Series Preview: Texas Rangers @ Seattle Mariners - M*A*S*H

Two out of three ain't bad - USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers take their league leading siege mentality to Seattle to take on the struggling Seattle Mariners

Series Schedule:

Friday, April 25 9:10: LHP Roenis Elias vs. LHP Robbie Ross Jr.

Saturday, April 26 8:10: RHP Felix Hernandez vs. RHP Colby Lewis

Sunday, April 27 3:10: RHP Brandon Maurer vs. LHP Matt Harrison

Currently the Rangers' active 25-man roster includes the likes of Nick Martinez, Aaron Poreda, Shawn Tolleson, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Donnie Murphy, Josh Wilson, Robinson Chirinos, Luis Sardinas, and Daniel Robertson. They've had the likes of Pedro Figueroa, Seth Rosin, Daniel McCutchen, Chris Gimenez, Hector Noesi (yuck), and Joe Saunders (*vomit*) all on the active roster and we're not even a month into the marathon. I would imagine you didn't envision the Rangers having even one of those people on the roster all season at all when you were dreaming up best-record-in-the-American-League scenarios this winter.

And yet, here we are. After sweeping the A's in Oakland, the Rangers are in first place in the AL West and have the league's best record (They're tied in both of those marks now after Oakland beat Houston last night but that hardly counts). I'd call you a liar if you told me you even know what Daniel Robertson or Chris Gimenez look like and yet the Rangers are finding a way to not only stay afloat, but thrive.

And it's only going to get better. The Rangers get Adrian Beltre back this weekend. Matt Harrison returns after a year away with back troubles. Shin-Soo Choo could return to the lineup. In another month, Geovany Soto and Jurickson Profar will be nearing their returns. The rotation that began the year Tanner Scheppers/Martin Perez/Robbie Ross Jr./Joe Saunders/Nick Martinez is now Yu Darvish/Martin Perez/Matt Harrison/Robbie Ross Jr./Colby Lewis. And Derek Holland is off slipping a whoopee cushion on some trainer's chair somewhere as he nears a return to the mound.

The Seattle Mariners know the feeling. They have had their fair share of injury issues and are missing 3/5ths of their penciled in starting rotation. After a great couple of starts, James Paxton is down for a couple of months. Taijuan Walker hasn't pitched with scary shoulder issues. And maybe most damning thus far, No. 2 starter Hisashi Iwakuma has missed all of April.

The difference, so far, is the Rangers have persevered whereas the Mariners have -- to the surprise of not a single Mariner fan -- crumbled. The Rangers have won 8 of 10 to take a share of the AL West lead while the Mariners were a Kyle Seager walk-off home run away from a nine game losing streak and home series sweep at the hands of the Houston Astros.

Obviously it's still early, but, in line with the fortunes of these two franchises over the last half decade, the Rangers continue to trend up no matter the obstacles in place while the Mariners continue to test the idea that a floor exists despite any and all attempts to right the ship.

Here's a breakdown of the pitching match-ups against the more expensive 4th place Seattle Mariners:

  • Robbie Ross Jr.: 1-1, 8.10 K/9, 3.09 BB/9, .273 BABIP, 74.6% LOB, 4.18 FIP, 3.60 xFIP, 0.2 WAR - Last three starts: 4 runs allowed in 18.1 innings
  • Roenis Elias: 1-2, 6.04 K/9, 4.43 BB/9, .270 BABIP, 74.5% LOB, 4.46 FIP, 4.49 xFIP, 0.1 WAR - Last three starts: 7 runs allowed in 17.1 innings

Thoughts: Robbie Ross found out last time on the hill that being a starting pitcher isn't all cake and shutouts. After going consecutive outings without allowing a run, Ross gave up 7 runs (4 earned) in that gross 16-2 loss to the White Sox. It was a weird game for Ross who struck out a career high 8 over 5 1/3 innings and threw 65 of his 86 pitches for strikes. And yet, he was pummeled. So, for the first time in Ross' career as a big league starting pitcher, he gets the chance to rebound after a subpar outing. Ross faced Seattle when the Mariners were in Arlington and went 7 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball. Let's do that again.

When Seattle was last in Arlington, Roenis Elias got his first career big league win in that awful 7-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners. Like Ross, Elias' last outing was by far his toughest as a big leaguer so far (4 ER in 5 2/3 innings in a loss to the Marlins). So, it's a battle of the bounce back.

  • Colby Lewis: 1-1, 6.75 K/9, 0.84 BB/9, .371 BABIP, 75.3% LOB, 3.31 FIP, 3.72 xFIP, 0.2 WAR - Only two starts of 2014: 5 runs allowed in 10.2 innings
  • Felix Hernandez: 3-1, 10.95 K/9, 1.02 BB/9, .253 BABIP, 67.2% LOB, 2.21 FIP, 2.28 xFIP, 1.2 WAR - Last three starts: 5 runs allowed in 21.0 innings

Thoughts: Dude, King, you can't just go an allow six runs to the Houston Astros in Safeco Field and continue to look menacing. That's what happened last Monday. Only two of those runs were earned but the Astros were blasting off on Felix and it was weird. Of course, for a pitcher like Felix it was likely the anomaly of all anomalies, and he'll come back and toss a shutout against the Rangers, but at least we can all have a laugh about the time the Astros took King Felix to the guillotine.

Colby gets his second look at the Mariners which means the Mariners get their second look at Colby. It will be interesting to see how Colby adjusts to a team having recently seen him as he continues to find work his way back into the groove of starting every five days.

  • Matt Harrison: First start since April, 2013. Welcome back, Matt!
  • Brandon Maurer: 0-0, 8.31 K/9, 4.15 BB/9, .200 BABIP, 75.0% LOB, 2.56 FIP, 3.18 xFIP, 0.1 WAR - Only other start in 2014: 1 run allowed in 4.1 innings

Thoughts: It's Matt Harrison in Return of the Mummy! Seriously, you couldn't ask for a better team for Harrison to come back against. Harrison is 10-2 with an ERA of 2.06 in 18 career appearances against the M's and 5-1 with an ERA of 0.99 in 8 appearances against the M's at Safeco. The Rangers lost Matt Harrison to back surgeries last April as they made their first trip to Safeco. This year, in their first trip to Safeco, they get Matt back. In many ways, this allows us to pretend 2013 didn't happen at all.

Brandon Maurer is the definition of a baseball redshirt. He's the Mariners' Nick Martinez.

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Seattle Mariners (8-13, 4th Place in AL West)

Rangers' 2014 Record vs. Seattle: 2-1 (All at The Ballpark)

Seattle's Recent Results: 2-1 home series loss to the Houston Astros

Seattle's Home Record: 3-5

Safeco Field Park Factors (LHB/RHB): HR: 87/90 - Runs: 83/93

SB Nation Mariners Blog: Lookout Landing

Match-up: (as of 04/25) Rangers Mariners Advantage
Batting (RAR) 0.8 (14th) -21.8 (28th) Boy, Cano really fixed that M's offense
Base Running (RAR) 1.4 (10th) -0.9 (20th) Elvis' 1.3 BR is higher than all but nine teams
Starters (RAR) 4.3 12.1 Yeah, well, at least none of the Texas starters in this series have lost to Houston
Bullpen (RAR) 5.5 (12th) -1.4 (21st) Soria has done well to make us forget Joe Nathan
Defense (UZR) 4.0 (10th) 8.5 (5th) Cano has been the M's worst defender
Overall (UZR + RAR) 16.0 -3.5

Is there a floor?

Questions to Answer:

  • Which expensive new star has been more disappointing through almost a month of the season: Prince or Cano?
  • Who is your Return of the McLemore Approved Player to Watch in this series? (Adrian Beltre is back!)
  • Over/Under: 2.5 times you confuse Donnie Murphy for Josh Wilson in this series?
  • What's your guess for line (IP/H/K/BB/ER) by Matt Harrison on Sunday in his first start since the 2013 season and first start in over a year?
  • Yea or Nay: The Rangers win this finale April road series in Seattle?
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