Game 44, Mariners at Rangers
Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Colby Lewis, 5:05pm
The M’s and Rangers are separated by a half-game in the standings, and while things like games-behind don’t mean everything at this point, the M’s really do need to stick around Texas in the next month or two. Like the M’s, the Rangers rotation was plagued with injuries, as Derek Holland’s still out, Martin Perez joined the TJ club, and it’s not at all clear that Matt Harrison will pitch again, ever. Like the M’s, they committed a lot of money to a proven offensive weapon, and have watched said weapon disappoint. The Rangers were probably a better team, on paper, on opening day, but it was very close. The Rangers have had essentially everything go wrong, and they’re still essentially at or near .500. The M’s have had a lot go wrong, and they too are essentially a .500 team.
What you do with this set of selective similarities probably says a lot about your relationship with the M’s. The pessimists would say that the M’s can’t separate themselves from the Rangers even when half the team comes down with Bubonic plague, and they’re turning to Colby Lewis and Nick Martinez in their rotation. Optimists would say that the M’s version of Nick Martinez is names Roenis Elias, and Elias is likely better. That Robinson Cano’s a very good player, and that many fans saw Prince Fielder as a declining, limited player whose reputation (and salary) outstripped his actual production. Both views are justifiable, of course. The Rangers turned to Josh Wilson for a good chunk of April. Their opening day starter was a converted 7th inning reliever. But think back to what we all said on opening day – with Iwakuma and Walker out, the M’s just needed to stay close to .500 and make a run in the second half. With the news that James Paxton’s close to making a rehab start in the minors, hasn’t this condition been met?
It has, but there’s a problem; there’s ALWAYS a problem, it’d seem. The offense has struggled, and instead of getting key contributions from the likes of Stefen Romero, the M’s OF still ranks 25th offensively in baseball (though 19th overall! Silver linings!). Worse, the M’s found a *new* hole, as their shortstops rank dead last offensively. The fact that they’re hanging with the Rangers is encouraging as far as it goes, but the A’s have already left them in the dust, and the Angels look solid (except when facing the M’s, oddly). The M’s playoff chances (er, wild card chances) are still large enough to care about, but that’s in part due to the parity in the AL East and the ineptitude of the AL Central. All of this means that the M’s position vis a vis the Rangers, and to a lesser extent the Royals/Orioles/Rays/Jays could get important. This is the situation the Wild Card was supposed to create – that even a team in 3rd had some sort of hope. Well, the M’s have some. Now they’ve got to keep it alive.
Colby Lewis has quietly put up his best K rate since 2010, and has a brilliant K-BB%. But as a flyballer in Arlington, his actual runs allowed don’t look like it. A BABIP over .400 will do that, of course, but some of that may be the result of a shaky defense as Jurickson Profar, Adrian Beltre and others spent time on the DL. Lewis traditionally had problems with lefties, and he still does, though this year it’s righties that have hurt him. He’s a fastball/slider guy to righties, and he’s a fastball/sinker/change/slider/etc. guy to lefties.
As Jeff noted, Nick Franklin’s been recalled, and he’ll start today at DH. In the minors, he’s moved to the OF in the past week, playing a game in RF and one in LF. We’ll see if he gets some time in RF, or if he’ll bounce around the diamond.
1: Jones, CF
2: Saunders, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Smoak, 1B
5: Seager, 3B
6: Franklin, DH
7: Ackley, LF
8: Zunino, C
9: Miller, SS
EIGHT lefties. Pretty good line-up against Lewis.
Still can’t believe the M’s lost Corey Hart on a stolen base.
Jimmy Gilheeney starts for Tacoma as they open up a homestand against Reno. Lars Huijer gets the ball for Clinton in Peoria.