Each Thursday, we will look back at the week that was for the Texas Rangers and then preview the weekend series.
Last week, we saw the Rangers lose four straight and six of seven games including a series loss to the lowly Houston Astros. Last Thursday's 9-2 victory over Detroit spring-boarded a team that won three of four against the Tigers and three straight overall.
Against the Tigers, the offense scored 35 runs while the pitching staff only allowed 15. The offense continued to shine in a 7-2 win over Minnesota on Memorial Day, but the team collapsed in the ninth inning of a 4-3 loss the following day.
Despite Tuesday's painful loss, this team is quickly becoming fun to watch and root for, and provided back-to-back one-run wins to close out the series with the Twins.
The offense is red-hot and nobody is hotter than J.P. Arencibia's replacement, Chris Gimenez. Despite only playing five games with Texas, Gimenez already has more hits (nine) than Arencibia all season (seven). Gimenez is hitting .429/.455/.524 and the team is 4-1 in his starts with the only loss coming on Tuesday. Alex Rios has also been hitting well (.340/.370/.564) with five triples in May.
Nick Martinez is still pitching well as he has a 2.70 ERA in 23.1 innings this month, despite allowing four runs Thursday. Reliever Neal Cotts is also pitching well as he has a 1.74 ERA in 10.1 innings.
Who's Ice Cold?
WFAA's Robert Pike wrote about the importance of Michael Choice in the Rangers' future and unfortunately, he is struggling. Choice eclipsed the Mendoza line for the month with two hits Thursday and is now hitting .215 in May. Leonys Martin was struggling going into Wednesday night's action, but doubled twice Thursday afternoon and scored the winning run in the final two games against Minnesota.
To make room for Joe Saunders, reliever Aaron Poreda was sent down. Poreda had a 5.40 ERA in 8.1 innings, which is the same ERA that Colby Lewis has through 26.2 innings this month. His start on Friday is key to determining if he can stay in this rotation.
The Rangers head to Washington D.C. to conclude an 11-game road trip. The Nationals are 25-27 and sit in third place of the NL East behind Atlanta and Miami. The Nationals are battling their own injuries as their DL list includes Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche.
The offense has struggled as they rank 22nd in runs, 21st in batting average, 19th in on-base percentage and 19th in slugging percentage. Jayson Werth leads the team as he is hitting .281 and a .771 OPS. Ian Desmond provides the power as he leads the team in homeruns with nine and RBI with 29.
The Washington pitching staff is sixth in the MLB with a 3.23 ERA and they are led by their ace Stephen Strasburg with a 3.42 ERA and 81 strikeouts.
6:05 p.m., Friday: RHP Colby Lewis (4-3, 5.10) vs. RHP Stephen Strasburg (3-4, 3.42)
Lewis improved in his last start as he went 5.2 innings, gave up two runs, but walked five in a 12-4 win over Detroit. With the victory last Saturday, he is tied with Darvish and Martin Perez for the team lead in wins.
Strasburg has pitched at least seven innings in four straight starts and only gave up three runs, but is 1-2 during that span. Washington is 5-5 when Strasburg starts and have lost three straight overall. He primarily pitches a 95 mph fourseam fastball and a change while mixing in a curve.
11:05 p.m., Saturday: RHP Nick Tepesch (2-0, 2.95) vs. RHP Doug Fister (2-1, 3.42)
Tepesch has been great this season and his last start was no different as he went 6.2 innings, gave up two runs and struck out four in a 7-2 victory over Minnesota. He hasn't given up more three runs in his three starts this season.
Fister has only made four starts this season and has been incredible in his last three starts when he only gave up four runs in 19.1 innings. In nine career starts against Texas, Fister is 3-4 with a 5.67 ERA. He primarily relies on a two-seam fastball (90 mph) while mixing in a curve, splitter, cutter and a four-seam fastball (89 mph).
12:35 p.m., Sunday: RHP Yu Darvish (4-2, 2.35) vs. Tanner Roark (3-3, 3.47)
Darvish missed his last start due to neck stiffness, but only has missed four starts in his two-plus years with the team. Last Thursday, Darvish defeated the Tigers by pitching seven innings, gave up two runs and struck out six hitters. In his last three starts, he has only given up four runs in 23.2 innings.
Roark is pitching well as he has lowered his ERA from 4.17 to 3.47 in his last four starts. On the season, Roark has only given up more than three runs twice. He is in his second season after he went 7-1 with a 1.51 ERA last season for the Nationals.
The Rangers are playing well and it should continue over the weekend as they have a legitimate shot at winning two of three against the Nationals. If so, that would mean a 7-4 road trip which would be far beyond anyone's expectations.
Eddie Middlebrook also writes for Paranoid Fan as a MLB and College Football contributor. He can be on Twitter@emiddlebrook.