Adrian Beltre (AP Photo)
The Texas Rangers are on a confidence boosting tour right now. They are coming off a nine game stretch where they won eight, and all of those wins came at the hands of AL West competition. They made up a six game deficit in the West to now be statistically tied with the Athletics for first place. And they are going into a four game set with one of the worst teams in baseball.
The Rangers come to Houston off of a three game sweep of the Angels, a team that to me looks like they don’t really care much about baseball anymore with a few exceptions (Mike Trout, Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson). The Angels team ERA is 4.39, which is second worst in the American League behind the Astros, their starters have a BABIP of .301 and an FIP of 4.02 and their relievers have a BABIP of .302 and a FIP of 4.24. The Astros team ERA is 4.94, their starters have a BABIP of 3.14 and a FIP of .455 while their relievers have a BABIP of .311 and a FIP of 4.47. The Angels starting pitchers have a WAR of 2.9 while their relievers have a WAR of -0.2. The Astros starters have a WAR of 1.5 and the pen has a WAR of -0.4. So, both pens blow a lot of leads.
The Rangers should be able to dominate the Astros this weekend, if they continue to feast on bad pitching like they have two of the last three series. The Astros relieving core has a combined ERA of 4.61, and their starting pitching has a combined ERA of 5.04. The Rangers should be able to run all over them and build their confidence going into the last 6 weeks or so of the season. In my opinion, the Rangers reached a turning point in the season after the Cleveland series where they were swept and Washington called a team meeting. The problem with baseball is, there can be another turning point at any point of the season that could drag them back down to the six game deficit that they were in before they got on the hot streak they are currently on. This is the time to prove that they are once again a playoff team.
The Rangers and Astros will line up as such this weekend:
Matt Garza (BABIP of .299, WAR of 0.7) vs Eric Beddard (BABIP of .314, WAR of 0.4)
My confidence is high that this will be a good weekend for the Rangers, and I am glad that they are hitting despite the Nelson Cruz suspension. I am really enjoying the style of ball that Washington has them playing now, and I have to say that I am really impressed with the way Leonys Martin has been playing since being moved to the lead-off spot in the line up. I think the Rangers may have found something that works with the speed they have now at the top. Elvis seems to be playing better, Ian looks comfortable in that third spot, and Beltre has become a beast in the cleanup spot. I love how the first three guys are getting on for the big bat of Beltre. If the pitching holds up and the offense can score three to five runs on most nights, I think the Rangers have a pretty good chance of going into September with a decent lead in the West (three to five games). Of course, we all know what can happen to a lead, just look at 2012. Of course, the big difference between this team and the 2012 squad is this team can pitch better and they don’t have an anchor in the outfield and at the plate dragging down the rest of the team. Should be fun few weeks to be a Ranger fan.