|Mariners, Rangers want to end recent losing trend|
American League West rivals Texas and Seattle will square off for the initial time in the 2018 season Friday at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, with both teams heading into in the opener of a three-game set after losses.
Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez (2-2, 5.48 ERA) will oppose Rangers left-hander Mike Minor (1-1, 4.60). The Mariners took 11 of the 19 meetings in 2017 and won six times in Texas.
The Rangers head home after a break-even, six-game road trip in which they took two of three in Houston against the defending World Series champion Astros before losing two of three at Tampa Bay.
That's the way it seems things are going to go for Texas this season, especially as it battles through injuries to center fielder Delino DeShields, second baseman Rougned Odor, shortstop Elvis Andrus and infielder Jurickson Profar.
The Rangers' latest setback was a 4-2 loss Wednesday to the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in which ace left-hander Cole Hamels was saddled with the defeat.
Texas managed six hits but got the winning run to the plate before a ninth-inning rally fell short.
"We're just really trying to put it together and play as a team," Hamels said. "For us and what we have at stake, it's going to be a battle and not easy. We are nicked up with injuries.
"The big hits and the big pitching performances will come. We'll start rallying off a few wins and get on a roll."
Infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa was called up to the majors for the first time April 10 and made his first start at shortstop Tuesday, getting four hits in a 7-2 victory over the Rays. So far, Kiner-Falefa has handled everything thrown at him.
"For me, it's just confidence," Kiner-Falefa said. "The biggest thing is getting comfortable and gaining confidence. I've felt comfortable, I've been seeing the ball well and putting good swings on it."
Texas manager Jeff Banister likes what he has seen in the past two games from Kiner-Falefa.
"He's having fun playing baseball," Banister said about Kiner-Falefa. "He's talented and we saw in spring training that he's not afraid. He has the heart and he has the courage and he goes out and plays baseball."
Seattle has lost two straight games, most recently a 9-2 thrashing at home to Houston on Thursday afternoon in which the Mariners' bullpen gave up six runs in the final four innings.
The Mariners' bats also had difficulty, managing only seven hits off four Houston pitchers and despite turning a triple play in the fourth inning.
Seattle manager Scott Servais said Thursday that he's concerned with designated hitter Nelson Cruz's mobility as he attempts to play his way back from a sprained right ankle. Cruz came off the disabled list Saturday, but is still running gingerly and had a single in four plate at-bats Thursday.
"We may have to give Cruz a day down here or there," Servais told MLB.com. "I'm hoping he gets better. I'm not so concerned with the running as looking comfortable in the batter's box, being able to handle some pitches and use his lower half correctly so he can get his swing off. I am concerned and keeping a close eye on it."
Hernandez is scheduled to make his 380th major league start at Texas. His most recent start resulted in a 2-1 loss to Oakland on Sunday in which he gave up two runs and five hits in 6 1/3 innings.
Hernandez will be making his 55th career start against Texas. He is 19-24 with a 4.01 ERA, 300 strikeouts and 116 walks versus the Rangers.
Minor will be pitching on five days' rest after taking a no-decision in the Rangers' 6-5 extra-inning win Saturday at Houston. He faced the minimum and did not allow a hit in the first three innings, but the first five batters he faced in the fourth all reached and scored.
Minor is 1-1 with a 1.64 ERA in four games (one start) in his career against Seattle.