Each Thursday, we will look back at the week that was for the Texas Rangers and then preview the weekend series.
While the team is fifth in the majors in batting average (.277) and 10th with a .331 OBP, the slugging percentage is below the league average at .383 (17th). Heading into Wednesday night's games, only Kansas City (zero) had fewer home runs in MLB than Texas (3).
The lack of power combined with a 5.35 team ERA that ranks 27th in baseball, makes the 4-5 record more impressive. The Rangers were on the verge of winning their fifth game Wednesday afternoon before David Ortiz parked a Neal Cotts fastball into the right field bleachers. Alas, this team needs to simply hold things together until Lewis, Harrison, Holland, Soto and Profar are able to contribute.
Alex Rios is playing like this is his contract year as he leads the team batting average (.364), RBI (six) and hits (12). Utility infielder Josh Wilson is hitting .385/.385/.462 in limited action while Shin-Soo Choo had a great road trip as he as improved his season slash line to .355/.475/.484.
Yu Darvish was great in his first outing as went seven innings, gave up seven hits, zero runs and struck out six Rays’ batters last Sunday. Despite his allowing six walks on Wednesday against Boston, Robbie Ross has been impressive as a starter with a 1.74 ERA in 10.1 innings and 11 Ks.
Who’s Ice Cold?
Rangers’ catchers are hitting a combined .148/.233/.333 and Prince Fielder hasn’t fared much better as he is hitting .162/.205/.216 with two extra-base hits through nine games.
With Beltre’s availability in question (as of Wednesday night), Seth Rosin was designated for assignment. Rosin had pitched four innings, gave up six hits and struck out three in three appearances. We may have seen the last of Joe Saunders as a Ranger after his disastrous start against the Rays last Friday when he gave up four runs in 3.2 innings, and left the game (subsequently went on the disabled list) after an Evan Longoria line drive hit his left foot. Say it IS so Joe.
Disclaimer: Statistics are great to look at, but this early in the season, they don’t mean much and not much weight should be placed on them.
Lone Star Showdown
Last season, the Rangers went 17-2 against their foes from H-town. In 2014, the Rangers have a -10 scoring differential, which is the second-worst in the AL West to the 3-6 Houston Astros who are sporting a -22 margin. The Astros' .201 team batting average ranks 29th in MLB, but diminutive second baseman Jose Altuve is hitting .310/.394/.379 to lead the team.
7:05 p.m., Friday: RHP Scott Feldman (2-0, 0.66) vs. RHP Yu Darvish (1-0, 0.00)
The matchup of the weekend features each team’s best pitcher as Feldman is doing his best to live up to his three years, $30 million contract given to him this offseason. Through two starts, Feldman has given up only one run in 13.2 innings against the LA Angels and New York Yankees. He features an 87 mph cutter to go along with a curve and sinker. The former Ranger is 16-19 with a 4.40 ERA in his career at Globe Life Park.
It is great to have Darvish back on the mound in a Rangers uniform every fifth day. He pitched masterfully last Sunday and ESPN’s Keith Law recently said he was the best pitcher in the American League.
8:05 p.m., Saturday: RHP Jarred Cosart (1-1, 4.09) vs. RHP Colby Lewis (N/A)
Texas native Jarred Cosart pitched great last season in 10 starts for the Astros: 1-1, 1.95 ERA and 2.6 rWAR. In his two starts this season, Cosart struggled against the Angels (6 IP, 5 runs, 4 walks), but pitched five shutout innings against the Yankees in a 3-1 win. He features a 96 mph cutter and a knuckle curve.
Lewis’ comeback story has been inspiring and if he is able to pitch the entire season, he is a lock for the AL Comeback Player of the Year award, but first things first: Saturday’s start. Expectations for Lewis should be subdued as he gave up four runs on four hits in five innings last Sunday as a member of the AAA Round Rock squad. In four spring training starts, Lewis had an 8.00 ERA.
2:05 p.m., Sunday: LHP Brett Oberholtzer vs. RHP Tanner Scheppers (0-1, 9.00)
The finale features two pitchers who have struggled in the early part of the season. Oberholtzer has gone more than five innings in both starts, gave up three runs each time and took the loss (4-2 vs. NYY and 5-2 vs. Toronto). Like Cosart, Oberholtzer features a knuckle curve to go along with a four-seam and two-seam fastball that both average 91 mph. He was 0-1 with a 2.70 ERA in 10 innings against Texas last season.
As a starter, Scheppers isn’t missing many bats as he has given up 17 hits in nine innings of work while only striking out five. In his last start, he only allowed two runs, but had 10 hitters on base in only five innings of work. Matt Harrison is slated to come back in a few weeks and it looks like he could be Scheppers’ replacement when the time is right.
Texas should be able to win a home series against the lowly Astros, but this isn’t a healthy Rangers squad.The Friday game is crucial for a victory because the other two matchups don’t look as promising.
Eddie Middlebrook also writes for Paranoid Fan as a MLB and College Football contributor. He can be on Twitter @emiddlebrook.