The series that began on Monday was a tale of two teams trending in opposite directions. The Houston Astros had been winners of ten straight and receiving wonderful pitching from their entire rotation, as well as their bullpen. It also helped that their bats could carry them to victory when need be. Facing them was our Texas Rangers, cellar dwellers in the AL West and lucky to score more than two runs in any given game. So of course it was Texas that swept the three game series, outscoring Houston 20-5, and sending the preseason darling Seattle Mariners to the basement to think about what they’ve done.
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Following the sweep (the Rangers first winning streak of any length this season), the team currently sits percentage points behind Oakland for third in the West, holding an 11-16 record. Having gone 5-5 in their past ten, the Rangers are the hottest team in the division, outside of the Astros who, as I mentioned, just got swept.
The key for the Rangers over this series was their starting pitching. On Monday night, the Rangers handed Houston their first loss in a game in which Dallas Keuchel started–with Ross Detwiler as the opposition no less. Detwiler (7 IP, 4 Hits, 1 ER, 7 K’s), Wandy Rodriguez (8 IP, 3 Hits, 1 ER, 8 K’s) and Colby Lewis (8 IP, 6 Hits, 1 ER, 6 K’s) provided solid outings and helped to rest the bullpen, who rank second in total innings with 95 2/3 (Boston has 96 2/3), for the upcoming series with a surprising Tampa team.
The Rays have scored 101 total runs this season, compared to the Rangers 109, but the Rays have the edge in pitching, especially starting pitching (3.17 ERA to 3.79), having given up 100 cumulative runs to Texas’ 122. Tampa’s bullpen has an ERA of 3.96, so the key to this series will be knocking out the starter and working their relief corps. In order for this plan to be effective, Nick Martinez, Yovani Gallardo, Detwiler and Wandy need to give the team solid innings to limit the exposure of their own bullpen. This seems like a basic formula to win any series, but it’s how they won the last one, so let’s keep it rolling.
Tampa is 5-5 in their last ten, and have a 6-6 record at Tropicana Field. Sounds like we could be in for a split here, which isn’t all bad.
Steven Souza, acquired in the Wil Myers deal over the break, has struck out 41 times this season which is the highest total in baseball. Souza also has four home runs (team high) and eleven rbi, so there is a little pop in his bat, along with a decent eye, having drawn fourteen walks. He may be the player to watch out for in this series, as his splits don’t indicate a real weakness, batting .217 with two homers versus lefties, while batting .236 with two homers versus righties. Yes his batting average is low, but that doesn’t mean he can’t change the outcome of a game with one swing of the bat. The Trop has not been kind to Souza. He’s batting just .192 at home compared to .279 on the road.
Friday’s starter, Chris Archer (3-3, 1.64) has one simple method to beat him: score a run off him. In his three wins, he has allowed no runs whatsoever, while in his three losses, he’s allowed an unearned run and totals of four twice. With the offense producing, one run shouldn’t be too much to ask. Unless this trend doesn’t hold, in which case score a bunch, boys! Nick Martinez (2-0, 0.84) will be on the bump for Texas, and they have yet to lose a game in which he starts this season.
Nate Karns (1-1, 4.05) will take on Gallardo (2-4, 4.05) in game two, and this should be a good matchup with each pitcher having stellar, and less than stellar outings in their game log for the season, while holding identical ERAs. Game three will feature Detwiler (0-3, 6.57) who is coming off of two terrific starts, combining for 12 1/3 IP, 9 hits, 3 runs and 12 K’s for Texas. In his first three starts of the season, Detwiler had strikeout totals of 2, 3 and 0. He will be matched up against Jake Odorizzi (3-2, 2.21) a 25 year old righty who has had similar luck to Archer. He’ll either allow a couple of runs and the team will lose, or allow one, leading the team to a W.
Finally, Drew Smyly (0-1, 2.70) will take the hill for Tampa in the series finale, and Kyle Blanks, Adrian Beltre and Carlos Corporan have all had some success against the righty in limited at-bats. Smyly has only made three starts this season and has yet to give up more than two runs in any of those outings. Wandy Roriguez has the task of pitching his team to victory here.
Can the Texas Rangers keep on rolling? The pitching match ups indicate that there is no lopsided pairings one way or another, which should lead to an interesting series. If the bats can continue to produce and the starters can go deep into the game, the Rangers should be looking at a series win.