When the Texas Rangers and Atlanta Braves take the field tonight at Globe Life Field, they will be doing so tied with the fourth best record in MLB at 25-15. The Rangers have a four-game lead over the Houston Astros for first place in the AL West while the Braves sit atop the AL East with a five-game lead over the Philidelphia Phillies.
Texas Rangers schedule against the Atlanta Braves
Date and Time
Rangers Probable Pitcher
Braves Probable Pitcher
Mon 15th - 7:05 CT
Cody Bradford - LHP MLB debut
Charlie Morton - RHP 4-3, 3.32 ERA, 39 SO
Tues 16th - 7:05 CT
Dane Dunning - RHP 3-0, 1.72 ERA, 19 SO
Wed 17th - 7:05 CT
Nathan Eovaldi - RHP 5-2, 2.70 ERA, 56 SO
Spencer Strider - RHP 4-1, 2.51 ERA, 79 SO
Who would have thought a little over a week ago that the two clubs would have the same record coming into this series? Probably not very many people. But as one member of the Braves coaching staff would say, "that's the way baseball go." The Braves have dropped their last four contests and were swept on the road by the Toronto Blue Jays over the weekend. On the other hand, the Rangers went to the West Coast for 10 games and came home with a 7-3 road trip.
There will be some shake up within the Rangers starting rotation this week as lefty Cody Bradford is being called up to make his major league debut tonight in Arlington. It will be quite a task for Bradford as he takes on the potent Braves lineup, but the 25-year-old has thrown great and is deserving of the opportunity. The Texas native will no doubt have a large group of family and friends in the stands cheering him on this evening. Bradford went to Aledo High School before taking his talents to Waco and pitching for the Baylor Bears.
The Rangers selected him in the sixth round of the 2019 draft. His first year of pro ball was the lost minor league season of 2020, but he came in and pitched well in both 2021 and 2022. However, none of his previous performances could have predicted how well he has been pitching this season. In seven starts and 39 2/3 innings pitched, Bradford is 5-1, has 37 strikeouts, 13 walks, a 0.91 ERA, and a 0.857 WHIP. His stuff is not overpowering, as his fastball sits at 90 mph, but his command and ability to keep the batters off balance is what has led to his greater success.
With identical records, it is not surprising that the two clubs match up pretty equally in most categories. So far this season, the Rangers are 12-6 at home and the Braves are 15-6 on the road, so something will have to give over the next three days. The Braves have allowed three less runs than the Rangers, but Texas does hold a substantial lead in the runs scored column, besting Atlanta by 48 runs. The Rangers do currently have a 14-7 record against teams with a greater than .500 record while the Braves are only 3-8.
There is a good chance that the Rangers get to insert their best hitter back into the lineup at some point during this series, and perhaps as early as tonight. Corey Seager has been on the IL since going down with a hamstring injury that he sustained on April 11th. Even though the Rangers have gone 18-11 (19-11 if you count the walk-off win in the game he was injured) in Seagers absence, the lineup will be much better with him in it. It is still unclear if he will start off as the designated hitter for a few games or will immediately resume his shortstop position. The key for the Rangers will be getting Seager's bat, back in the two spot in the order.
FanGraphs has the Braves as the MLB favorite to make the playoffs at 98.4% as well as the MLB favorite to win the World Series at 19.1%. They are a fantastic team that has depth and quality players at nearly every position. They are led by National League MVP frontrunner, Ronald Acuna, Jr and strikeout machine Spencer Strider.
Acuna, Jr comes into the series batting .346/.437/.577, has hit eight homeruns, has scored 36 runs and driven in 23, has a 174 wRC+, and has swiped 17 bags as well. He can do it all and has been doing just that. The Braves lineup is stacked and with Acuna, Jr in the leadoff spot, Rangers' pitchers better be on their game from the first pitch to the last.
Strider also continues to shine for the Braves. After finishing second in the Rookie of the Year race last season, to teammate Michael Harris II, Strider has racked up even more video game numbers. Last season in 131 2/3 innings; he averaged 13.8 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. This year across 46 2/3 innings; Strider has averaged 15.2 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. To put this in context, Nolan Ryan averaged 9.5 strikeouts per nine for his career and his best season was in 1987 when he struck out 11.5 batters per nine innings pitched. Strider is currently at a strikeout level all to himself.
It is mid-May, but this series has a buzz around it that we haven't seen in Arlington in quite some time. The Braves are looking to get back on track, and the Rangers are hungry to prove that they belong in the current playoff contender conversations. One thing is for sure, this will be a fun series that is bound to entertain. And who knows, maybe the Rangers will be able to keep the ball rolling and pick up yet another series win.