Each Thursday, we will look back at the week that was for the Texas Rangers and then preview the weekend series.
There is Hope
“Despite all the injuries and .500 record, Texas is just one game behind in the wild card chase,” Scott Lucas of the Newberg Report wrote in his farm report on Wednesday. It is remarkable how this team is still fighting as they are coming off of a 7-4 road trip, but have lost three of four games.
Neftali Feliz and Tanner Scheppers will be back soon to bolster the bullpen, and there is still a chance the Rangers can improve the offense by signing Kendrys Morales to DH after the First-Year Player Draft this week.
Hope remains for the time-being.
Good to be Home?
The Rangers are actually better on the road this season (16-15) than they are at home (13-15) thanks in large part to their recent road trip that ended on Sunday.
Texas will wrap up its series with Baltimore on Thursday before welcoming a terrible road team in the Cleveland Indians. For whatever reason, the Indians are not comfortable when they leave Jacobs Field, as they are 9-19 on the road and 20-11 at home.
This team is led in nearly every offensive category by Left fielder Michael Brantley. He has a .301 batting average while hitting nine home runs and sporting a .859 OPS this season. In similar fashion, the pitching staff is led by Corey Kluber who is 6-3 with a 3.04 ERA. Thankfully, the Rangers miss him as he pitched on Wednesday night.
The Indians’ offense has been well above average in 2014 ranking seventh in runs, ninth in batting average, fourth in on-base percentage and 13th in slugging percentage (MLB ranks). Former Ranger and fan favorite David Murphy is hitting a respectable .283/.345/.435, but his defense as kept his value down as he is only worth 0.2 rWAR.
Cleveland’s pitching staff is below average, as they are 19th in MLB with a 3.99 team ERA.
7:05 p.m., Thursday: RHP Colby Lewis (4-4, 5.44) vs. RHP Miguel Gonzalez (3-4, 4.17)
Lewis is looking for consistency as he has now bookended a decent win over Detroit (5.2 IP, 2 ER) by giving up five runs against Seattle on May 20 and five runs against Washington in his last start.
His last six starts: W, L, W, L, W and L. I guess there is some consistency/pattern in that. If the pattern continues, it looks like he is in for a solid start and a victory.
Gonzalez has done something rather remarkable: He has dropped his ERA in each of his 10 starts this season. After a disastrous first start in which he gave up seven runs in 3.1 innings, Gonzalez has seen his ERA drop from 18.90 to 4.17. The Mexico native is 2-1 with a 2.95 ERA in three career starts against the Rangers.
7:05 p.m., Friday: RHP Yu Darvish (5-2, 2.08) vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (1-2, 3.63)
I believe we have run out of superlatives to use to describe the greatness that is Darvish. His victory on Sunday prevented a Washington sweep and he has now won four of his last five starts. He hasn’t given up more than three runs in a start since a 4-0 loss to Oakland on April 28. On Sunday, he tied a season-high 12 strikeouts and didn’t allow a single run in eight innings. His 2.08 ERA is second in the AL to the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka (2.06). His 3.0 rWAR is only behind Johnny Cueto’s 3.2 in MLB.
Bauer will be making his fifth start of the season on Friday night. In three of his four starts, the 23-year-old went at least six innings and gave up two runs or less. Bauer uses a 96 mph four-seam fastball while mixing in a slider, cutter and change according to brooksbaseball.net.
3:05 p.m., Saturday: RHP Nick Tepesch (2-1, 4.43) vs. RHP Josh Tomlin (3-2, 3.06)
Tepesch was terrible in his last start against the Nationals as he only lasted two innings and gave up four earned runs in a 10-2 loss. His velocity was down from 91.78 on his fourseam in his May 26 start to 89.56 against the Nationals. Tepesch’s velocity was down on all his pitches. It is something to keep an eye on moving forward.
Tomlin has a career 4.76 ERA in 66 games (59 starts), but this season he is pitching well as he hasn’t given up more than three runs in any of his five starts. In his last start, he pitched 5.2 innings, gave up four hits and two runs in a 6-4 over Colorado. The former Red Raider primarily throws a 90 mph four-seam fastball and a cutter.
2:05 p.m., Sunday: RHP Joe Saunders (0-1, 3.68) vs. RHP Justin Masterson (3-4, 4.72)
I witnessed Saunders’ last start in person and I still don’t know how he was able to pitch six-plus innings and give up only two runs. He was rocked for 10 hits and gave up 15 fly balls (one left the yard). Despite the poor performance, he kept the Rangers in the game and has only allowed two runs in his last two starts (11+ IP).
Masterson pitched great against Boston on Monday despite allowing four walks for the third time this season. With that seven-inning, three-hit, shutout performance, he saw his ERA dip below five for the first time since May 13. For his career, Masterson is 1-4 with a 5.03 ERA against Texas in nine appearances.
Including Monday’s finale, it is entirely possible that the Rangers could win three of four against Cleveland which would be great heading into a two-game series against the Miami Marlins.
Eddie Middlebrook also writes for Paranoid Fan as a MLB and College Football contributor. He can be found on Twitter @emiddlebrook.