Former San Francisco Giants outfielder Denard Span smiles after hitting a solo home run off Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks in the third inning on May 24 at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/UPI | License Photo
Seattle has been rolling for the past two weeks and got another weapon in the chase to catch defending World Series champion Houston when outfielder Denard Span reported to the Mariners on Monday.
The Rangers will send right-hander Austin Bibens-Dirkx (0-1, 5.68 ERA) to the mound on Tuesday to oppose Seattle right-hander Felix Hernandez (5-4, 5.58).
Span, who was acquired from Tampa Bay on Friday, was in the lineup in left field and scored a run in the Mariners' 2-1 win over the Rangers on Monday afternoon.
Seattle has won four straight games and nine of its past 10. The Mariners have rallied around the absence of star second baseman Robinson Cano, going 11-3 since he last suited up May 13.
Span is expected to play left field for the Mariners on a regular basis, with Ben Gamel shifting to the fourth outfielder role.
In 11 major league seasons with the Minnesota Twins, Washington Nationals, San Francisco Giants and Tampa Bay Rays, Span has hit .282/.348/.396 while primarily playing center field. He has been in the playoffs in four different seasons with the Minnesota, Washington and San Francisco, and he would love to help Seattle get there, as well.
"They've already been rolling," Span told MLB.com. "I just want to come in and add as much as I can, both on the field and with my experience in the clubhouse. It's a young, fun, energetic ballclub that I'm just looking forward to being a part of.
"Just my experience in general, having almost a decade in this game, I've seen a lot. And my presence hopefully will make a difference and help out some of the young guys. But they already have experience on this team."
Joey Gallo was out of the Texas lineup on Monday with left-hander Marco Gonzales pitching for Seattle, but Rangers manager Jeff Banister said before Monday's game that Gallo's absence was about giving him a break rather than sitting him against southpaws.
Seattle has left-handers James Paxton and Wade LeBlanc set to pitch Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. Gallo is batting .151 with just six extra-base hits (five of them homers) in 53 at-bats against left-handed pitching this season.
"Joey is a big man who plays hard and runs hard," Banister said. "You see him run hard on every ground ball and on the bases. There are still days he needs to work on his craft and a day like this gives him an opportunity to get in the cage and get extra work."
Gallo pitch-hit for the Rangers with two outs in the top of the ninth and flied out against Edwin Diaz to end the game.
Bibens-Dirkx will make his second start and appearance for Texas on Tuesday. He had his contract purchased from Round Rock (AAA) on Thursday and made his season debut that night at home against Kansas City, taking the loss for the Rangers. Bibens-Dirkx's 109 pitches in that game were a season high for a Texas starter.
Bibens-Dirkx is an Oregon native who was originally selected by Seattle in 16th round of the June 2006 draft. He will be making first career start against the Mariners, but had two relief appearances against Seattle last season, both in September and both in Arlington. He has a 0-0 record and a 6.75 ERA against the Mariners.
Hernandez took the loss in his most recent start, a 4-3 Mariners setback on May 24 in Oakland in which he surrendered five runs, four hits and a walk in six innings. He has tossed five-plus innings and allowed three or fewer earned runs in seven of his 11 starts this season.
Hernandez is Seattle's career leader in wins (165), innings (2,563 2/3), strikeouts (2,393) and starts (386). He will be making his 56th career start against the Rangers, against whom he 19-24 with a 4.00 ERA.
Hernandez did not factor into the decision in a 6-2 Mariners win on April 20 at Texas.