MLB: Versatile Rangers vie for series sweep of Mariners

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The Texas Rangers rode the pitching of Jon Gray through seven strong innings en route to the team’s sixth shutout win of the season on Friday with a 2-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners.

On Saturday, the Rangers churned out a season-best 19 hits in a 16-6 romp in Arlington, Texas.

Wondering which version of his multi-dimensional team will show up Sunday as the Mariners try to avoid a sweep is a mystery — albeit a fun one — for Rangers manager Bruce Bochy.

“We thought this was going to be a low-scoring game,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said after Friday’s victory. “It would be a game where you have to scratch and claw for runs. And that was the case.”

Sunday’s duel has the potential for another statement pitching performance from the Rangers, winners of 11 of their last 14 games. Arguably no starter in the rotation has been more consistent than right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (7-2, 2.42 ERA), who will get the ball Sunday afternoon.

Eovaldi (7-2, 2.42 ERA) is 5-0 with a 1.20 ERA in his past seven starts. He is 0-1 with a 4.19 ERA in seven career starts against Seattle, although he struck out 11 batters in 6 2/3 innings in their last encounter on May 22, 2022.

“The key is how efficiently he is pitching,” Bochy told Bally Sports Southwest after Eovaldi tossed a complete game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 23. “(He threw 104) pitches and didn’t really have a stressful inning. He gave up the one run, but besides that, it was pretty easy work for him. He’s in such a good groove.”

Seattle, which started Bryan Woo in his major league debut on Saturday, will keep the rookie theme going in its starting rotation by sending right-hander Bryce Miller to the mound for the series finale.

Although Miller (3-2, 3.00 ERA) struggled in Monday’s home loss to the New York Yankees by giving up eight runs on 11 hits, the 24-year-old is 1-1 with a 1.86 ERA in three starts on the road this season.

“It happens,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said after Miller’s rough outing against New York. “You learn from it. You grow. You make some adjustments and get after it next time out.”

Sunday’s matchup also features two of the American League’s brightest young stars going head-to-head once more.

Rangers’ third baseman Josh Jung earned AL Rookie of the Month honors for the second straight month on Wednesday, after posting a .318 batting average with six home runs and 16 RBIs in May.

Jung is seeking a breakout performance on Sunday, as Seattle’s pitching staff held him quiet for the series’ first two games. He is a 1-for-18 with seven strikeouts against the Mariners this season.

“Every day the kid is just doing something impressive,” Bochy said of Jung. “He’s relentless and a joy to have.”

Similarly, Julio Rodriguez is the heartbeat of the Seattle lineup. He has raised his batting average from .204 to .246 over the past 12 games.

Seattle is in need of Rodriguez’s spark in the lineup. The pitching staff’s ERA ranks ninth in the majors at 3.82, but as was the case Friday, production at the plate is equally important. The Mariners are hitting just .228 as a team, which is fourth worst in the majors.

“You have to take advantage of the (quality starts),” Servais told The Seattle Times. “We are not doing that right now.”

–Field Level Media

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