MLB Game Preview - Rangers v Mariners

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  W: R. Elías (2-0)   L: K. Dowdy (1-1)
7:10 PM PT8:10 PM MT9:10 PM CT10:10 PM ET22:10 ET2:10 GMT10:10 7:10 PM MST9:10 PM EST9:40 PM VEN6:10 UAE (+1)9:10 PM CT, April 26, 2019
T-Mobile Park, Seattle, Washington  Attendance: 21,721

Kikuchi to 'open' for Mariners against Rangers

According to STATS
According to STATS

Texas Rangers at Seattle Mariners

  1. Texas is hitting .429 on the first pitch this season, best in the AL. The Rangers are hitting .283 when the count reaches 1-0 compared to .201 after the count is 0-1.
  2. The Mariners did not hit a home run in their last two games, including being shut out, 1-0, on Wednesday, after hitting at least one in 24 of their first 25 games. Despite this, they still lead MLB in home runs per game (2.1) and runs per game (6.0).
  3. Joey Gallo slugged .685 with six home runs against the Mariners last season -- that's the highest slugging percentage by a Ranger against the Mariners (minimum 50 plate appearances) since David Dellucci in 2005 (.778). In his first three seasons, Gallo posted a .417 slugging with five home runs against Seattle.
  4. Shin-soo Choo has a .398 on-base percentage when batting first this season, third best in MLB (minimum 50 plate appearances). He is getting on base at a .568 clip when leading off an inning this season, best in MLB (minimum 30 PA).
  5. Daniel Vogelbach's 1.238 OPS is the highest by a Mariner (among qualifiers) in his first 20 games of the season since Alex Rodriguez in 1999 (1.255). He had a .616 OPS in the first three seasons of his career.
  6. Texas was swept by Oakland on the road and is now 2-7 (.222) on the road compared to 10-4 (.714) at home. That difference in win percentage (.492) is the largest in MLB. On the other hand, the Mariners are 11-4 (.733) on the road compared to 5-7 (.417) at home, the largest difference (road better) in MLB.
Notes Applicable For Series Dates: 4/25/2019 thru 4/28/2019

One of the reasons left-hander Yusei Kikuchi signed with the Seattle Mariners in the offseason was the unique wellness plan they pitched to him.

Trying to avoid the injuries that have befallen Japanese stars like Yu Darvish, Shohei Ohtani and Daisuke Matsuzaka once they started pitching every five days in the majors as compared to the six-man rotations they use overseas, the Mariners will use Kikuchi as an "opener" about once a month, pitching just the first inning or so before handing the ball to one of Seattle's pitching prospects.

That plan will be put to use for the first time Friday night against the visiting Texas Rangers.

Kikuchi (1-1, 4.68 ERA) is scheduled to start against Rangers right-hander Shelby Miller (1-1, 7.63), who won his only previous appearance against Seattle. Lefty Justus Sheffield, the Mariners' No. 1 prospect, is set to make his debut for the team in relief of Kikuchi after being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma.

"(Kikuchi) understands what we are shooting for. It's about getting him through the whole season," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "He's still going to make the start; he's still going to go through his routine and throw his bullpen in between starts like he'd normally do. He's just not going to go out and throw 95 pitches."

Sheffield, acquired in the offseason trade that sent left-hander James Paxton to the New York Yankees, came on in the second inning of Tacoma's game Monday in Albuquerque to get used to the role.

"He's come out of the bullpen before and the key is to come in, throw strikes and attack them," Servais said. "The catcher will have the plan and just stay with the catcher. Just simplify it. That's what I would tell any young pitcher making his first start or first appearance. Just simplify it and trust your stuff."

The Mariners won the opener of the four-game series 14-2 Thursday night, taxing an already beleaguered Texas bullpen.

Long reliever Kyle Dowdy started Wednesday because Drew Smyly was scratched due to "nerve tightness" in his left arm. And Lance Lynn lasted just four innings Tuesday.

Rangers left-hander Taylor Hearn, making his major league debut, failed to get out of the first inning Thursday.

The 24-year-old faced eight batters and recorded only one out before being pulled after 39 pitches. He allowed five runs (four earned) on three hits and four walks.

"You never want to do that obviously for a kid's major league debut," Rangers manager Chris Woodward said of pulling the rookie. "Before the game, I talked to him. He was in good spirits and he was calm. I think if he would have gotten through that first inning, things would have been a little bit different. Obviously, the big leagues are tough. You get out there and things don't go your way, especially the first time out, you don't really have anything to base it off. He'll learn from that. A lot of our guys talked to him during the game. He came back and sat in the dugout. I saw him talking to (Hunter) Pence. I saw him talking to (Lance) Lynn. I had a few words with him. He'll learn from that. Hopefully, 15 years from now, he'll have a memorable first outing."

--Field Level Media

Updated April 26, 2019

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