Each Thursday, we will look back at the week that was for the Texas Rangers and then preview the weekend series.
Sell! Sell! Sell! The Rangers have lost 22 of their last 25 games heading into the All-Star break. Losing is one thing, but at times, this team has looked apathetic and that is inexcusable. Hopefully the much-needed rest and time spent in another country will serve the team well.
Texas limps into Toronto this weekend for a three-game series against the 49-47 Blue Jays, who are four games behind AL East-leading Baltimore. Heading into the second half, Toronto has a 38.9 percent chance of making the playoffs according to ESPN and their plus-19 run differential would suggest along with their record that they are a slightly above average ball club. Toronto has five regulars with an OPS north of .800 (Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Adam Lind, Juan Francisco and Melky Cabrera.
The Jays are led by their offense as the team ranks fifth in runs, eighth in batting average, seventh in on-base percentage and fourth in slugging. Encarnacion combines with Bautista to provide the power (43 home runs, 124 RBI total).
The pitching staff's ERA ranks 24th in MLB at 4.07. The rotation is led by Mark Buehrle and former Ranger R.A. Dickey, both of whom the Rangers will see this weekend.
6:07 p.m., Friday: RHP Yu Darvish (8-5, 2.97) vs. RHP R.A. Dickey (7-9, 3.82)
I wish I knew what was troubling Darvish as he has struggled in four of his last five starts. In his last outing, he gave up 10 hits and six runs to the Astros in an 8-4 loss. On June 11, his ERA was 2.11, but it now stands at 2.97, which is still below his career mark of 3.26.
Dickey's second season in Toronto is going better than his first though he has managed to lose five of his last six starts. He seems to be struggling with a lack of run support as he has only give up more than three runs during this span once (5-4 loss to the White Sox on June 27). The knuckleballer's only win since early June was a 4-0 victory over the Angels. In that game, he went seven innings, gave up four hits and zero runs while striking out five.
12:07 p.m., Saturday: RHP Colby Lewis (6-6, 6.54) vs. RHP Marcus Stroman (4-2, 4.05)
Just when you think Lewis is getting back on track, he has one of the worst pitching performances in baseball history. Last Thursday, he gave up 13 hits and 11 earned runs in 2.1 innings of work to increase his opponent's batting average for the season to .353. If he continues to struggle, it won't be easy for him to put down the glove after working hard for so long to get back in the game. That decision will have to be made for him and probably sooner rather than later.
Stroman is a 23-year-old rookie from Duke University who stands tall at 5'9. In his last start against the Angels, he only lasted 3.2 innings, gave up eight hits and five earned runs in an 8-7 defeat. Stroman was drafted in the first round by Toronto in 2012 and came into this season as their No. 2 prospect according to Baseball America. He has an uphill battle to climb, as there has only been two right-handers since 1960 his size or shorter to make 30 career starts. His fastball sits 92-95 and his repertoire also includes a low-90s cutter and an upper-80s slider (credit to Baseball America).
12:07 p.m., Sunday: RHP Nick Tepesch (3-5, 4.31) vs. LHP Mark Buehrle (10-6, 2.64)
Despite the 3-0 loss last Friday against the Angels, Tepesch pitched well as he went six innings, gave up six hits and three runs. In his last six starts, he has three quality starts sandwiched in between three poor outings.
Buehrle is on his way to his 14th consecutive year of 200-plus innings in a season and at age 35, this may be his best season yet. His 2.64 ERA ranks fifth in the AL and is well over a run below his career mark of 3.79. His 4.28 xFIP would suggest that his ERA will continue to rise (2.04 ERA on June 7) and he hasn't won a start since June 1. He loves pitching against the Rangers, though, as he is 13-5 with a 3.12 ERA against the team including a no-hitter in 2007 as a member of the White Sox.
Texas is trying to erase an eight-game losing streak while Toronto is fighting to remain in the playoff picture. The Rangers should be able to win at least one game in this series with the chance to win a series for the first time since late June.
Eddie Middlebrook also writes for Paranoid Fan as an MLB and College Football contributor. He can be found on Twitter@emiddlebrook.