PEORIA, AZ - MARCH 04: Justin Smoak #17 of the Seattle Mariners his a single against the Cincinnati Reds during the second inning of the spring training game at Peoria Stadium on March 4, 2011 in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Justin Smoak
On Deck will be here all season to provide you with everything you need to know (and a few things you don't) about every Rangers series during the 2013 season.
The Opponent: The Mariners stood pat at the trade deadline, despite having some appealing bats to offer, and did so to win now. It hasn't worked out exactly like they'd hoped, but they're a still dangerous team who has played the Rangers well this season.
Past 2013 Meetings: The Rangers are 8-5 against the Mariners this year, but the last time the teams met Seattle took two of three games in Arlington at the beginning of July.
Pitching Matchups: Friday — Derek Holland (9-6, 3.07 ERA) vs. Hisashi Iwakuma (10-6, 3.02); Saturday — Martin Perez (5-3, 3.44) vs. Felix Hernandez (12-5, 2.88); Sunday — Yu Darvish (12-5, 2.64) vs. Erasmo Ramirez (4-0, 7.06)
What's Hot: Adrian Beltre is still doing Adrian Beltre things. In the last week, he's hitting .381 with two doubles and three RBIs. Despite some mental hiccups over the past couple of nights, A.J. Pierzynski is still producing at the plate, hitting .368 with a homer over that same time. Two bullpen guys who had seen massive struggles, Robbie Ross and Tanner Scheppers, have both benefitted from rest and were both perfect in their last outing. That's huge for a loaded Rangers bullpen.
Dustin Ackley has been rejuvenated since being optioned down to the minors and coming back up. The promising young second baseman is hitting .462 over his last four games with two doubles and a triple. He's not the only young Seattle infielder hitting the ball right now, as big prospect Brad Miller is raking as of late, and even former Rangers prospect Justin Smoak is turning into quite the bat at first base. Felix Hernandez struck out nine in eight shutout innings his last time out and will come to Arlington, where he's traditionally struggled, on Saturday.
What's Not: Matt Garza has given up eight earned runs in his last two starts (12 2/3 innings) on 15 hits and has specifically had trouble with the long ball, giving up four homers in those two games. Yet, the Rangers are 4-1 in his five starts since coming over from the Cubs. Even on Wednesday night, he kept his team in the game and the offense bailed him out late. After going on a tear after the all-star break, Elvis Andrus is hitting just .154 in his last six games.
The Rangers will look to get to Iwakuma, who got rocked in his last outing, giving up six runs on nine hits in 6 2/3 innings. If the Rangers can take one of those two first games against the Mariners' two aces, that'll be a huge development for Texas. Kendrys Morales, Michael Saunders and Nick Franklin, who were all hot during the Mariners' hot streak a couple of weeks ago, are all ice cold at the moment.
Familiar Faces: Adrian Beltre spent what was probably the worst run of his career in Seattle, where he was eaten up by the pitcher-friendly Safeco Field and was accused of having a bad attitude. Of course, we know better than that. Justin Smoak, who's been hot as of late, was the big prospect the Rangers sent to Seattle in return for Cliff Lee back in 2010. The rest is history.