The Mariners got the series-opening win against the Rangers thanks to an amazing comeback and some late-game heroics by JP Crawford. A loss could've doomed their season, but they keep chugging along with a shot to still win the division if things play out right. However, that's a moot point if they can't get through Bryan Woo's final regular season start.
Woo has had a solid rookie season. Decent ERA, decent FIP, decent WHIP (4.39, 4.38, 1.202, respectively). Really, it's all you could want from a rookie who got forced into action midseason in the midst of a playoff run and hot stretch by the Mariners. Without him, you can argue they wouldn't even be in this spot.
September has been a roller coaster for Woo, though. Check out the groupings of his outings so far.
Outings 1&4: 8.1 IP, 9 H, 5 BB, 6 K, 3 HBP, 11 ER
Outings 2&3: 10.2 IP, 7 H, 4 BB, 14 K, 0 HBP, 0 ER
They've let him get into the 80s in his pitch count in all four games, so we have a good idea about how far they will let him go. Which Woo are we going to see though? The one who dominated the Angels and Athletics? Or the one that got shelled by the Reds and Rangers? Obviously those teams are in different tiers, and it needs to be put into the game plan against Texas tonight.
If Woo struggles, the Mariners need to treat it like a playoff game and pull him early. Could you pull him after 2.2 innings if there is trouble, and then hope to get to the 7th or so with a mix of Topa+Brash? It's worth thinking about. The Rangers can pile on runs in a hurry, and they only need the slimmest of windows to do so. If it's 2-0 in the top of the 3rd or 4th and Texas has a chance to blow it open, you can't leave Woo in. Throw your weapons instead, and let Brash decide the game.
I want to see Woo make it through 5 IP or so, giving up just a couple of runs. The Mariners have Castillo and Kirby in their last two games, and I think that is who you can shift the pressure to. Those guys can go 7 and throw 105 pitches. Woo can't do that, and he doesn't have the experience to work through the lineup the third time, either.
Don't forget that Woo has never gone deep into a season before either. Here are his innings totals going all the way back to 2018.
2018: 24.1 IP
2019: 49.0 IP
2020: 17.2 IP
2021: 28.0 IP
2022: 67.2 IP
2023: 128.0 IP
Bryan Woo threw a total of 186.2 IP over five seasons. The Mariners have already thrown him 128 (44+84) in 2023. It's new territory, and more than he threw over the last three seasons combined. It's very possible that he is tired or hitting a wall, and I truly believe that they should pull him at the first sign of real trouble.
The season is on the line, and Scott Servais can't afford to treat this like a mid-August start for Woo. If the Mariners are going to make a series strong push to the playoffs, Woo needs to be treated closer to an opener than a starter in the game against the Rangers.