|Mariners go for sweep of Rangers|
Texas will square off with the Seattle Mariners on Sunday afternoon at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, in the final contest of a three-game series in which the Rangers' youthful and mostly untested core has had some benchmark moments.
The Mariners will start leftt-hander Erasmo Ramirez, who will make his 2018 debut after being activated from the disabled list. He has recovered from a strained lat suffered in mid-February. He has made rehab starts in the minor leagues and threw 5 2/3 innings and 76 pitches in his last start for Triple-A Tacoma on Tuesday. He has yet to face Texas.
Texas will send left-hander Martin Perez (1-2, 13.14 ERA) to the mound.
The Rangers will try to salvage the finale after losing Friday and Saturday.
Robinson Cano hit a go-ahead, two-run homer as part of a five-run, seventh-inning uprising for Seattle, and Edwin Diaz got the final four outs for his MLB-leading eighth save as the Mariners came from behind to beat the Rangers 9-7 on Saturday.
It's an accepted notion in baseball that teams are built up the middle, with its strongest defensive players -- and usually the team leaders -- coming out of the four positions that are nearest the center of the field: catcher, shortstop, second base and center field.
Three of the players who began the season for Texas those positions are out with injuries. First, center fielder Delino DeShields broke his hand in the second game of the season. Then second baseman Rougned Odor sprained his hamstring April 8.
Those injuries were usurped in severity by a broken right elbow suffered by shortstop Elvis Andrus on April 11, robbing the Rangers of one of their most important players and clutch hitters.
Texas moved Jurickson Profar into the shortstop spot, platooned Drew Robinson and Carlos Tocci in center field and called up Isiah Kiner-Falefa to play second base. And while they've been adequate as replacements, it's not the same as having the core in the field, and at the plate that started the year.
DeShields is in a rehab assignment at Double-A Frisco and could come back as soon as he's deemed ready. But from the after-game comments of Texas manager Jeff Banister, the team will not rush their center fielder back to the big leagues, preferring to look at the long-term impact.
"We have to consider what is best for the player," Banister said. "The need of our team is important, but we don't want to just rush a guy back in the month of April. I don't really see the need of that. We'll get him back when he's ready."
Seattle had an injury scare of their own Friday when reliever Juan Nicasio complained about stiffness and an inability to get loose prior to his one-inning appearance in the Mariners' 6-2 victory over Texas.
Nicasio talked his way into staying in the game and worked out of the inning without allowing a run to score
"The ball really wasn't coming out, and Juan admitted he was a little stiff," Seattle coach Scott Servais said. "He said, 'I'm okay. I can go.' You have to trust your veteran players. He didn't feel 100 percent. But it says a lot about him, he was going to gut it out. He made the big pitch and got the double play."
On Saturday, Nicasio said the stiffness was gone from his shoulder. "I was a little tight behind my shoulder," he said. "It felt weird. But I will be okay. I had it checked out with the trainer. I got it massaged. It's better now."
Perez will make his fourth start of the season Sunday against Seattle and will be working on an extra day of rest after he took a loss in his most recent start Monday at Tampa Bay in an 8-4 setback.
Perez, who has allowed at least nine hits in each start this season, is 6-4 with a 3.28 ERA in 17 games (15 starts) against Seattle.