ARLINGTON, Texas – This was not what Bryan Woo envisioned in his return to the site of his big-league debut.
And now, with Woo in line to face the Rangers again later this week – in what would be the most pivotal start of his young career – it’s only fair to wonder if the Mariners will have to consider other options with their playoff hopes potentially on the line Friday.
The Rangers scored six runs on four homers in 31/3 innings against Woo on Sunday afternoon en route to a 9-8 victory over the Mariners, completing a three-game sweep to wrest control of the AL West.
The 23-year-old Woo didn’t even make it to the third inning in his MLB debut against the Rangers at Globe Life Field on June 3, surrendering six runs in two innings after being called up from Class AA Arkansas.
That’s 12 runs, all earned, the Rangers have scored off Woo in 51/3 innings in his two road starts.
The Rangers roughed up the Mariners’ other rookie, Bryce Miller, for six runs on Friday.
“They’ve got a really good offensive team and in this ballpark, you know, they can do some damage,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said.
Woo was visibly frustrated after the game Sunday.
“I felt fine. Everything felt good. I don’t know what else to say,” he said. “… This definitely hurts a little bit more now that it means a little more. But just gotta find a way to get back after it tomorrow.”
Marcus Semien jumped on a 2-0 fastball that Woo left over the middle of the plate for a leadoff homer in the first inning.
Corey Seager ambushed a slider that Woo left over the middle as well in the third inning, a two-run homer that gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead.
“I think when you get exposed in this environment … you want to learn from it, of course,” Servais said. “I thought his stuff right from the get-go was really good. The fastball had life. With Bryan and Bryce, they lean on the fastball. That’s a very good fastball-hitting team over there. So having something to slow them down, I think it’s going to be really key the next time he faces them. And these are all learning experiences for our young guys. You’re hoping you can figure out a way to come out on top today. It just didn’t happen.”
The Mariners know the Rangers are an aggressive team that likes to hunt fastballs early in counts. And Woo, like the rest of this Mariners pitching staff, prioritizes getting ahead in counts with his plus fastball.
“You’ve still got to go at ’em,” Woo said. “It doesn’t really matter. If you’re not in the zone, you’re not in the zone. It doesn’t do you any good if you’re just nitpicking corners anyway. Even (against) the most aggressive lineup, you still have to be in the zone somehow.”
Luis Castillo, George Kirby and Miller are in line to start the Mariners’ next three games against the Astros.
That would put Logan Gilbert in line to start the opening game of the four-game series against the Rangers on Thursday, with Woo’s turn in the rotation coming Friday.
What other options the Mariners could even consider is not entirely clear as they leave Texas. Woo said he’d like another chance to start.
“Looking forward to hopefully getting after them again,” he said. “Just gotta keep moving forward.”