Each Thursday, we look back at the week that was for the Texas Rangers and then preview the weekend series.
So far this week, they split a two-game series against the Marlins despite Neftali Feliz trying to give the game away in the ninth on Wednesday afternoon. The win means the team has won two of its last three games and is 6-11 in August.
Leonys Martin is on a hot streak as he has three multi-hit games over the past week to see his batting average raise from .249 to .268. On the flip side, the Mike Carp experiment has been dreadful as he is hitting .143/.250/.143 since joining the Rangers.
After this weekend's three-game series against Kansas City, Texas will go on a nine-game road trip against Seattle, Houston and Kansas City.
First Place Royals?!
The Royals (70-56) are in unchartered territory this century as they find themselves at the top of the AL Central in late August. ESPN says they have a 69.8 percent chance of making the playoffs.
Their success stems from a pitching staff that is 11th in ERA (3.56) and an offense that ranks 13th in runs, third in batting average, 17th in on-base percentage and 16th in slugging percentage.
AL MVP candidate Alex Gordon, who is tops on the team in OPS (.810) and tied for second on the team in home runs (14), leads the Royals' offense. Catcher Salvador Perez is also having a solid season, as he leads the team in home runs (15) and is hitting .268/.304/.417.
The pitching staff is led by James Shields, who is 12-6 on the season with a 3.28 ERA. Sunday's starter Jason Vargas is pitching great as he leads the staff with a 3.17 ERA. Closer Greg Holland has been sensational, with 39 saves and a 1.82 ERA.
To get a good understanding of the Royals' season to date, check out Grantland writer Rany Jazayerli's story on the team that has been waiting 28 years for a special season.
7:05 p.m., Friday: RHP Colby Lewis (8-10, 5.52) vs. RHP Yordano Ventura (9-9, 3.48)
Lewis has lost his last two starts, both at home. Despite his recent struggles, he has a 3.15 ERA in August and had 10 strikeouts and zero walks in his last start against the Angels.
Ventura is a 23-year-old rookie who is having a solid season. He has pitched at least six innings in five straight starts and the team is 4-1 during that span. He features one of the fastest fastballs in the majors as he averages 98 mph. Ventura has been a heralded Royals prospect for some time and is projected as a No. 2 or 3 starter long term.
7:05 p.m., Saturday: RHP Nick Tepesch (4-7, 4.15) vs. RHP Jeremy Guthrie (9-10, 4.48)
Tepesch has been the best starting pitcher for the Rangers this month, boasting a 1.83 ERA in 19.2 innings of work. While he got a no-decision in each of his last two starts, the team won both games 3-2 as he went seven innings and only gave up two runs in each start. He has seen his ERA drop from 4.87 on July 22 to 4.15 in late August.
Guthrie is a 10-year veteran who provides the Royals an experienced innings-eating starter. The team is 4-1 in his last five starts, which include a complete game against Arizona on August 7. He features a 93 mph four-seam and a change while mixing in a two-seam, slider and curve according to Brooks Baseball. For his career, Guthrie has made 15 appearances (12 starts) against Texas and is 4-4 with a 3.82 ERA.
2:05 p.m., Sunday: RHP Miles Mikolas (1-5, 7.48) vs. LHP Jason Vargas (10-5, 3.17)
Texas has lost five consecutive Mikolas' starts and are 1-8 in his starts this season. He pitched better on Tuesday against Miami as he went five innings, gave up three runs, struck out six hitters and only walked one. Though he hasn't pitched well this season, the offense hasn't helped. Texas has only scored more than three runs in three of his nine starts.
The Rangers will face another veteran in Vargas. The team has won his last three starts and he has dropped his ERA from 3.48 to 3.17 in that span. Vargas features a fastball that sits in the upper 80s and doesn't strike out many hitters, but he doesn't walk many and opponents are only hitting .253 off of him.
Texas will face a young phenom in Ventura and two veterans in Guthrie and Vargas. Saturday's game looks like the Rangers' best chance for a victory.
Eddie Middlebrook can be reached on Twitter@emiddlebrook.