Each Thursday, we will look back at the week that was for the Texas Rangers and then preview the weekend series.
To say it has been a difficult year for the Rangers franchise would be a gross understatement. To get an idea of how the season has gone, we have to look no further than the first base situation. This was supposed to be a position that would have stability in 2014 and beyond thanks to the Prince Fielder/Ian Kinsler trade, but Fielder's season-ending neck injury killed that possibility. With Brad Snyder being DFA'ed this week, the Rangers bring back Carlos Pena to Arlington. He becomes the fifth first baseman of the season (Fielder, Mitch Moreland, Snyder and Donnie Murphy have all manned the position). The five have combined to hit .228/.317/.370 with 10 homeruns and 35 RBI this season at first base. Their combined .687 OPS is fifth among Rangers positions (Third base leads with a .836 OPS).
No Place Like Home
On Thursday, the Rangers will wrap up a three-game series with the Tigers before welcoming the Minnesota Twins to town for the weekend. Texas won three of four against the Twins in their series at Target Field May 26-29. Since leaving Minnesota, the Rangers are 7-16.
The Twins are 36-40 and are in fourth place in the AL Central heading into Thursday's slate of games. Their offense is 13th in MLB in runs, 20th in batting average, ninth in on-base percentage and 22nd in slugging percentage. Second baseman Brian Dozier is having an incredible season as he is hitting .252/.366/.454 with a team-leading 15 home runs. He is 15th in the AL in home runs, first in runs (59), third in walks (48) and seventh in stolen bases (15).
The Twins' pitching staff has a 4.32 ERA which is 26th in MLB (Texas is 29th with a 4.56 ERA). Phil Hughes is the ace of the staff as he leads them in wins (8), strikeouts (82), earned run average (3.40) and WHIP (1.13).
7:05 p.m., Thursday: RHP Nick Martinez (1-4, 4.22) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (9-4, 3.76)
Looks like Martinez is getting back on track as he has only allowed four runs over his last two starts (13 innings). He is also no stranger to having success against Detroit as he grabbed his first and only win of the season back on May 24 against the Tigers. In that start, he went six innings and gave up one run in a 12-2 win.
Porcello was on the losing end of that May 24 game as he gave up seven earned runs in 5.1 innings. He is third in the AL with nine wins and was solid in his last start against Cleveland when he pitched six shutout innings.
7:05 p.m., Friday: RHP Nick Tepesch (2-3, 4.38) vs. RHP Kevin Correia (4-8, 5.02)
One step forward and two steps back for Tepesch this season. After pitching 6.1 shutout innings against Seattle on June 13, Nick allowed nine hits and four runs in five innings of a 4-2 loss to Oakland last Wednesday. At home this season, Tepesch has a 5.40 ERA as he has allowed seven runs in 11.2 innings.
Correia has seen his ERA drop from 6.11 on June 5 to 5.02 thanks to only allowing two runs over his last three starts. In each of those starts he pitched six innings and his only loss was a 1-0 decision to Boston on June 16. On the road this season, Kevin has a 3.35 ERA in 40.1 innings.
3:05 p.m., Saturday: RHP Yu Darvish (7-4, 2.62) vs. RHP Phil Hughes (8-3, 3.40)
The AL West road trip against the division's best teams was unkind to Darvish as he gave up eight runs in his last two starts. Prior to that, he had given up eight runs in the previous six starts combined. The good news for Darvish is that he has a 2.12 ERA in 51 innings at home this season.
Hughes is having a solid season for the Twins as he is seventh in the AL in wins, eighth in WHIP, seventh in winning percentage and fifth in complete games. He faced Texas on May 27 and went seven shutout innings and struck out seven batters in a 4-3 win.
2:05 p.m., Sunday: RHP Colby Lewis (5-5, 5.94) vs. RHP Kyle Gibson (6-6, 3.92)
Opponents are hitting .345 off Colby this season. He hasn't seen his ERA dip below five since May 12, yet he goes out every five days and battles for this team.
Gibson was roughed up in his last start as he gave up seven runs in two innings in an 8-6 loss to the Angels on Tuesday. Prior to that, he had three straight starts where he went seven innings and gave up zero runs. Against Texas on May 28, he went six shutout innings in a 1-0 loss.
The lack of offense makes it difficult to win when the starters pitch great, much less when they struggle as they have this season. Splitting these four games would be welcomed after dealing with this season-long losing streak this past week.
Eddie Middlebrook also writes for Paranoid Fan as a MLB and College Football contributor. He can be on Twitter@emiddlebrook.