ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners will face off for four games starting tonight at Globe Life Park. Seattle comes in on top of the American League West, a surprise early run for a team that spent some money this offseason, headlined by the acquisition of Robinson Cano. A few things to watch during the series:
* Colby Lewis' debut. We've written about Lewis this weekend, so check out on the blog how he's feeling for the upcoming start. He pitches tonight for the first time in nearly two years. I think the Rangers just want Lewis to keep them in games and eat innings. He doesn't have to be a top-end rotation guy. But he gives them a grit and competitiveness on the mound that they need.
* The baseball world will be watching Wednesday night if the rotations stay in order as we get the very attractive ace matchup of Felix Hernandez vs. Yu Darvish. It would be the third time the two aces have met, but the first since July 14, 2012. Both pitchers have had completely different numbers when facing each other in those previous two meetings. A look:
Darvish: 0-2 with a 9.58 ERA (11 earned runs in 10 1/3 innings), nine strikeouts and 10 walks
Hernandez: 2-0 with a 0.53 ERA (one earned run in 17 innings), 19 strikeouts and two walks, one complete game
It's worth noting, of course, that Darvish was just starting his first big league season in 2012 and Hernandez had already won a Cy Young in 2010 and ended up having a perfect game in 2012.
Darvish is now a Cy Young runner-up and has started the season in terrific fashion -- he's allowed no runs on eight hits with 15 strikeouts and two walks in 15 innings (two starts). Also of note is that two of the club's best hitters against Hernandez the last few years no longer wear Rangers uniforms. Ian Kinsler (Detroit) and David Murphy (Cleveland) used to really give Hernandez fits. Can someone else step up?
* Baserunning. It hasn't been good to start the season. The Rangers have shown some aggression, but sometimes haven't been smart. Since it impacted games this weekend, I bet you'll see a renewed focus on it from the players in this series.
* Hitting with runners in scoring position. The Rangers were 3-for-33 in the Astros series and weren't particularly good in Boston either. It's a testament to this club's pitching -- and Martin Perez specifically -- that they were able to squeak by the Astros and win the series without hitting well. They'll need to do a better job of converting in run-scoring situations if they want to win this four-game series.
* Mariners' staff. Seattle's pitching has been one of the best in the American League to start the season, so it makes the above issue -- hitting with runners in scoring position -- even more important.