Texas Rangers: On Deck-Cleveland Indians

Jun 25, 2017; Bronx, NY, USA; Texas Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy (25) celebrates with pitcher Matt Bush (51) after defeating the New York Yankees 7-6 at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 25, 2017; Bronx, NY, USA; Texas Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy (25) celebrates with pitcher Matt Bush (51) after defeating the New York Yankees 7-6 at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports /

The Texas Rangers are rolling out of New York and into Cleveland with a series win tucked in their back pocket. They hope this clash with the Indians has a different end to it than their first meeting to open the season.

The Texas Rangers haven’t lost a series since the first week of June. Since then, they’ve gone 12-6. Half of those losses were by a single run. And the victories weren’t cheap ones either. Seven of their wins have been against teams leading their respective divisions.

The Rangers have been a tough team to beat as of late. So what’s changed?

They’re finally beginning to get healthy. Adrian Beltre made it onto the field at the tail end of May. Carlos Gomez and Mike Napoli both rejoined the lineup in mid-June. Tanner Scheppers has strengthened the bullpen while Tyson Ross finally returned to baseball after being sidelined for a year. And on Monday, Cole Hamels will have his first start since April.

Carlos Gomez has been on an absolute tear since he made his return. In the nine games he’s played since the DL, he’s hit .294 with a 1.204 OPS. But what’s been most impressive is his power. He’s slugged six home runs and knocked in sixteen runs in the short span he’s been back.

Cleveland looked like they were returning to last year’s form as well before getting swept by the Twins. Prior to that series, they’d won eight of their last nine. Corey Kluber once again looks like an ace and the offense put up at least five runs in every game during that stretch of nine.

These two teams opened their seasons against one another and Cleveland got the better of the Texas Rangers that time around, sweeping them at Globe Life. The Rangers look to turn the tables on them in this four-game series.

Let’s break down each game:

Monday, June 26 (Hamels vs. Carrasco)

Cole Hamels is back! The Rangers are getting their southpaw back to pair with fellow ace Yu Darvish. That will be a dangerous 1-2 punch that I’d put up against just about any team in the league.

Before getting hurt, Hamels had looked as strong as he had any other season, posting a 3.03 ERA in five starts and collecting a 2-0 record. His WHIP of 1.13 is lower than his career average. The one area he hasn’t had much success in yet is getting strikeouts. Currently, Hamels has just a 4.1 K/9. He’s never ended a season with lower than an 8.1 K/9. If he can start fanning more batters again, he’ll only be harder to beat.

Carlos Carrasco is having a career year. His 2.99 ERA is the lowest of his career in which he’s pitched strictly as a starter. And his 8-3 record not only leads the team in wins but is also the best win percentage he’s ever had.

The last time he faced the Rangers, he had pretty good success. He went just 5.2 innings but only gave up two runs on four hits. He also fanned seven Rangers in that time.

Prediction: Cole Hamels has a great outing in his return. The Texas Rangers have made a habit recently at getting to good pitchers early and they continue that tonight to collect the win.

Tuesday, June 27 (Ross vs. Clevinger)

Tyson Ross followed up his great debut with a horrid one. Toronto absolutely lit him up in his second outing. He managed to make it through just three innings before Jeff Bannister had to yank him.

His outing actually wasn’t terrible after the first inning. Five of the seven hits and six of the seven runs came in that first. He pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the second before allowing two more hits and a run in the third. We can only hope that this game was a fluke for Ross and not the first one.

Mike Clevinger will take the mound for Cleveland on Tuesday. Clevinger is currently 3-3 on the year with a 3.86 ERA. He’s pitched pretty well on the season, not giving up many hits. He’s only had two outings the whole year in which he’s allowed more hits than he has innings pitched.

Clevinger has never started a game against the Rangers but he’s faced them twice in relief. He’s tossed three innings against them and not allowed a run or hit.

Prediction: Tyson Ross doesn’t have as bad of an outing as he did last game but it’s still not a great one as Cleveland jumps on him. Clevinger is successful enough to hand the game over to Andrew Miller and Cody Allen with a lead and they keep it for him, defeating the Rangers.

Wednesday, June 28 (Darvish vs. Bauer)

Yu Darvish may not have gotten the win in his last outing but he pitched just as well if not better than Masahiro Tanaka. He gave up just two hits and struck out ten in seven innings of work. He probably would have thrown a complete game shutout if not for some tricep tightness that Jeff Bannister understandably didn’t want to take a risk on. Even so, it was a great outing that he hopefully builds upon come Wednesday.

For some reason, Darvish has been much more dominant on the road this season than he has at home. He doesn’t strike out quite as many batters but they can’t seem to make solid contact against him. When pitching as a visitor, Yu has held hitters to a mere .175 BA. In seven away starts, his ERA is a dazzling 2.23. Darvish looks to improve these stats as he takes the mound at Progressive Field, where he already holds a 2.37 ERA with 30 strikeouts.

Trevor Bauer is not having the season he wanted to have. He’s fortunate not to have a losing record as his ERA is sitting at 5.53. In only one of his starts has he not allowed at least two runs and that was just because a rain delay forced him out after 1.2 innings. He still has swing-and-miss stuff as his 93 strikeouts leads the team but he’s not able to keep the bat off the ball consistently enough.

Prediction: Darvish pitches another masterpiece and has the Indians swinging at air all night. Offensively, the Rangers pound Bauer to get the win.

Thursday, June 29 (Bibens-Dirkx vs. Kluber)

Austin Bibens-Dirkx continues to surprise. I love this guy. He may be a rookie (albeit an older one) but he pitches like a veteran. His ERA is a solid 3.68 and he hasn’t lost a game, going 3-0 on the season. He may not throw gas but he out-thinks opponents. He uses two different arm angles to befuddle the batter. They’ll swing at a fastball thrown over the top, then stand there watching the exact same pitch from a different arm angle. They’ll walk back to the dugout scratching their head and wondering what happened.

The biggest key to his success has definitely been his ability to locate the ball. Austin has the two things a pitcher needs most, control and command. He doesn’t walk batters very often, just nine in 36.2 innings. But it’s not just it’s his ability to throw strikes, it’s his ability to locate them. He’ll fire a fastball in on the hands then dance a slider low and away to get them lunging. He’ll finish them off with that side-arm fastball that sinks to force weak contact off the end of the bat or the handle.

Austin will have to pitch the game of his life though if he’s going to beat Corey Kluber. Since returning from the DL on the first of the month, Kluber has been dominating. He’s pitched in five games this June and allowed just seven runs total. One of those starts was a complete game, 3-hit shutout. In 35 innings, Kluber has struck out 52. That gives him an incredulous 13.37 K/9 throughout the entire month of June. Starters just don’t put up those kind of numbers. He’ll be a tough man for the Rangers to beat.

Prediction: It’s a pitcher’s duel but Corey Kluber wins it as the Texas Rangers can’t seem to get the bat on the ball.

Common Opponents

Rangers: Houston (3-7); Seattle (3-6); Toronto (3-4); Detroit (2-1); Oakland (6-3); Royals (4-0); Twins (1-2); Rays (1-2)

Indians: Houston (5-1); Seattle (2-1); Toronto (1-2); Detroit (2-4); Oakland (3-1); Royals (4-5); Twins (8-5); Rays (1-2)