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May 31, 2012

What You Need to Know

Thursday, May 31

by Daniel Rathman

The Wednesday Takeaway
The Mariners scored eight runs in the second inning of last night’s game against the Rangers. They fooled all of us, including the worldwide leader’s lead play-by-play man, once. Shame on you, Mariners.

But then they scored eight more in the third, fooling everyone again. Shame on us for thinking that we could predict baseball.

On a 90-degree night in Arlington, the Rangers needed 202 pitches to record 27 outs against a lineup that did not feature a single .300 hitter. Starter Derek Holland was charged with eight runs while recording five outs, and he served up homers to Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero. Yoshinori Tateyama made a mess of mop-up duty, getting only two outs and coughing up eight more runs, including the first of two big flies by Justin Smoak.

The heart of the Mariners order—comprised of Kyle Seager, Montero, and Smoak, who entered with True Averages of .265, .252, and .211, respectively—went 10-for-15 with four doubles, three homers, and three walks. That’s as many extra-base hits as, and two more walks than, the Rangers’ entire lineup had—and Texas scored eight runs in the game.

Eric Wedge’s team entered a road series against the team with the best run differential in baseball (+97) having allowed 16 more runs than it had scored. It then proceeded to average 11 runs per game during the three-game series, nearly doubling up its opponent with a total score of 33-17.

The Mariners now have a positive run differential (+2) for the first time since April 27. Their run differential against the best team in baseball is +15, meaning that their margin against the rest of the league is -13. Likewise, the 31-20 Rangers have been outscored by 15 runs by the 23-30 Mariners, while topping everyone else by a combined 94 runs. Madness.

And, best of all? Amid all of this, Hisashi Iwakuma recorded his first major-league save—in a 21-8 game where he allowed 37.5 percent of the other team’s runs.

What to Watch for on Thursday

  • The Tigers have won each of Max Scherzer’s last four starts, and the hard-throwing righty has logged an outstanding 24-to-1 K/BB ratio over his last two. Perhaps that means Scherzer is finally ready to confront his demons at Fenway Park, where he is 0-2 with a disastrous 11.81 ERA in four career outings. Scherzer has averaged only four innings per start at Fenway, allowing 30 hits (four homers) and seven walks while striking out only eight batters in 16 frames. He’ll square off with Josh Beckett, who has tossed three straight quality starts for Boston, tonight (7:10 p.m. ET).
  • They say that April showers bring May flowers; for Dexter Fowler, an April slump has brought May thump. After batting just .239 in April, Fowler has surged to a .333 average and 1.160 OPS with one game to go in May. The 26-year-old has 10 hits in his last 15 at-bats, including a double, a triple, and three home runs. He is also taking full advantage of Coors Field—where the Rockies will attempt to complete a sweep of the Astros tonight (8:40 p.m. ET)—to the tune of a .337/.433/.723 triple-slash this season.
  • The Dodgers are still a major league-best 32-18, but they have lost their last three games and are now just 5 ½ ahead of the second-place Giants, the closest (excluding yesterday) that the National League West race has been since May 9. Don Mattingly’s team is 21-8 at Chavez Ravine and just 11-10 on the road, raising the importance of tonight’s series finale against the Brewers (10:10 p.m. ET). As the calendar turns to June, the Dodgers will play 19 of their next 25 games away from Los Angeles, and they will begin the month with a geographically insane, 10-game road trip that will take them to Denver, Philadelphia, and Seattle—in that order—without the benefit of an off day. Who dreamt that one up?

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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