Every Monday, we look back at the weekend's series and then preview the next week's series.
It was a pretty rough week in the Ursery house. We had a flat tire, had a problem with the new thermostat that knocked our air conditioner off for about two hours, had a one-year-old projectile vomit, had the washing machine go out, then when the new one was delivered the installers couldn't break the hoses loose from the spouts to install the new one.
I say this for two reasons; one, because this was an awesome week compared to the Rangers', and two, in case any of you are professional plumbers and willing to work cheap.
Now don't be sad, but two out of three is pretty bad
Friday had several indicators of being a good break for a team that's stuck somewhere between reeling and the emergency room. The Blue Jays were coming to town holding at .500 (which keeps them right in the thick of the AL East? 2014 is weird, man). Ace Yu Darvish was matched up against Drew Hutchinson, who's pretty good but human.
So naturally the team supports Darvish with a .100/.130/.100 triple slash line, managing three singles and a walk, wasting Darvish's effort, going 8 innings and allowing 8 baserunners (four singles, a double, three walks) against 11 strikeouts. Allowing 2 earned runs in 8 innings is generally an awesome effort (let alone against a team as offensively gifted as the Blue Jays) but until Darvish figures out how to allow negative runs, his pitcher wins totals are going to paint an unfriendly picture.
On Saturday, Robbie Ross matched up against Mark Buehrle. Buehrle's had a fantastic run of success against the Rangers, which didn't let up. Robbie Ross hasn't had a recent run of success against the major leagues, which also did not let up. Ross allowed only one run, from a first inning solo homer from Jose Bautista, which muddles an otherwise sigh worthy performance; 4.1 IP, 3 hits, 4 walks, 2 strikeouts. Over his last 4 starts (encompassing 100 plate appearances against) Robbie Ross has allowed 32 hits (hey, at least the math is easy here, that's a .320 average) and eight walks (.400 OBP). Giancarlo Stanton has a BA of .318 and an OBP of .405. Basically, for the last month, every batter Robbie Ross has faced has been Giancarlo Stanton.
Ross is as high of a character guy as the Rangers have (which is saying something in this franchise). I think there's a future as a starter for him, but the path to success as a starter for Ross is eating innings. Averaging four-plus innings per start (as he has over his last four appearances) just isn't conducive to any kind of success. There's no alternative; Joe Saunders is the only pitcher on the 40 man roster capable of taking a start for Ross and he's been worse than Ross has been versus the Pacific League. Ross just needs to throw strikes, get grounders, and chew as many innings as he can for the team to survive until Derek Holland gets back.
Sunday's series finale featured R.A. Dickey against Nick Martinez. When R.A. Dickey was drafted by the Rangers in 1996, Nick Martinez was two months away from his sixth birthday. I don't know if giving out fruit baskets is the team's thing (I imagine Michael Young got one on Saturday, but it's well established the rules are different for Michael Young), but if the team salvages any type of competitiveness out of this season, Nick Martinez definitely needs a fruit basket or a gift certificate to a steak place or something.
It's not that Martinez has been as good as his raw results suggest; he's not going to hold an ERA in the low 2s for any significant stretch of time in the majors, as he's currently sitting at 2.28. FIP (4.84) and xFIP (5.34) both see tides rising in that department, but even a rise to the mid 4s in ERA is still such a huge success for a pitcher who started the year off with 32 innings pitched above A-ball. Martinez has been a very effective piece of duct tape for the Rangers; ideally, a more permanent repair would make itself available, but as long as duct tape works it's great.
It's strange times in Texas when a six-run game qualifies as an offensive explosion, but that's what we got Sunday. Mitch Moreland took to the news of his promotion to starting first baseman by homering off of Dickey in the seventh inning doubling in the eighth off of Brett Cecil. The hit against Cecil was of note, it's Moreland's first extra base hit against a lefty of the season, and only his second hit overall. That belies the fact that Ron Washington had done a good job of protecting Moreland against lefties; for the season, Mitch has only seen lefties a total of 16 times. Depending on the news about Prince Fielder's neck, that number could jump up sharply. Moreland's moving into a tough spot not only with the Rangers but his career in general; his rate of pay is jumping sharply (after making roughly 500,00 per year previous, this year he's making 2.6 million dollars, and can expect to add another two million dollars next year with any amount of success). There's almost always a job for a left-handed hitter with power somewhere; being able to hit against lefties decides whether that's a job someone will pay you four million dollars a year for or if you're going to have to bounce team to team as a bench bat, which is a dicier career proposition.
I'm not scared; I felt like this on my way home. I'm not scared; I passed the boats and the Kingdome
After Monday's well-timed off day the team starts a two game series at home against the Mariners. This is a rare occasion, as the the Rangers are looking up at the Mariners in the standings. Tuesday's game matches up Colby Lewis against Hisashi Iwakuma for the Mariners. Iwakuma has faced 80 batters this season and 5 have reached base. There's an argument to be made (not that I want to make it) that Iwakuma, who came over to the states in the same year as Yu, has been nearly as effective of a starter as Darvish has.
The Mariners have a much better offense on the road (.692 team OPS) than in the cavern they play baseball in in Seattle (.626 OPS).
On Wednesday Nick Tepesch matches up against pitcher-center Chris Young. The former Ranger has found Safeco a much safer place to pitch, allowing a 1.71 ERA at home, with a o.90 WHIP and a .153 BA against, while on the road those numbers go to 4.56, 1.35, and .256. For fans of symmetry, Chris Young has allowed a triple slash of .206/.279/.366 against lefties, while a .206/.286/.426 line against righties.
This is a very good time to go on a winning streak. It just might not be as easy as you would like to do so.
Joseph Ursery can be found here and on twitter.com at @thejoeursery.His main interests include fatherhood, craft beer, facial hair, and twenty-year-old middle infielders with patience and power. Oh, and cover songs, too. He really likes cover songs. “No particular reason why,” he says, but WFAA feels like there's more to this story.