Texas Rangers: On Deck-Kansas City Royals
By Seth Jackson
The Texas Rangers kick off the second half of their season against the Kansas City Royals on Friday. These two teams are both hovering around the .500 mark and these next couple weeks could determine if they’re buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.
The Texas Rangers last couple weeks before the All-Star break pretty much sums up their season so far. After a solid couple of series previously, they got trounced by the Indians, dropping three of the four games.
They then went to Chicago to battle the White Sox where things looked like they were getting better until the bullpen imploded, blowing two saves. At least they scraped out a win in this series though.
Boston came next and things didn’t look like they were getting much better. They lost the first game in extra innings before getting blown out in the second. However, they ended the series on a good note by taking the last game.
Finally, came the division rival Angels. The Rangers put the pounding on them the first game, winning 10-0. They then won the next one 5-2, giving them a three-game win streak. The fans started to get their hopes up, smelling a chance to be at .500 heading into the All-Star Break.
Alas, it was not to be. Just as things started to look up, the Rangers lost the final game of the series in a shutout. The win streak was over and they would enter the All-Star Break with a loss.
The Royals are in a similar quandary. After winning seven of their past ten and riding a four-game win streak, the Royals ran into a steamroller known as the Los Angeles Dodgers. As a lot of teams facing the Dodgers have experienced this season, the Royals were swept. They entered the All-Star Break with a losing streak but at least just over .500 (44-43).
Now both these teams are faced with the dilemma of buying and making a push at the playoffs or selling and starting to rebuild for the coming years. This series will play a huge role in both these teams decision.
Let’s break down each game:
Friday, July 14 (Perez vs. Hammel)
Martin Perez has not been great by any stretch of the imagination this year. He’s 4-6 with a 4.60 ERA. His K/9 is actually at an all time high (6.5) but unfortunately so is his H/9 (11.4). The good thing is, in his last four starts, Perez is 2-0. Hopefully he can see that win percentage creep up a little bit after Friday.
Perez did not face the Royals earlier this season in their first go around. However, he has faced them twice before over his career. His numbers are pretty good in those games. Though he didn’t factor into the decision either time, he had a 1.42 ERA over those two games. While its admittedly a small sample size, that’s the lowest ERA Perez has against a team he’s faced on more than one occasion.
Jason Hammel has experienced some struggles of his own this season. He’s 4-8 with a 5.04 ERA. Things looked like they were turning around for Hammel in June. After a 1-6 start to the season, he went 3-0 in June with a 2.51 ERA and just four walks. He had three in three innings against the Rangers earlier this year.
However, since July has rolled around, he’s dropped back off, going 0-2 with a 7.15 ERA. He already has walked five.
Prediction: Neither starter looks great but Perez lasts longer than Hammel and the bullpen is able to hold on to a decent sized lead to get the win.
Saturday, July 15 (Hamels vs. Vargas)
After the Cleveland game, many people were wondering if Cole Hamels was past his prime. He silenced the haters quickly in his next outing, allowing just two hits in 6.2 innings while striking out six. In case that wasn’t enough to silence the more serious doubters, he proceeded to toss 7.2 scoreless innings in his next start. That win bumped him up to 4-0 and gave him a more Hamels like 3.51 ERA.
One area Hamels has benefited in though is run support. He has averaged 8.6 runs of support per game he’s pitched. That’s the second most of any pitcher in the majors with at least 50 IP. That won’t continue throughout the season and it certainly won’t be the case on Saturday.
That’s because Jason Vargas is taking the mound for the Royals. His 12 wins is second only to Clayton Kershaw and his 2.62 ERA is third behind just Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw. When he takes the mound, the Royals are a tough team to beat.
The Rangers didn’t get to see Vargas he first time around but he’s no stranger to them. Vargas has faced the Texas Rangers 21 times in his career, more than any other team except Oakland whom he’s also faced 21 times. In the past, the Rangers tended to get the better of the exchange. Vargas is 5-8 against the Rangers in his career with a 4.04 ERA and a 1.421 WHIP.
Prediction: It’s a pitcher’s duel but I’m going to have to go with the Royals in this one. Jason Vargas has just been too dominant this season and the Rangers’ bullpen has been too inconsistent to count on in a close game.
Sunday, July 16 (Darvish vs. ?)
Yu Darvish has had a tough season. And it’s not really been his fault. He has a 3.49 ERA (21st in the league), 125 strikeouts (12th), and a 1.14 WHIP (14th), yet somehow his win percentage is .429 (53rd). Those numbers just don’t really add up.
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Baseball-Reference.com tracks tough losses. A tough loss is considered a game in which the pitcher had a quality start (at least 6 IP and allowed 3 earned runs or less) yet recorded a loss. Yu Darvish has four tough losses. That’s tied for third most in the majors. You take those tough losses and turn them into wins like they ought to have been, suddenly his record is 10-4.
Take last game for instance. Darvish pitched 7.1 innings and gave up just two runs on three hits while striking out six. Most of the time, that pitcher is going to walk away with a win. Yet the Rangers lost the game 3-0. Darvish doesn’t need to change anything; he just needs some run support. He gets just 3.5 RS/GS. That’s good for 125th in the league. The Texas Rangers have got to put some runs on the board for Darvish if they want to get back into the wild card race.
Prediction: The Royals haven’t announced their starter yet but if Darvish just pitches like his usual self and the Rangers can scrape out a couple of runs, then I think Texas will win this one.
Rangers: Tigers (2-1); Seattle (3-6); Toronto (3-4); Cleveland (1-6); Oakland (6-3); White Sox (1-2); Twins (1-2); Rays (1-2); Yankees (2-1); Padres (3-1); Angels (3-3); Boston (0-3); Houston (3-7)
Next: 3 Rangers That Deserve Contract Extensions
Royals: Tigers (2-4); Seattle (3-0); Toronto (2-1); Cleveland (5-4); Oakland (1-2); White Sox (2-5); Twins (4-8); Rays (3-1); Yankees (2-4); Padres (2-1); Angels (6-1); Boston (2-1); Houston (4-3)