clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Series Preview: Mariners (29-27) at Rangers (35-20)

The Mariners head to Texas to face the division leading Rangers.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

MLB: MAY 29 Rangers at Tigers Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If the Mariners were to choose just a few weekends to fire on all cylinders, this one would be a good option. With staff ace Luis Castillo and rookie phenom Bryce Miller bookending the series and the Rangers six and a half games ahead of the M’s in the AL West, these games present an opportunity to gain ground efficiently. The two teams won’t face each other again until the last two weeks of the regular season (seven of the M’s last ten scheduled games are against Texas). The first game of this weekend’s series is also MLB’s league-wide Lou Gehrig day, an opportunity to raise awareness about the impacts of ALS in baseball and beyond and to support the work toward better treatment and cure.

At a Glance

Mariners Rangers
Mariners Rangers
Game 1 Friday, June 2 | 5:05 pm
RHP Luis Castillo RHP Jon Gray
52% 48%
Game 2 Saturday, June 3 | 5:05 pm
LHP Marco Gonzales LHP Andrew Heaney
41% 59%
Game 3 Sunday, June 4 | 11:35 am
RHP Bryce Miller RHP Nathan Eovaldi
43% 57%
*Game odds courtesy of FanGraphs

Team Overview

Overview Rangers Mariners Edge
Overview Rangers Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 118 (2nd in AL) 97 (9th in AL) Rangers
Fielding (OAA) 4 (5th) 8 (1st) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 88 (4th) 85 (2nd) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 94 (7th) 77 (1st) Mariners

If you’d like a refresher about the Rangers’ offseason approach, see last month’s series preview. A team wRC+ of 134 and the most runs scored in the majors has given Texas the second best record in the American League entering June. They’re even better now than when we saw them last a month ago when the M’s lost two of three at home. Since then, the Rangers have jumped from eighth to fourth in pitching fWAR and shortstop Corey Seager came off the IL hot. With pitching and offense both sharp, Texas went 18-9 in May, most recently taking two of three from Detroit. Ace Jacob deGrom is still not back from injury, but has been throwing and will be reevaluated this week, and catcher Mitch Garver is out in Triple-A on a rehab assignment.

Rangers Lineup

Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Marcus Semien 2B R 258 15.5% 10.1% 0.189 134
Corey Seager SS L 108 17.6% 10.2% 0.245 156
Nathaniel Lowe 1B L 248 19.8% 10.5% 0.150 118
Adolis García RF R 232 25.0% 8.2% 0.248 123
Josh Jung 3B R 223 28.3% 6.3% 0.237 139
Jonah Heim C S 190 17.9% 7.4% 0.167 116
Robbie Grossman DH S 196 25.5% 9.7% 0.140 94
Travis Jankowski LF L 87 20.7% 9.2% 0.104 120
Leody Taveras CF S 165 20.6% 7.9% 0.134 126

The Rangers have a star-studded infield of Marcus Semien, Corey Seager, Josh Jung, and Nathaniel Lowe. Seager (153 wRC+) and Jung (269 wRC+) have been carrying the load the last two weeks. The former has a 156 wRC+ on the season, and the latter continues to deliver big hits (12 home runs) and strikeouts (he’s gotten his strikeout rate down to 28.3%).The Rangers outfield is made up of the consistently powerful Adolis Garcia, Leody Taveras, who is outperforming expectations to the tune of 126 wRC+, and Robbie Grossman, who has cooled off most significantly since early May. There are no easy outs in this lineup, as our sibling site reminded us in an article published on the off day yesterday.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

MLB: MAY 29 Rangers at Tigers Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

RHP Jon Gray

57 2/3 19.9% 8.2% 12.7% 37.3% 2.81 4.64
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 43.0% 95.3 79 76 92 0.417
Changeup 15.5% 88.4 78 80 52 0.342
Curveball 7.8% 78.8 104
Slider 33.7% 85.4 120 107 109 0.218

From a previous series preview:

Jon Gray enjoyed a successful, if injury-marred, first season in Texas last year after signing a four-year free agent deal last offseason. He turned his already good slider into a sweeper and improved its effectiveness outside of the thin air of Coors Field. With his fastball/sweeper combo forming the majority of his pitch mix, he struggled with a pretty significant platoon split. He doesn’t really have a third offering to keep left-handed batters at bay, though he’s tried to improve his changeup over the years. That platoon split is even larger this year and his strikeout rate has cratered to just 14.5% in six starts.

Gray was dominant in his last start against the Mariners, throwing seven innings of one-run ball while striking out eight. That outing began a run of four fantastic starts where he’s allowed just three runs total.

LHP Andrew Heaney

55 24.3% 9.3% 15.5% 41.3% 3.76 4.83
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 58.8% 92.1 102 113 93 0.301
Changeup 21.8% 83.9 97 75 91 0.393
Slider 19.3% 81.7 95 89 104 0.239

From a previous series preview:

Andrew Heaney was one of the other big additions to the Rangers starting rotation behind deGrom this offseason. He posted the highest strikeout rate and second lowest walk rate of his career last year, fueled by the highest fastball velocity of his career. He also took his slurvy curveball and turned it into a more traditional slider with a four mile per hour jump in velocity. A recurring shoulder injury derailed any shot of him putting together a full breakout season. This year, his velocity has taken a step back across the board and his strikeout rate has fallen back towards his career norms. Paired with a huge jump in walk rate, his FIP has ballooned to over six.

Heaney allowed four runs on four hits and two walks in his previous start against the Mariners, striking out seven.

RHP Nathan Eovaldi

74 1/3 24.6% 4.9% 4.8% 52.0% 2.42 2.53
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 37.8% 95.9 95 97 115 0.264
Cutter 19.1% 91.3 85 96 109 0.382
Splitter 26.6% 88.5 119 112 86 0.230
Curveball 13.4% 76.6 106 103 98 0.193
Slider 3.1% 84.7

After an injury-marred season last year, Nathan Eovaldi has been one of the best pitchers in the American League this year. He’s always been a hard thrower, but the key to his development over the last few seasons is a reliance on his secondary offerings that play well off his heater. He’s leaning on his splitter and cutter more often this season at the expense of his slider, and those two pitches have really stymied opposing batters. His splitter in particular has been a deadly weapon and it plays perfectly off his riding fastball.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Rangers 35-20 0.636 -- W-L-W-W-L
Astros 33-23 0.589 2.5 W-L-W-L-W
Mariners 29-27 0.518 6.5 W-W-L-L-W
Angels 30-28 0.517 6.5 L-W-L-W-L
Athletics 12-46 0.207 24.5 L-L-W-W-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Orioles 35-21 0.625 +2.5 L-W-L-W-L
Yankees 34-24 0.586 +0.5 W-W-W-W-L
Astros 33-23 0.589 -- W-L-W-L-W
Blue Jays 30-27 0.526 3.5 L-W-W-L-W
Mariners 29-27 0.518 4.0 W-W-L-L-W
Red Sox 29-27 0.518 4.0 W-L-L-L-W
Angels 30-28 0.517 4.0 L-W-L-W-L

The Angels leapfrogged the M’s in the division standings during the week, as they took two of three against the White Sox. They fell back even with Seattle when they lost the first of four against the Astros yesterday, however, and both teams are further behind the Rangers than they were a week ago. Houston has gained no ground in the West, having lost their series against the Twins 2-1. The Athletics surprised everyone by winning two of three against the Braves this week, and hope for similar results in Miami over the weekend.