Monday, July 1, 2013
The Week Ahead: Mariners, Astros
By Todd Wills
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers get back into divisional play this week with three-game series in Arlington against the Seattle Mariners and the Houston Astros.
The Rangers are 22-10 overall against the American League West for the best winning percentage against division opponents in the major leagues.
They are 7-3 against the Mariners, winning all three games at Rangers Ballpark in April. The Rangers are 5-1 against the Astros with all the games played at Minute Maid Park. So the Astros will make their first trek up I-45 this season.
Here's what to look for this week:
Seattle's finest: The Rangers won't catch a break with the Mariners this time around in Arlington. They'll face Felix Hernandez for the first time at Rangers Ballpark this season -- they have beaten King Felix twice in Seattle this season. Hernandez is 5-8 with a 4.35 ERA in 16 career starts in Arlington. Oddly, King Felix didn't pitch in any of the three series between the division rivals in Arlington last year. He was 0-2 with a 6.10 ERA at Rangers Ballpark in 2011. All three of Seattle's starters are quality pitchers. Tuesday's starter, Joe Saunders, is 5-8 with a 4.98 ERA, but remember he beat the Rangers while pitching for Baltimore last season in the AL wild-card game, ending Texas' season. Thursday's starter for Seattle is Hisashi Iwakuma (7-3, 2.42), who beat the Rangers and countryman Yu Darvish back on April 12 in Seattle.
Ibanez is hot: Seattle left fielder Raul Ibanez hit 10 home runs in June, second in the AL behind Chris Davis' 12 homers for the month. Ibanez tied his career high for a month set in Philadelphia in May 2009. Ibanez has four home runs in the last seven games. He's hit 17 home runs since May 10. Ibanez handed Rangers closer Joe Nathan his only blown save of the season on May 29, hitting a home run in the bottom of the 11th inning. The Mariners eventually won that game 4-3 in the 13th inning.
Smoak on a good run: Former Rangers first-round draft pick Justin Smoak has three home runs in 10 games since returning from the disabled list with a right oblique injury. He has nine hits in his last 34 at-bats with five RBIs and four walks.
Astros sliding again: The Astros were just swept at home by the Los Angeles Angels, a team they've actually played well against during this dismal season. Houston has lost seven of its last 10 games. The Astros are 30-52 on the season, on pace to lose 104 games. But they don't have the worst record in baseball. That distinction belongs to the Miami Marlins, who started Monday with a 29-51 record.
Maxwell out with concussion: The Astros placed outfielder Justin Maxwell on the seven-day disabled list Sunday with concussion-related symptoms after he tried to make a diving catch Tuesday. Maxwell has made a handful of spectacular plays against the Rangers this season playing in center field. Houston called up outfielder Jimmy Paredes from Triple-A Oklahoma City to take Maxwell's place on the roster.