Texas Rangers: On Deck-New York Yankees

Jun 21, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus (1) reacts to hitting a single the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 21, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus (1) reacts to hitting a single the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

Though the Texas Rangers didn’t quite have the Toronto series go the way they wanted it to, they closed it out with a bang. Hopefully, they can carry that momentum with them into the Bronx as they look to take on a young and talented New York Yankees team.

The last time the Texas Rangers went on a road trip against two division-leading teams, they won five out of six games. They hope to do at least that well against the AL East leading Yankees and AL Central leading Indians over the next seven days.

In this first series, they’ll be facing one of the best offenses in the league in the Bronx Bombers. They rank in the top five in AVG, OBP, SLG, OPS, runs scored, and home runs. And if you haven’t heard the name Aaron Judge by now then you’ve probably been living under a rock the last two months.

Their defense isn’t too shabby either. They are one of just five teams that have allowed less than 300 runs on the year so far. The pitching staff’s ERA of 3.81 is good for fourth best in the league. The one area they have struggled in is their bullpen as they’ve blown 12 saves and recorded just 28 holds.

Luckily for the Rangers, they might be catching the Yanks at the right time. They’ve lost eight of their last nine and have given up at least five runs in six of those games.

The Rangers on the other hand, have won nine of their last thirteen. Did I mention that five of those were against the NL East leading Nationals and AL West leading Astros?

If the Rangers can find success on this road trip, they’ve got a chance to make up some ground on the Astros before the All-Star Break.

Here’s the series matchups:

Friday, June 23 (Darvish vs. Tanaka)

This will be the first time these two will start against one another since coming to America. Back in Japan, they faced off four times and Yu Darvish tended to come out on top, going 3-1 in that span.

Darvish is not having one of his better seasons by his own lofty standards. The numbers aren’t bad, he’s 6-5 with a 3.35 ERA and 99 strikeouts. His 1.13 WHIP is actually below his career average of 1.18. What’s killed him is the long ball. Already, he’s allowed 13 home runs. Only once in his career has he given up more than 14 and he’s currently on pace for 30.

However, he’s still the ace of the staff and it’s not like he’s pitching poorly. Remember, Yu is just one start removed from 1-hitting the Astros over seven innings. That’s the Yu we’ve grown accustomed to seeing over the years and I expect it’s the one we’ll see a lot more of in the games to come.

Masahiro Tanaka is having the worst season of his life. His 6.34 ERA is nearly three full points above his lifetime average and it’s a main reason for his 5-7 record. The strikeouts are still there as he’s had 76 of them so far this season but batters have lit him up. Already he has given up 93 hits. 21 of them left the ballpark.

While the sample size is small, only one other team has given Tanaka more trouble than the Rangers. Tanaka has only faced the Texas Rangers twice but they jumped all over him in those two games. In 12 total innings of Tanaka on the mound, the Rangers slugged out 10 runs on 17 hits.

Oh and the other team that’s given Tanaka more trouble is Houston. I guess Texan teams just have it out for him.

Prediction: Yu Darvish once again proves that he’s the best pitcher from Japan as he easily out-duels Tanaka. His offense gives him plenty of runs to work with as the Rangers come out on top.

Saturday, June 24 (Bibens-Dirkx vs. Cessa)

It appears that Austin Bibens-Dirkx has won the trust and respect of Jeff Bannister. Giving up just one run in seven innings against the Nationals tends to have that effect. Plus, he’s been solid in nearly all his other outings too.

His last start against the Blue Jays however, was his worst yet. He allowed five runs to score on five hits in five innings while striking out five. But you can’t even get that mad at him because of just how symmetrical that line is to read. And he still gave the Rangers a chance to win the game as they were up 6-5 before he handed it over to the bullpen. Bush proceeded to give up the lead in the top of the ninth and the Rangers couldn’t make it up.

Luis Cessa will be making his second start of the season after recently getting called up from AAA. His two appearances so far have not gone well.

In his first game back, he tossed 3.1 innings of long relief against Toronto. He gave up two runs on four hits in that span. That’s decent but not great. He made his first start of the year a couple of days later against Oakland and things got worse. Cessa lasted just four innings as the A’s put up four runs on him through five hits.

Prediction: Bibens-Dirkx puts forth yet another solid outing and the Rangers knock Cessa out of the game early before putting up some more runs on the bullpen to give Texas the victory.

Sunday, June 25 (Martinez vs. Pineda)

Nick Martinez had yet another great outing as he tries to show Bannister he belongs in the starting rotation. His 103 pitches and 6.1 innings of work marks the longest outing he’s had all year. He held the Blue Jays to just two hits and one run, leading the Rangers to a 6-1 win.

My one concern for Martinez in this game is that he’s a fly ball pitcher and the Yankees love to hit balls in the air and over the fence. When facing some of the better home run hitting teams, Martinez has struggled a little bit. Tampa Bay (tied with the Yankees for second most home runs) took him deep three times and knocked him out of the game in the fifth inning. So if Martinez is going to have success, he’ll need to keep the ball away from the barrel of the Yankees’ bats.

Michael Pineda has been one of the Yankees best pitchers this year. He’s 7-3 on the year with a 3.56 ERA and 84 strikeouts. He’s tied for the most quality starts and wins on the team and his 1.20 whip is the second best amongst Yankees starters. He is however, susceptible to the long ball as only Tanaka has given up more home runs than him.

He has struggled as of late though. In three of his last four starts, he hasn’t made it to the seventh inning. In those games, he gave up seven or more hits and at least three runs.

Prediction: Nick Martinez is not as successful as he’s been recently and the Bronx Bombers take him deep a couple of times. Pineda has a solid outing and helps the Yankees get the win.

Common Opponents

Rangers: Houston (3-7); Angels (3-3); Toronto (3-5); Oakland (1-3); Royals (4-0); Rays (1-2); Boston (0-3)

Mariners: Houston (1-3); Angels (2-4); Toronto (4-2); Oakland (2-5); Royals (4-2); Rays (5-4); Boston (4-1)