Each Thursday, we will look back at the week that was for the Texas Rangers and then preview the weekend series.
Are you not entertained?!
The series against the Philadelphia Phillies had a week’s worth of excitement and it was only the first three games of the season. Opening Day featured a 14-10 shootout, Tuesday’s game ended in dramatic fashion and Wednesday’s finale truly ended in a WALK-off as Shin-Soo Choo took a high-and-outside Jonathan Papelbon 3-2 pitch for ball four allowing Jim Adduci to score the winning run.
Through three games, Leonys Martin (.455/.538/.455), Adrian Beltre (.417/.500/.583) and Alex Rios (.417/.462/.750) are leading the way offensively while Prince Fielder (.167/.286/.250) has got off to a slow start.
Tanner Scheppers (4 IP, 7 runs, 2 Ks) struggled on the big stage of Opening Day, but Martin Perez (5.2 IP, 2 runs, 7 Ks) and Robbie Ross (5 IP, 2 runs, 7 Ks) were sufficient in their starts. Former Phillies organization pitcher Seth Rosin (3 IP, 0 runs, 2 Ks) has been impressive in relief.
Who will shine this weekend against Tampa Bay Rays?
As of Wednesday night, the Rays are 1-2 after losing two of three to the Blue Jays. They won on Opening Day 9-2 thanks in part to David Price’s superb pitching performance: 7.1 IP, 2 runs and 6 Ks. Desmond Jennings (.400/.500/.700) is also off to a hot start.
6:10 p.m., Friday: LHP Joe Saunders vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi
Saunders struggled in spring training as he pitched 12.2 innings with an 11.37 ERA. To make matters worse, he experienced “dead-arm” a few starts ago.
“I like where I’m at right now,” Saunders said. “I’m ready to go. I’m done with spring training.”
Let’s hope the worst is behind him.
The Rays’ Odorizzi will be making his seventh career MLB start. Jake was the 32nd draft by the Milwaukee Brewers and has seen limited action in 2012 (with the Royals) and 2013 with the Rays. He has been a part of two blockbuster trades: the Zach Greinke-to-the-Brewers trade in 2010 and the James Shields/Wade Davis trade for Wil Myers in 2012. Odorizzi features a 92 mph four-seam fastball while mixing in a slider and change sparingly.
6:10 p.m., Saturday: RHP Nick Martinez vs. LHP David Price
WFAA’s Kate Morrison named Martinez as the No. 11 Rangers prospect during the offseason. Morrison wrote the following back in January:
Martinez brings a good mix of pitches and velocity, featuring a four-seam fastball with good command down in the zone that averages 91-94 MPH and touches 96, as well as a developing slider at 85-88, a changeup at 77-82, and an occasional curveball. As a starter, he struck out a solid 20.95 percent of the batters he faced, and he doesn’t issue many free passes, either, only allowing 45 walks in 152.2 innings last year. According to MLBfarm.com, Martinez induced an above-average number of groundballs in 2013, with 53.6% of balls put in play against him remaining on the turf. This, plus his ability to strike batters out and maturation in his pitching, could give him a place in a MLB rotation as soon as 2015, his age 24 season.
Martinez, like everybody else, was shocked to be named to the rotation a year earlier than predicted.
“He (Washington) said they were putting me in the rotation” Martinez said. “I was shocked. I said, ‘Thank you.’ But what do you say? I think I said thank you 50 times.
Martinez’s time in the rotation might be short-lived, but he is going to make the most of it.
“I can’t wait,” Martinez said. “I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing.”
Nick will be going up against the veteran and 2012 Cy Young award winner David Price. His 2013 season (10-8, 3.33 ERA) was less than spectacular and it coincided with a significant drop in velocity from the previous year (96.55 – 94.26). He primarily relies on his two-seam fastball (61.8% usage) while mixing in a cutter (15.7%) and change (13.7%). For his career, Price is 2-4 with a 5.30 ERA in nine starts against Texas.
12:40 p.m., Sunday: RHP Yu Darvish vs. RHP Alex Cobb
The wait is over as Darvish makes his first start of the 2014 season this Sunday. Yu threw an 86-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday which was labeled as a “strong” showing. Washington was impressed enough to be confident Darvish is healthy:
"He's still as strong as an ox," Washington said. "He still was darting up the gnats that were flying around home plate. You know how small a gnat is. He was knocking them down with consistency. He's ready to go."
His spring training starts were mediocre (14.2 IP, 3.68 ERA and 8Ks), but Darvish is the ace of the staff and hopefully this is the season the Texas Rangers organization gets its first Cy Young winner.
Darvish’s foe is 26-year-old Alex Cobb who went five innings, gave up four runs and four walks in a 4-2 loss to Toronto. In 2013, Cobb went 11-3 with a 2.76 ERA and 134 Ks in 143.1 innings pitched. Alex is 1-0 with a 3.79 ERA in three starts against Texas in his short career.
This will be a difficult series for the Rangers as they are throwing their No. 4, No. 5 and No. 1 against the Rays’ No. 5, No. 1 and No. 2 pitchers. Two wins would be a great result, but if the Rangers can manage to win a game (most likely Darvish’s start) at the Trop, it would be a successful series.
Eddie Middlebrook also writes for Paranoid Fan as a MLB and College Football contributor. He can be found on Twitter @emiddlebrook.