Looking back and looking ahead: Rangers start key 11-game road trip

Looking back and looking ahead: Rangers start key 11-game road trip

Credit: MCT via Getty Images

Texas Rangers' Adrian Beltre, right, is congratulated by Mitch Moreland (18) after his solo home run against the Seattle Mariners during the second inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, May 20, 2014, at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. (Jim Cowsert/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)

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by EDDIE MIDDLEBROOK

WFAA Sports

Posted on May 22, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Updated Thursday, May 22 at 9:51 AM

Each Thursday, we will look back at the week that was for the Texas Rangers and then preview the weekend series.

Stay Positive

Thanks to Wednesday’s victory, the Rangers have won two of three! Both victories were started by two pitchers named Nick. Fun fact: Nick Martinez is the only starter left from the Opening Day rotation.

That rotation consisted of Tanner Scheppers (returning from injury as a reliever), Martin Perez (Tommy John surgery), Robbie Ross (demoted to bullpen) and Joe Saunders (AAA starter). Yu Darvish didn’t make his first start until the sixth game of the season.

All of this plus the injuries to Matt Harrison and numerous position players result in a team that is 22-24. That is a testament to the managerial job of Ron Washington and the front office for the incredible depth of this organization.   

Who’s Hot?

Who’s the hottest hitter this month? Fan favorite Mitch Moreland leads the way hitting .371/.389/.514 while Prince Fielder is the runner-up: .333/.421/.458. Adrian Beltre is trending upwards, leading the team in home runs this month with four while hitting .265/.315/.485.

Nick Martinez has been a pleasant surprise this season and this month he has been incredible. He wasn’t able to pick up the win on Sunday, but he has a 1.54 ERA in 11.2 innings. Martinez will be fun to watch going forward this season.        

Who’s Ice Cold?

Safe to say J.P. Arencibia (barring injury) is done with the Rangers. He was designated for assignment on Tuesday and is no longer on the 40-man roster. Unfortunately, Robinson Chirinos hasn’t picked up the offensive slack, as he is hitting .188/.235/.250, but he is magnificent behind the plate. 

I mentioned that Robbie Ross should be in the bullpen last week and it happened this week. He was struggling too much (6.61 ERA in May) to continue in a starting role. Colby Lewis is also struggling, as he has accumulated a 6.00 ERA through 21 innings this month. He has given up 35 hits in those 21 innings to go along with six walks.   

Motor City

Despite being swept in Cleveland, life is good for the Tigers, who are 27-15 and lead second-place Minnesota by 5.5 games. The offense is great as their MLB ranks are: ninth in runs, second in batting average, seventh in on-base percentage and third in slugging percentage. Victor Martinez leads the team in batting average (.329), homeruns (12) and OPS (.998). Ian Kinsler is on pace for a near five-win season as he is hitting .317/.347/.456. He is the second-most valuable position player (1.2 rWAR) behind Miguel Cabrera (1.3 rWAR).

Detroit’s pitching staff has been just as great, as they are fifth in the MLB with a 3.25 team ERA. The pitching staff is led by Max Scherzer who is 6-1 with a 2.59 ERA. Surprisingly, Rick Porcello has been the second best starting pitcher with a 7-1 record and a 2.91 ERA. Former Ranger Joe Nathan hasn’t been stellar as he has a 4.08 ERA with 11 saves.

12:08 p.m., Thursday: RHP Yu Darvish (3-2, 2.32) vs. LHP Robbie Ray (1-0, 0.75)

Darvish took the loss in his last start against Toronto despite pitching eight innings and only giving up two runs while striking out 11 batters. After the offense scored 22 runs in his last two starts, they were unable to score a single run last Friday.

Ray hasn’t made a start since May 11 when he pitched six shutout innings in a 4-3 loss to Minnesota. He has only given up one run in 12 innings this year, which includes two starts. The 22-year-old features a 93 mph four-seam fastball and a change while mixing in a curve.      

6:08 p.m., Friday: RHP Scott Baker (0-0, 3.38) vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez (1-2, 2.89)

Baker is making his first start of the season. In his only appearance, he threw 5.1 innings in relief of Colby Lewis on May 7. During that game, he only gave up four hits and two runs. This is Baker’s ninth year in the MLB and he is 63-48 with a 4.14 ERA for his career. His best season was 2008 when he went 11-4 with a 3.45 ERA and 4.4 rWAR. Baker only started three games for the Cubs last season and hasn’t been a full-time starter since 2011. That season, he was 8-6 with a 3.14 ERA.

Sanchez has only made one start in May, in which he went five innings, gave up one earned run and struck out three in a 6-2 victory. He’s only gone more than five innings once this season, but hasn’t given up more than three runs in a start. Sanchez primarily throws a 93 mph four-seam fastball, slider and change.

3:08 p.m., Saturday: RHP Nick Martinez (0-1, 2.28) vs. Rick Porcello (7-1, 2.91)

I spoke of Martinez in detail during the “Who’s Hot” section. Despite not being a high-strikeout pitcher, he has had success in 2014. In four starts this season, he has hasn’t given up more than three runs.

Porcello was also mentioned above in the introduction of the Detroit Tigers. He is a career 4.42 ERA pitcher, but this season Porcello has been spectacular. He has four straight starts of giving up two runs or less and hasn’t lost since his second start on April 11. Porcello throws both a two-seam and four-seam fastball with a velocity of 92 mph while mixing in a curve, slider and change.

12:08 p.m., Sunday: RHP Nick Tepesch (1-0, 3.09) vs. RHP Justin Verlander (5-3, 3.41)

Despite the Cano homerun, Tepesch was solid his last start against Seattle. He has pitched 11.2 innings this year, given up four runs and struck out 12.

Verlander has struggled in his last two starts as he has given up five runs in each start. He has only gone one start this season where he didn’t go at least six innings. Verlander is 8-3 with a 2.67 ERA in 13 starts against Texas during his career.  

Prediction

This Detroit series is part of a critical 11-game road trip. Ideally, Texas needs to win at least five games though they would be lucky to split this four-game series against Detroit. It is still only May.        

Eddie Middlebrook also writes for Paranoid Fan as a MLB and College Football contributor. He can be on Twitter @emiddlebrook.

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