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Series Preview: Mariners (83-69) vs. Rangers (65-87)

The Mariners return home for their final homestand of the regular season, beginning with a three-game set against the Rangers.

MLB: Cleveland Guardians at Texas Rangers Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Mariners come back to town this week having gone 3-7 on their final road trip of the season … and appear to be skidding toward the playoffs anyways. Teeth are clenched and eyes squeezed shut as fans force ourselves to demonstrate the optimism we know is warranted but still struggle to muster. It is indeed warranted, however, as the team heads back for a final electric homestand that should include the returns of team WAR leaders Eugenio Suárez and Julio Rodríguez. The Mariners’ FanGraphs playoff odds are 99.9%, and their magic number is six.

At a Glance

Rangers Mariners
Rangers Mariners
Game 1 Tuesday, September 27 | 6:40 pm
RHP Jesus Tinoco LHP Robbie Ray
36% 64%
Game 2 Wednesday, September 28 | 6:40 pm
LHP Martín Pérez RHP George Kirby
38% 62%
Game 3 Thursday, September 29 | 6:40 pm
RHP Jon Gray LHP Marco Gonzales
50% 50%
*Game odds courtesy of FanGraphs

Team Overview

Overview Rangers Mariners Edge
Overview Rangers Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 99 (9th in AL) 107 (4th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (OAA) -4 (12th) 5 (7th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 109 (11th) 104 (8th) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 96 (8th) 95 (7th) Mariners

This is Seattle’s sixth and final look at the Texas Rangers this year. Their record against the Rangers so far in 2022 is 12-4, having won their first two series, swept the middle two, and lost the most recent series in Texas last month. The teams’ previous meetings have epitomized the Rangers’ season as a whole, with the ‘stars and scrubs’ roster looking like just that; a recent article in the Dallas News makes a similar point as it lauds the successes of individual players this season on a team fast approaching 90 losses.

The Mariners have an opportunity to capitalize on some anti-momentum, as the Rangers come to town fresh off a division-clinching sweep at the hands of the Guardians and Dane Dunning’s season just ended abruptly (he underwent successful hip surgery Monday with hopes to be ready to rejoin the team at Spring Training). Though Dunning’s season wasn’t stellar, the Rangers’ pitching hasn’t been a strength this year, and his absence will mean that the Mariners face an opener and then a minor league call-up for the bulk of the innings today.

Rangers Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Marcus Semien 2B R 679 0.268 112 6.6
Corey Seager SS L 638 0.244 118 2.0
Nathaniel Lowe 1B L 607 0.366 143 -3.3
Adolis García RF R 619 0.311 112 6.7
Jonah Heim C S 436 0.251 99 -1.7
Josh Jung 3B R 64 0.290 71 0.4
Leody Taveras CF S 317 0.351 95 1.4
Mark Mathias DH R 81 0.333 143 1.2
Bubba Thompson CF R 148 0.407 88 3.2

For all their 87 losses, the Rangers have some powerful hitters. First baseman Nathaniel Lowe, for example, leads the team with a 143 wRC+, ranks seventh in the league in batting (with a .304 average), and has six multi-hit games against the Mariners this season. The team’s two giant off-season offensive acquisitions, Marcus Semien and Corey Seager, lead the team in fWAR and have four and five multi-hit games against the Mariners this season, respectively. Adolis García has hit three of his 25 home runs this season against the M’s, though he is a bit of a question mark after being hit on the wrist with a fastball on Friday. He was out Saturday but back in the lineup on Sunday.

Beyond those four, the lineup doesn’t pack too many punches. I do always like to point out the rookies that we’re likely to see this week: Josh Jung, Josh Smith, and Bubba Thompson all debuted this year. Jung was one of the top two prospects in the Rangers’ system coming into 2022, but his season was derailed due to a torn labrum in the offseason. He finally made it to the majors this month after injuring his shoulder this spring and is expected to be the team’s everyday third baseman next year.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

MLB: Texas Rangers at Tampa Bay Rays Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

RHP Tyson Miller

89 2/3 28.6% 10.1% 18.9% 45.5% 4.52 4.88
Triple-A Stats

Dunning would have been scheduled to start this opening game of the series if he hadn’t decided to get as healthy as possible for next season. Instead, the Rangers will call up right-hander Tyson Miller to fill the bulk role after Jesus Tinoco opens the game. Originally drafted by the Cubs in 2016, Miller made his major league debut in 2020 but washed out of Chicago’s organization the next year. Texas claimed him in June and he’s capably served as high-level depth in Triple-A over the last year and a half. His stuff is pretty average all around, but a wide, five-pitch repertoire has helped him post pretty good strikeout rates in the minors. A pretty high walk rate has held him back from really take a step forward, likely the result of him nibbling around the edges of the strike zone to try and avoid allowing too much loud contact.

LHP Martín Pérez

183 1/3 21.3% 7.9% 7.1% 51.3% 2.90 3.21
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 7.8% 92.7 2050 67 40 118
Sinker 35.1% 92.6 1995 106 86 81
Cutter 24.8% 89.9 2214 113 70 105
Changeup 27.4% 84.4 1659 123 108 100
Curveball 3.6% 78.8 2516 69 51 36
Slider 1.2% 84.6 2407

From a previous series preview:

Somehow, someway, Martín Pérez is leading the Rangers starters in ERA this year. An effective innings eater for most of his career, Pérez has suddenly turned into a frontline 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 — straddling 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, strikeout rate and fWAR.

This will be Pérez’s fourth start against the Mariners this year. Previously, he’s held them to two, one, and three runs while striking out 23 in 17 innings.

RHP Jon Gray

116 1/3 26.5% 7.6% 11.5% 44.6% 3.64 3.38
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 49.9% 95.9 2021 131 83 110
Changeup 9.9% 88.7 1454 70 38 104
Curveball 4.0% 77.8 2598 116
Slider 36.2% 85.0 2465 105 118 109

From a previous series preview:

A former first round draft pick of the Rockies, Jon Gray’s results in Colorado never really reached his lofty draft status. Across seven seasons in the rarified air of Coors Field, Gray posted a 4.59 ERA and a 3.91 FIP, perfectly acceptable when considering the run environment. It was all the more baffling when, upon reaching free agency, the Rockies did very little to attempt to retain his services or recoup any value from him signing elsewhere. They didn’t trade him for a haul of prospects last summer, they made no real attempt to sign him to an extension, and then didn’t attach a qualifying offer to him once the offseason had started. He wound up signing a four-year deal with the Rangers during their spending spree.

This is Gray’s third start against the Mariners and his first at home against them. He allowed four runs in both of his previous outings. He had recently missed more than a month of the season with an oblique strain, the third time he’s been on the IL this year. He was activated a few weeks ago and has turned in three solid starts in September.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 101-53 0.656 -- W-L-L-W-W
Mariners 83-69 0.546 17.0 L-W-L-W-L
Angels 67-86 0.438 33.5 L-L-W-L-W
Rangers 65-87 0.428 35.0 W-W-L-L-L
Athletics 56-97 0.366 44.5 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
Blue Jays 87-67 0.565 +3.0 L-L-W-W-W
Rays 84-69 0.549 +0.5 L-W-W-L-L
Mariners 83-69 0.546 -- L-W-L-W-L
Orioles 80-73 0.523 3.5 W-W-L-L-W

Having taken two of three from the Rays over the weekend and won a thrilling tenth-inning walk-off against the Yankees yesterday, the Blue Jays hold a three game lead over the Mariners for the top Wild Card spot. This doubles their lead over the Rays and Mariners in that race since our last Series Preview, with Tampa and Seattle holding steady in second and third, a half game apart. The Orioles managed to split their four-game series with the Astros (and came very close to winning it), and walloped the Red Sox yesterday, so they’ve crept up to 3.5 games back of Seattle. With ten games left and the Mariners winners of their season series, however, Baltimore would need to go on quite a tear and Seattle keep slumping hard in order for their positions to reverse.

If the season ended today, Toronto would host Tampa for three, and the Ms would play in Cleveland (the most fortunate matchup for Seattle). Baltimore plays three more in Boston this week– let’s hope they used up all their runs yesterday. The Rays play three against the still-riding-high Guardians in Cleveland, while the Blue Jays host the Yankees for two more.