Texas Rangers: On Deck-Toronto Blue Jays, Round Two

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Jun 16, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers center fielder Carlos Gomez (14) celebrates his tree-run home run with third baseman Adrian Beltre against the Seattle Mariners during the sixth inning of a baseball game at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 16, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers center fielder Carlos Gomez (14) celebrates his tree-run home run with third baseman Adrian Beltre against the Seattle Mariners during the sixth inning of a baseball game at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Texas Rangers are riding high after winning their third straight series and look to keep on rolling as they take on the Toronto Blue Jays. The last time these two faced off, things didn’t go the Rangers way though every game was a battle.

The Texas Rangers continue to impress, winning two of the three games with the Mariners to take the series. Carlos Gomez and Mike Napoli provided some more firepower to the lineup and both came up big on Father’s Day Weekend.

The Rangers were obviously hoping for a sweep but a poor first inning by Yu Darvish in game three proved too much to overcome. Outside of that, the team looked great.

Their offense put up ten runs in each of the first two games, homering six times. Defensively, they committed but one error, leading to an unearned run in game three. Tyson Ross pitched better than anyone expected, allowing just two runs on two hits in 5.2 innings. And the bullpen once again looked solid, giving up just three earned runs in eleven innings of work.

They hope to come out of this Toronto series with a winning record as they are sitting at .500 right now. The last time these two teams met, both were in different situations. The Rangers had just dropped down to .500 after losing three straight to Boston. Toronto on the other hand, was on the rise, having just swept the Brewers.

That series was played in Toronto, where the crowd did everything in their power to make the Rangers’ lives miserable. This time, the Canadians are entering Texas country. If it’s anything like last year, home field advantage could be huge. Of the seven games between these two teams last year, five of them were won by the home team. The Rangers hope that carries over into this year.

Here’s how it ought to pan out:

Monday, June 19 (Estrada vs. Bibens-Dirkx)

I love Austin Bibens-Dirkx. Partly because of his admirable background story, spending twelve years bouncing around the minors and independent leagues before finally making his debut at the age of 32. If that doesn’t make you smile, then I don’t know what will. But it’s not just that, he’s a fun pitcher to watch. He’s got good stuff and is primarily a fastball slider pitcher with a plus change-up. Though not an overpowering strikeout pitcher, Austin induces a lot of weak contact and is currently sporting a 3.28 ERA and is 2-0.

Bibens-Dirkx dominated in his most recent appearance against a strong Nationals team. He gave up just one run on three hits to out-duel Max Scherzer himself. Though he hasn’t been in the league for long, Austin did get the opportunity to pitch against the Blue Jays the last time they played. After A.J. Griffin injured himself in the second inning, Bibens-Dirkx came in as relief and tossed four frames. The Blue Jays managed to get just four hits off of him but two of them were solo shots.

Marco Estrada on the other hand, has been around the league for a while, nine years now. He currently holds an ERA of 4.54 and a record of 4-5. Estrada has not ended a season with a losing record since 2012, but it looks like he could possibly end that streak.

Unfortunately, the Rangers have never had much success against Estrada. He’s faced the Rangers five times over his career and every time has lasted exactly six innings and never once allowed more than five hits. The good news is, the Rangers have always managed to score at least one run on him and once put up five. They’ll need to get closer to that five number if they hope to win.

Prediction: Austin Bibens-Dirkx continues to get things done on the mound and the bullpen doesn’t let him down. The offense gets to Estrada some but really capitalizes on the pen as the Rangers go on to win.

Tuesday, June 20 (Liriano vs. Martinez)

With Tyson Ross entering the rotation and Cole Hamels on his way back, Nick Martinez is the man most likely to lose his job as a starter. As such, he’s out to prove to Jeff Bannister that he deserves a spot in the rotation.

Martinez has certainly had his ups and downs this year, seemingly going from hot to cold and back to hot every other week. However, since June began and the distant return of Ross and Hamels suddenly wasn’t so distant, Martinez has been sharp. He pitched a great game against an Astros team that had scored seven against him just a month prior. The second time around, he allowed just five hits and two runs in six innings. If Martinez continues to pitch like his starting spot depends on it, he’ll be a tough man to beat.

By some miracle, Francisco Liriano has a winning record of 3-2 on the year. His 5.36 ERA is the worst on the Blue Jays’ staff among starters with more than five starts. In ten starts, only once has he made it through seven complete innings. Three times he hasn’t even made it through the fourth. He’s given up at least three runs in half of his starts. One of his biggest issues however has been control as he’s walked at least one batter in every appearance and four or more in four of his starts.

Prediction: The Rangers win as they tee off on Liriano and Nick Martinez pitches well enough before handing the bullpen the reins.

Wednesday, June 21 (Biagini vs. Ross)

I will admit, I was shocked when I saw how well Tyson Ross pitched in his first game back in over a year. I mean, I didn’t necessarily expect him to get shelled but I did think he’d give up more than just two hits. And though his control was a little shaky (walked 3 batters), it still was better than many people, including myself, expected.

If Ross can keep up and even improve upon his first performance, the Blue Jays are in for a long night. Even more importantly though, if Ross can continue to put on performances like that, the Rangers starting rotation could be up there with the best teams in the league. You’ve got two of the best aces in the game in Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels providing a one-two punch at the front. Tyson Ross could become that third guy if he can string together enough solid starts with A.J. Griffin, Martin Perez, and Andrew Cashner battling for those last two spots. And don’t forget about Austin Bibens-Dirkx and Nick Martinez who will be long relief guys more than capable of taking one of those last two spots if the others aren’t performing up to par. That’s a dangerous rotation. But back to Wednesday’s game.

Joe Biagini will be taking the mound across from Tyson Ross. Biagini made the move from closer to starter on May 7 against Tamp Bay. His first couple of starts weren’t bad. Between those first two games, he allowed just one man to cross home plate and saw his ERA drop from a 3.38 to a 2.28. But things have just gone downhill from there.

He’s collected five losses since then, including four straight starting with the Texas Rangers. In that game, he gave up seven hits in six innings and two runs scored. In his most recent start against the Chicago White Sox, he was pulled after the just the first inning. That one inning was all they needed to put up seven runs on eight hits.

Prediction: Once again the Rangers come out of the gate swinging and knock Biagini out of the game early. Tyson Ross isn’t quite as impressive as last time but still has a good outing and helps put the Rangers on top.

Thursday, June 22 (Stroman vs. Perez)

Martin Perez collected his third win of the season in his most recent start against the Seattle Mariners. It wasn’t his best outing, in fact he’d done better in his previous start which resulted in a no decision, but he was able to get a win out of it so the Rangers will take it. He tossed 5.1 innings and allowed four runs on seven hits.

Perez has given up at least five hits in every single outing this year and only once has he not allowed a run. However, he did have success against the Blue Jays his two times facing them last year. In 11.1 innings of work, they managed just nine hits off of him and scored only twice. Only one of those runs was earned.

The young Marcus Stroman has certainly been the team’s ace this year, going 7-3 on the season with a 3.15 ERA. In ten of his fourteen starts, opposing team’s have not managed to score more than two runs. Only once have they collected double-digit hits.

The last time the Rangers faced Stroman was the 2015 ALDS. He pitched the second game of the series and the Rangers managed to win it, putting up four runs on five hits in the seven innings Stroman threw. He faced them again in that dreaded Game 5 the Rangers hate so much. The fireworks mostly all happened after Stroman exited the game though as he was relieved after six strong innings. The Rangers only managed to score twice off of him though they did get six hits.

Prediction: Marcus Stroman pitches well and Martin Perez can’t quite match him. It’s a close game but the Blue Jays come out on top.

Common Opponents

Rangers: Boston (0-3); Angels (3-3); Cleveland (0-3); Seattle (3-6); Oakland (1-3); Rays (1-2)

Blue Jays: Boston (1-2); Angels (2-2); Cleveland (2-1); Seattle (6-1); Oakland (1-2); Rays (6-6)

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