By Ben Dieter
Now it may seem to early in the season (and it probably is) to call any series a “big series”yet, but with the struggles that the Texas Rangers have had with the Seattle Mariners over the past season plus, I believe that this is a big series for the Rangers. 2012 was a season that ended by the Texas Rangers losing the division on the very last day of the season to the Oakland Athletics, and one of the reasons the Rangers were in that situation was the fact that they struggled to defeat the Mariners all season long. I’ve said it before and I know I will say it again: you have to beat the teams you are supposed to beat. Yu Darvish has never looked like the same pitcher against the Mariners as he does against the rest of the league, and the Rangers offense, even in the good times last season, never looked good against the Mariners either. This weekend it is time for all that to change.
First of all I hope that the Ranger pitching can recover from Alexi Ogando’s terrible outing in Chicago and continue to pitch the way they have been pitching all season. The Rangers still have the second lowest ERA in the American League coming into this series (source). The bull pen did fine on the road trip and the starting pitching did well overall, and I hope that trend continues. Tonight when Yu takes the hill he needs to finally break through this mental barrier that he for some reason seems to have when he sees those Mariner uniforms and finally pitch a lights out game against them. It would make Rangers fans delighted to no end and probably boost Darvish’ confidence if he could get that done.
Second of all I want to see more of Craig Gentry than I do Leonys Martin. No offense to Leonys, but I have been less than impressed with him so far this season, and I think Craig has earned more playing time at this point of the season. Leonys has a RAR (runs above replacement) of -0 and a WAR (wins above replacement) of -0.1, while Craig has a RAR of 4 and a WAR of 0.4. Craig also had the game saving catch in the first game of the Cubs series and just seems to have better at bats at the plate and play slightly better defense than Leonys at the moment. I think Ron should platoon less and play Craig more.
Thirdly I would like to see the defense play up to their potential against the Mariners. During the series that was just played in Seattle, there were some very strange errors, including one by the very sure handed and very accurate Adrian Beltre. I don’t know if there is anything scientific that can explain why the Rangers play a more disheveled brand of defense against the Mariners, but it needs to stop. The Rangers need to get back on track and remember with Ian Kinlser, Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre, they have one of the best infields in all of the major leagues. It is time they started playing like it series against Seattle.
So what do I expect this weekend? I expect Yu to struggle out of the gate tonight, but get it together pretty quickly and finally pitch a good game against the Mariners. I expect that all three of these games will once again be low scoring, and I expect that the Rangers will take two out of the three since they are in Arlington. I hope that Yu comes out tonight and throws a gem, but nothing in my past experience of watching Darvish hurl against the Mariners has told me that he will. I have enjoyed watching the Rangers new brand of offense when it works, and it has been really frustrating when it hasn’t worked. Lets all hope it works this weekend and the Rangers can win another series and get the series winning back on track after two straight series splits.