Seattle Mariners’ AL West rivals are also off to concerning starts

Apr 16, 2024, 2:12 PM | Updated: 2:13 pm

Seattle Mariners...

Chas McCormick of the Houston Astros during a 2024 game. (Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images)

(Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners haven’t had the start they hoped for during the opening weeks of the 2024 season.

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After slow starts the past few seasons, the M’s once again stumbled out of the gates. They haven’t won a series yet and entered Tuesday with a 7-10 record, but they’re not the the only American League West contender with a sluggish beginning to the year. In fact, the Mariners sit just 1 1/2 games off the division lead despite their disappointing first few weeks.

ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan joined Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk on Tuesday to discuss the Mariners and more from around MLB, and he provided a look at the rest of jumbled AL West picture. He started with the defending World Series champion Texas Rangers, who at 9-9 are tied with the Los Angeles Angels for first in the division.

“Their pitching is not very good,” Passan said. “They’re hitting, they’re near the top of the American League in runs scored at this point, and I think they feel good about that.”

The Rangers are hovering around the middle of the pack with a 3.99 team ERA, but the underlying numbers suggest they’ve been a bit worse. Texas’ 4.38 FIP ranks 25th in MLB.

Texas is still awaiting the returns of ace Jacob deGrom and veterans Max Scherzer and Tyler Mahle to its rotation. The 35-year-old deGrom had Tommy John surgery on a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) suffered last June and isn’t expected back until at least mid-season. Scherzer had offseason back surgery and wasn’t expected to return until at least June, but he recently said he hopes to be back in May. Mahle had Tommy John surgery while pitching for the Minnesota Twins last season and isn’t expected to return until midseason.

“If they can get like 1 1/2 of those guys back, one who’s coming back and pitching the way that you anticipate he would and another who comes back and is good enough, they’re going to be perfectly fine,” Passan said. “They’re going to be aggressive at the deadline too. They always are. And if there’s a starting pitcher out there to be had, it wouldn’t shock me to see the Rangers go out and get them.”

Starting pitcher Cody Bradford had been a bright spot for Texas early, compiling a 1.40 ERA and 3-0 record over three starts, but he landed on the injured list Monday with back tightness. The Rangers called up top pitching prospect Jack Leiter, the son of former MLB pitcher Al Leiter, on Tuesday.

The Houston Astros have had an even rougher start than the Mariners. Houston entered Tuesday last in the AL West at 6-12 and had allowed more runs than any team in baseball other than the lowly Colorado Rockies (who the Mariners will begin a series against Friday).

The Astros are waiting for veteran pitcher Justin Verlander to return to bolster the pitching staff, but it’s not just the starting rotation that’s been the problem. The team inked All-Star closer Josh Hader to a five-year, $95 million deal in the offseason, and the left-hander struggled find his footing in Houston. In nine appearances, Hader is 0-2 with a 9.39 ERA and only one save over 7 2/3 innings pitched.

“I’m not going to say that this is the year (the Astros fall off),” Passan said, “but man, there are a lot of bad signs there.”

Listen to the full conversation at this link or in the audio player near the top of this story. Tune in to Brock and Salk weekdays from 6-10 a.m. or find the podcast on the Seattle Sports app.

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