Series Preview: Seattle Mariners @ Texas Rangers - Cobra Strikes Again

That's some 80 grade pomp - Otto Greule Jr

The revamped Mariners come to Arlington for the first time in 2014 against the Colby Lewis-led Rangers

Series Schedule:

Monday, April 14 7:05: LHP Roenis Elias vs. RHP Colby Lewis

Tuesday, April 15 7:05: RHP Blake Beavan vs. LHP Robbie Ross Jr.

Wednesday, April 16 7:05: RHP Felix Hernandez vs. RHP Yu Darvish

Thursday, April 17 1:05: RHP Erasmo Ramirez vs. RHP Tanner Scheppers

Usually the excitement level for a series against the Mariners is somewhere between a Lance Berkman at-bat and a Joe Saunders pitch on the Pumped-Up-o-Meter. After a series against Houston where the Rangers looked marginally better than the Astros, and with some intriguing story lines, this series against Seattle might just be the most interesting one the Rangers will play so far this year.

Just scratching the surface of baseball watching, the Rangers get their first look at a revamped rival that comes in with the newly acquired, and gold reserves-depleting, elite second baseman Robinson Cano. The Mariners are desperate to get Felix Hernandez to some October baseball games and they made their move this offseason with a bid to finally get some offense up in Safeco Field.

But that's surface level stuff. The juicy stuff is the fact that Colby Lewis will be pitching for the Rangers tonight for the first time in something like 630 days. July 18, 2012 was the last time Colby took the mound for the Rangers. It's worth noting that that start came after nearly a month on the DL prior and was the breaking point for Colby's apparent near-legendary ability to pitch with a broken body. He just couldn't do it anymore.

But Colby's been rebuilt and now he's back. It seems appropriate that he faces the Mariners because when I think of Colby I think of his excellent best-in-franchise-history pitching in October first, but then I think of this start in April 2010 against the Mariners in Seattle. On that night, in what became known as the Eric Byrnes bicycle game, Colby out-dueled then-Mariner Cliff Lee with nine shutout innings and ten strikeouts in a wild 2-0 12 inning Ranger win.

Of course, that was a different Colby Lewis and we definitely shouldn't expect that kind of performance tonight, but I enjoy knowing I'll see Colby pitch again.

I know we're supposed to be cynical and think of velo readings and look at HR/9 percentages and wonder if maybe it's time to move on to Nick Tepesch because it's all unwashed laundry that we're rooting for and rooting for a human has no place in our cold and calculated world of analytic-based sports "enjoyment." But think about this. Colby Lewis was the starting pitcher in the greatest game in Rangers history. And Colby Lewis was the starting pitcher in the worst game in Rangers history (Don't you dare click that). Colby has been there with us.

The Rangers are in the business of believing in Colby Lewis and Colby put in a lot of work, and showed a lot of faith in some experimental procedures, to work his way back to the mound in Arlington. Even if it doesn't go well, I'm ready to watch Colby Lewis. He's earned that if nothing else.

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Here's a breakdown of the pitching match-ups against the fighting Canos:

  • Colby Lewis: First starter in the majors since June 2012
  • Roenis Elias: 0-1, 4.50 K/9, 3.60 BB/9, .179 BABIP, 83.3% LOB, 4.98 FIP, 5.02 xFIP, 0.0 WAR

Thoughts:

I'm pretty sure Roenis Elias is Cuban for Brandon Maurer. Elias is the latest Mariner sort-of-prospect to have a nice spring to win a spot in the rotation. Were James Paxton and/or Taijuan Walker healthy and ready, Elias probably wouldn't be making this start. So, count your blessings. That said, Elias gets to face the Ranger offense so he's not sweating it either.

We like to laugh at Jered Weaver for maxing out at 88 MPH and giving up dongs by the dozen these days but that's kind of what Colby Lewis is probably going to be working with in his return. He's not going to be the #2 starter he was in 2010 and he's probably not even going to be the guy who was having a really good year in 2012. As excited as I am that Colby has made it back, I think a reasonable expectation for him is to be a solid #4 or #5. Basically, if he's better than Joe Saunders, it's a win because that means we won't see Joe Saunders anymore. Anything more than that is a damn coup. But let's remember this when Colby gives up a few dongs.

  • Robbie Ross Jr.: 0-0, 9.58 K/9, 6.97 BB/9, .320 BABIP, 83.3% LOB, 4.64 FIP, 4.16 xFIP, 0.1 WAR
  • Blake Beavan: (First ML start of 2014) Last season: 0-2, 6.13 K/9, 1.82 BB/9, .292 BABIP, 63.9% LOB, 4.99 FIP, 4.33 xFIP, -0.2 WAR

Thoughts: James Paxton's run of great pitching was sidelined by a lat muscle strain so the Mariners did the next best thing and brought up Blake Beavan to face the Rangers. I'm pretty sure Beavan has never allowed a run against the Rangers in thousands of innings. Against any other team, he's never recorded a single out. He's the Kyle Seager of pitchers.

2014 Robbie Ross has a higher K/9 rate than 2014 Yu Darvish. Let that marinate with you for a while. While you're doing that, also meditate on the fact that 2014 Robbie Ross has a BB/9 rate of HOLY SHIT NO.

  • Yu Darvish: 1-0, 9.00 K/9, 1.20 BB/9, .211 BABIP, 100.0% LOB, 1.58 FIP, 3.28 xFIP, 0.8 WAR
  • Felix Hernandez: 3-0, 12.66 K/9, 0.84 BB/9, .250 BABIP, 79.0% LOB, 2.15 FIP, 2.13 xFIP, 0.7 WAR

Thoughts: OK, so I kind of buried the lede by writing about Colby instead of this match-up up there in the intro. Obviously this is what this series is mainly about. What you have here is likely the best two starters in baseball (with Clayton Kershaw on the shelf and Justin Verlander getting fat and happy with Kate Upton) pitching some of their best baseball. For the first time since 2012, Yu Darvish and Felix Hernandez will share a mound.

Usually these types of match-ups end up boner deflators when one or more of the combatants fails to be great. It's certainly a possibility that expectation-shattering ends up being the case on Wednesday. The Mariners have kind of had Yu's number throughout his young career and the Rangers have been known to inexplicably bludgeon King Felix from time to time. But I like my chances of seeing an all-timer.

Felix is just on another level early this season and Yu is on some sort of mission to become the greatest pitcher who ever lived. Just look at the numbers up there between them. They're absurd. And considering the substandard lineups these two teams are sending out there these days, this could be a real winner for fans of pitching greatness.

  • Erasmo Ramirez: 1-2, 5.63 K/9, 3.38 BB/9, .320 BABIP, 73.4% LOB, 5.68 FIP, 5.17 xFIP, -0.1 WAR
  • Tanner Scheppers: 0-1, 6.19 K/9, 2.81 BB/9, .345 BABIP, 57.3% LOB, 4.93 FIP, 4.73 xFIP, 0.1 WAR

Thoughts: The Rangers have yet to win a Scheppers start. If the Rangers don't start winning Scheppers' starts, Scheppers is going to find himself back in the bullpen when Matt Harrison returns in a couple of weeks.

The Mariners have yet to convince me that they didn't reanimate the corpse of The Eraser. Their Erasmo has turned into a better pitcher than the abject scrub I assumed he was last August when he out-pitched Yu Darvish. I don't know that I've ever been more mad.

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Seattle Mariners 6-5 (2nd Place in AL West)

Rangers' 2013 Record vs. Seattle: 12-7

Seattle's Recent Results: 1-2 home series loss to the Oakland Athletics

Seattle's Road Record: 4-2

The Ballpark Park Factors (LHB/RHB): HR: 108/99 - Runs: 112/109

SB Nation Mariners Blog: Lookout Landing

Match-up: (as of 04/14) Rangers Mariners Advantage
Batting (RAR) -4.3 (19th) -0.1 (15th) Kyle Seager: Obviously Satan
Base Running (RAR) -0.2 (23rd) -1.0 (27th) Kouzmanoff: Speed Merchant
Starters (RAR) 7.7 4.9 Colby Lewis: Wild Card
Bullpen (RAR) 0.8 (18th) 2.7 (12th) Got your Noesi!
Defense (UZR) Error prone so far 1st in Willie Bloomquists No Beltre, no joy
Overall (UZR + RAR) Doesn't matter yet Doesn't matter yet Just don't let Justin Smoak embarrass you

Questions to Answer:

  • Yea or Nay: Prince Fielder hits a home run in this series? (I'm just gonna keep running this one until he finally hits a home run.)
  • Who is your Return of the McLemore Approved Player to Watch in this series? (I just want to watch Yu vs. King Felix forever and ever.)
  • Over/Under: 2.5 home runs by Kyle Seager in this series (or every game in this series)?
  • What's your guess for line (IP/H/K/BB/ER) by Colby Lewis tonight in his first big league start in almost two years?
  • Will the Mariners hit more home runs than the Rangers in 2014? (Seattle has 12 this year, the Rangers have 5 so far.)
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