great results. His four-seamer has plenty of ride and he can consistently locate it up in the zone for whiffs. He added his sinker mid-season last year and it’s been a positive addition to his arsenal. With excellent movement in both directions, it’s become another pitch he can use to keep batters off balance. His changeup and slider lag behind the hard stuff but both graded out above average while he was a prospect.

Hearn was recently sent down to Triple-A to begin transitioning back into a multi-inning reliever, a role he filled for much of the first two seasons of his career. The Rangers haven’t announced a starter for Friday’s game but they’ll have to fill the spot with a spot starter after Dane Dunning was placed on the IL with an ankle impingement earlier this week. Hearn is a likely candidate, though A.J. Alexy was just called up from Triple-A yesterday and it’s possible he’ll make the start instead.

RHP Spencer Howard

46 1/3 30.8% 9.7% 6.3% 32.7% 3.69 3.66
Triple-A stats

Spencer Howard was part of the return from the Phillies in last summer’s Kyle Gibson trade. A highly regarded prospect in Philadelphia’s organization, he’s struggled to find much success at the major league level. He’s bounced between the starting rotation and bullpen in his limited time in the big leagues with that lack of settled role likely contributing to his inconsistency. Last year, his pitch repertoire included six different pitches of varying quality. He’s focused his pitch mix on his fastball and cutter this year, though both pitches have been hit hard by opposing batters. The lack of secondary offerings has limited his potential ceiling since his fastball/cutter combo just doesn’t generate enough whiffs to support a successful approach.

RHP Glenn Otto

55 2/3 17.5% 13.4% 25.7% 43.8% 5.50 5.01
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 23.2% 92.5 2218 52 107 101
Sinker 28.0% 92.5 2176 82 91 148
Changeup 12.8% 88.0 1683 46 54 82
Curveball 12.2% 80.8 2420 121 67 107
Slider 23.6% 80.6 2571 82 108 89

From a previous series preview:

Glenn Otto was one of the headlining prospects the Rangers received in the big Joey Gallo trade last season. He racked up gaudy strikeout rates as a member of the Yankees organization and carried over those skills when he joined Texas’s farm system. He made his major league debut a month after the trade but some poor luck and bad sequencing caused his ERA to balloon to 9.26 despite a FIP that sat at a fantastic 3.17 in six starts. Despite his peripherals indicating a strong foundation, he’s struggled to follow up his debut with the same kind of success this year. The biggest issue is a walk rate that’s jumped up to 11.8% and a strikeout rate that plummeted to 19.1%.

In his last start against the Mariners, Otto allowed two runs in five innings. He gave up just two hits but his lack of control led to five walks.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 57-30 0.655 -- W-L-W-W-L
Mariners 47-42 0.528 11.0 W-W-W-W-W
Rangers 41-45 0.477 15.5 W-L-W-L-W
Angels 39-50 0.438 19.0 L-L-L-L-W
Athletics 30-60 0.333 28.5 W-L-L-W-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Rays 48-40 0.545 +1.5 L-L-W-W-W
Red Sox 47-42 0.528 -- W-W-L-L-L
Mariners 47-42 0.528 -- W-W-W-W-W
Blue Jays 47-42 0.528 -- L-L-L-W-W
Orioles 45-44 0.506 2.0 W-W-W-W-W
Guardians 43-44 0.494 3.0 L-W-W-L-L

This series pits the M’s against their closest divisional rival in the standings, with the Mariners looking to extend the gap between the two teams and the Rangers looking to close it. The Astros have one more game against the Angels and then take on Oakland for three before the All Star Break. The two teams from Los Angeles matchup in a two-game series this weekend before the festivities begin at Dodger Stadium next week.

The Rays currently hold the first AL Wild Card spot and go for a four-game sweep of the Red Sox today, after which they play three against the Orioles. The Orioles have also won ten games in a row, and take an off day today before heading to Tampa. The Red Sox and Blue Jays, with whom the Mariners have an identical record, have opposite weekend series. The Red Sox travel to New York to play the Yankees (who lead the AL East by fourteen games), while the Blue Jays stay home to host the Royals (who sit in the cellar of the AL Central).

SB Nation has partnered with DraftKings to sponsor select series previews this season. Here are the betting odds for this series.

DraftKings Series Odds

Series Outcome Odds
Series Outcome Odds
Mariners win +140
Series tied +160
Rangers win +290