Each Thursday, we will look back at the week that was for the Texas Rangers and then preview the weekend series.
Baling Wire and Duct Tape
On Tuesday, news came out that Mitch Moreland will have reconstruction surgery on his ankle and Robbie Ross Jr.’s struggles have led to him being demoted to Round Rock. It should only be a matter of time before we hear that big offseason acquisition Shin-Soo Choo needs some time on disabled list to rest his high ankle sprain. Since May 7, Choo is hitting .173/.308/.278 while the team has gone 18-20 in that span.
The team is using a Triple-A outfielder at first base (Brad Snyder), two backup catchers, a 20-year-old second baseman and a rotation with only one viable starter (Yu Darvish). Baling wire and duct tape are low in supply at this point.
This season seems to be lost despite the team treading water since the beginning of May (20-23 since May 1). As I have said before and I’ll continue to say, a lot of credit goes to Manager Ron Washington and his staff for keeping these guys in a position to succeed in spite of the overwhelming odds.
On Friday, the Rangers will begin the final series of this nine-game road trip that has been successful so far. The Angels reside in second place of the AL West tied with the third-best record in the American League heading into Wednesday’s slate of games. As of Wednesday, they have a 50.3 percent chance of reaching the playoffs according to ESPN.
Los Angeles is led by its high-powered offense, as they are fourth in runs, seventh in batting average, eighth in on-base percentage and fourth in slugging percentage in the MLB. Their pitching staff is only slightly below average with a 3.79 team ERA good for 17th in baseball.
It should be a surprise to no one as Mike Trout leads the team in nearly every offensive category: Batting average (.311), home runs (16), OPS (1.008) and rWAR (4.2). Former Ranger C.J. Wilson leads the team in wins (seven) and strikeouts (87) while Garrett Richards leads the staff with a 131 ERA+.
9:05 p.m., Friday: LHP Joe Saunders (0-2, 3.46) vs. LHP Hector Santiago (0-7, 4.44)
Saunders appears to get better with each start. In his last outing, he only allowed two runs in six innings while allowing zero walks for the first time this season in a 4-3 Rangers victory. In his last four starts, Saunders has given up two earned runs or less lowering his ERA from 9.82 to 3.46.
Santiago has been sporadic this season for the Angels. Against Atlanta on June 15, he gave up four runs in 5.1 innings as the Angels lost 7-3. In his previous start, he went six shutout innings against the Athletics in a 2-1 victory. He has pitched well enough to win several starts, but the offense hasn’t scored more than three runs in any of his starts this season. Santiago features a 92 mph four-seam fastball while mixing in a circle change, curve and cutter.
9:05 p.m., Saturday: RHP Nick Martinez (1-4, 4.44) vs. RHP Jered Weaver (7-6, 3.67)
After struggling for three straight starts, Martinez settled down against Seattle on Sunday as he went six innings and gave up two runs in a 5-1 loss. It was his first start since May 24 where he allowed less than four runs.
Weaver has lost three of his last four starts. Despite his recent struggles, he is 10th in the AL in innings pitched (95.2) and eighth in WHIP (1.16). In his career, Weaver is 13-8 with a 3.66 ERA against the Rangers. With his velocity decreasing each year, Weaver tends to focus primarily on command of his 86 mph two-seam fastball and change.
7 p.m., Sunday: RHP Colby Lewis (5-4, 5.97) vs. RHP Matt Shoemaker (4-1, 3.83)
We are all pulling for Colby, but I don’t know how much more he has left in the tank. In his 12 starts, he has only gone six innings once (May 20 vs. Seattle). Opponents are hitting .343 against him this season and Oakland had 10 hits off of Lewis in 5.1 innings on Monday. He is also allowing almost two walks/hits per inning as his WHIP is 1.86. Positive: Lewis defeated the Angels on May 2 as he went 5.2 innings, gave up two runs and struck out six as the Rangers won 5-2.
Shoemaker has made 11 appearances this season for the Angels with six of those coming as starts. He was great in his last start against Cleveland as he went eight innings, gave up two runs and struck out 10 hitters. Both the innings pitched and strikeouts are career highs for Shoemaker. In four of his six starts, he has given up two or less runs. He primarily works with a 91 mph two-seam and 92 mph four-seam fastball while mixing in a change, slider and curve.
Looking at the matchups this weekend, the Rangers should have the pitching advantage in only Friday’s start, but I’ve been wrong before and would gladly be wrong again.
Eddie Middlebrook also writes for Paranoid Fan as a MLB and College Football contributor. He can be on Twitter @emiddlebrook.