So much of the AL West and AL Wild Card races could be decided this weekend, as the Seattle Mariners (84-68) head south to take on the Texas Rangers (84-68) on Friday night — the first of seven games between these two teams over the next 10 days. First pitch of the opener of this three-game set from Globe Life Park is set for 8:05 p.m. ET. Seattle will send rookie Bryce Miller (8-5, 3.88 ERA) to the mound in the biggest start of his young career, while Texas counters with righty Dane Dunning (10-6, 3.78).
The AL West could hardly get any tighter, and the next week will go a long way to sorting things out. Seattle and Texas are just a half-game back of the Astros for the division lead, and they’re in a dead heat for the third and final AL Wild Card spot — a half-game back of the Blue Jays for the second spot. (Texas has a 5-1 lead in the season series over the Mariners so far.)
The Rangers enter as -125 favorites on the moneyline at DraftKings Sportsbook, with Seattle at +105. The run total is set at 9.
Mariners-Rangers picks: Friday, September 22
Out: C Tom Murphy (thumb)
Out: SP Max Scherzer (shoulder)
Bryce Miller vs. Dane Dunning
Miller remains more or less a one-pitch pitcher — he throws his four-seamer some 60% of the time, and neither his slider nor his changeup have stepped up as consistent strike producers for him just yet — but the heater is an awfully good one, and it’s allowed him to survive in the second half of his rookie season. The righty blanked the Los Angeles Dodgers on four hits over 5.1 innings last time out, but given that he forced just five whiffs and four strikeouts it’s fair to wonder how much of that was merely batted-ball luck. His start prior to that was a discouraging one, as he allowed five runs on nine hits in five innings in a loss to the Rays. When he has his best fastball with him, he can still navigate a lineup, but the margin for error is slim — just look at his last start against Texas, where he allowed seven runs on eight hits in just 2.1 innings back in early June.
Dunning was a god-send for the beleaguered Rangers rotation earlier this season, but he’s hit a bit of a wall in the second half. The righty has a 5.12 ERA since the All-Star break, including a 6.61 mark so far in September — although that number is inflated by a nine-run blow-up against the Astros to start the month. He’s been better over his last two outings, giving up three runs on six hits over six innings to the Blue Jays before holding the Guardians scoreless over five frames last weekend. The righty’s slider is the key to his success, and he’ll need it on Friday against a righty-heavy Mariners lineup featuring the likes of Julio Rodriguez, Ty France, Teoscar Hernandez and Eugenio Suarez.
Texas has matched or exceeded this total in 15 of their last 18 games, both due to an explosive offense and a questionable pitching staff. With Dunning fading down the stretch and Miller’s spotty history against Texas, I’m banking on plenty of runs being scored on Friday night.
Pick: Over 9
In a slugfest in which neither starter figures to work too deep into this game, my money is on the team with the far better bullpen — especially if I can get them at plus odds. Texas may have the slightly deeper lineup, but their bullpen has been a disaster of late, and Seattle has the high-leverage arms to steal a huge win here.
Pick: Mariners +105