It was a rough series in Cleveland as the Texas Rangers now find themselves back below .500. They hope to turn their recent misfortunes around in Chicago as they face a struggling White Sox team.
The Texas Rangers once again find themselves on the wrong side of .500 after dropping three of four to the Indians. All year-long, the Rangers have struggled to distance themselves from that .500 mark, never getting more than three games over. They look to right the ship this weekend in Chicago and hope this series springboards them to a win streak before the All-Star Break.
If they’re going to make a push, they’ll need to shore some things up. First, Cole Hamels needs to improve. I understand that it was his first game back from injury and everything so I’m willing to cut him some slack but some have wondered whether or not he’s past his prime.
I’m not one of those people. The man had a bad game. Those are going to happen to even the best of pitchers. You’ve got to remember, this is a guy who was voted to the All-Star Game last year, his first time since 2012. Since becoming a Ranger, Cole Hamels has gone 24-6 with a with a 3.53 ERA. He’s pitched 25 more innings than he’s given up hits and his WHIP is a respectable 1.28. I think that Hamels has a few years left in him and that he’ll be able to bounce back soon.
Second, we’re going to have to get more base runners. In the Cleveland series, thirteen of the Rangers fifteen runs were the result of home runs. Seven of the nine home runs were solo shots. If such a large percentage of the Rangers runs are due to the long ball, they’re going to have to find a way to get more traffic on the base paths.
Fortunately, they’re going up against a team that’s been struggling as of late in the White Sox. Chicago has lost eight of their last eleven games. In that span, they’ve scored more than three runs just thrice. On the flip side, they’ve given up at least five runs on seven occasions.
Here’s how the series looks to play out:
Friday, June 30 (Bibens-Dirkx vs. Pelfrey)
With Andrew Cashner returning from the DL on Thursday, Austin Bibens-Dirkx got his start bumped to Friday. So far, Austin as yet to record a loss, going 3-0 on the year. This will be the second series that he will be pitching the first game. The other one came against the Blue Jays.
In that game, Austin allowed five runs in five innings. However, he was still poised to get the win as the Rangers lead when he left the game but the bullpen ended up blowing his chance. Like any good pitcher though, he had a short memory and went out and dominated in his next appearance against a tough Yankees team. He allowed just one run through seven innings.
Mike Pelfrey is not having the best of years. Part of it, is simply that he’s unlucky. He has a 3.73 ERA which while not stellar, is respectable. It’s certainly good enough to have a better record than 3-6. But that’s what happens when your team can’t score for you. Just twice in the thirteen games Pelfrey has started have the White Sox ended the game with more than three runs.
June has been Pelfrey’s best month (3.48 ERA) but he’s coming off a rough outing. In this last start, he lasted just 4.2 innings. He threw 106 pitches in that time and gave up three runs on five walks and four hits.
Prediction: Austin Bibens-Dirkx continues to impress and has a strong outing. The Rangers capitalize on Pelfrey’s lack of control with timely hits to seize the victory.
Saturday, July 1 (Hamels vs. Holland)
Cole Hamels gets his shot at redemption in a fitting way: against his former teammate and protegé. As I’ve already pointed out, Hamels struggled in his last outing. But this is no time to panic. Hamels will bounce back and I believe it will be in this game.
Facing former teammates or former teams tends to ignite players, bringing out the best in them. Which is why I think that toeing the rubber across from Derek Holland will make Hamels pitch the best game he’s had all year.
If Cole Hamels has some motivation, than Derek Holland has even more. Holland has no hard feelings towards the Texas Rangers, he understood why it was time for him to split ways after eight years. In fact, he had only good things to say about the organization after being optioned out.
But that doesn’t mean he’s not fired up to play them. Holland hasn’t had a great year so far, going 5-7 with a 4.26 ERA. His WHIP of 1.48 is the highest it’s been since his rookie year. But I think he’ll bring his best stuff on Saturday against the Rangers as he’ll be fired up.
Prediction: It’s a pitcher’s duel with both going deep in the game but Hamels walks away with the win.
Sunday, July 2 (Ross vs. Quintana)
I think Tyson Ross proved that his start against Toronto was a fluke this past Tuesday. After the fifteen run slug fest the night before, the Texas Rangers desperately needed a strong outing from their starter. Ross did not disappoint.
He went six innings deep in the game, twice as long yet less than 25 pitches more than that dreadful night against the Blue Jays. He gave up just one run on two hits to a team that had put up fifteen runs on nineteen hits the night before. His slider was absolutely filthy, creating swings and misses or weak contact constantly. Ross looks to build off that start as he faces former All-Star Jose Quintana.
Quintana is having an uncharacteristically bad year. He’s sporting a 4-8 record with a 4.37 ERA. This is the first time in his career he’s had an ERA over 4.00 and just the second time it’s been north of 3.51.
He might be turning things around though. In the month of June, Quintana went 2-1 with a 1.78 ERA. He hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any start in June and twice he blanked opponents. If he can continue to put forth performances like that in July, he’ll end the season with numbers more consistent to the ones he’s put up over the years.
Prediction: Tyson Ross is still a bit of an unknown but I think he pitches like he did in his previous outing. His slider looks sharp and the Rangers offense gets to the White Sox bullpen for the win.
Rangers: Tigers (2-1); Seattle (3-6); Toronto (3-4); Cleveland (1-6); Oakland (6-3); Royals (4-0); Twins (1-2); Rays (1-2); Yankees (2-1); Padres (3-1); Angels (3-3); Boston (0-3)
White Sox: Tigers (5-6); Seattle (3-1); Toronto (2-1); Cleveland (4-5); Oakland (0-3); Royals (4-2); Twins (4-7); Rays (1-2); Yankees (3-4); Padres (2-1); Angels (0-3); Boston (1-2)