Each Thursday, we will look back at the week that was for the First-Place Texas Rangers and then preview the weekend series.
No Beltre, No Problem
Despite the loss of Hall-of-Famer Adrian Beltre on April 8, the Rangers have gone 10-4 in his absence. He is not the only injured player as there are currently 11 players on the DL (not counting Kevin Kouzmanoff and Shin-Soo Choo, who are nursing injuries as well).
Without their cleanup hitter, the Rangers (out of 30 teams) rank seventh in runs, second in batting average (.274), third in OBP (.346) and 10th in slugging percentage (.402). Their offensive struggles are a distant memory thanks in large part to a few guys not expected to play a considerable amount of time: Kouzmanoff (.362/.412/.617), Josh Wilson (.325/.357/.375) and Donnie Murphy (.240/.310/.360).
Fun fact: Last season, Rangers' designated hitters hit .245/.313/.385, while in 2014 they are hitting a robust .341/.375/.524.
During this stretch where the Rangers have won eight of nine games, the pitching has been outstanding, led by Martin Perez who is now 4-0 with a 1.42 ERA (fourth in the AL). Perez now has back-to-back three-hit shutouts and has created a great 1-2 punch for this rotation with Yu Darvish.
Darvish is no slouch as he is fifth in the American League in ERA at 1.61. Robbie Ross is 16th in ERA (2.31) and Colby Lewis is inspiring the entire team with his ability to come back from injury. As if it couldn't get any better, Matt Harrison makes his first start this Sunday against Seattle.
Who's Ice Cold?
The team's lone loss in the last nine games included an ugly ninth inning where Hector Noesi gave up seven runs. This bad outing led to him being designated for assignment and it is doubtful that we see him in a Rangers uniform again. Tanner Scheppers is still struggling, as he only went 2.1 innings and gave up six runs against Seattle last Thursday. His ERA sits at 9.82 as a starter, so look for him to move to the bullpen now that Harrison is back in the rotation.
Geovany Soto can't get back fast enough as J.P. Arencibia is currently hitting .067/.125/.100 and Robinson Chirinos has a much better rapport with the pitching staff.
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.
On the Road Again
The Rangers face the Seattle Mariners again after winning three of four against them at home last week. The Mariners currently sit in fourth place in the AL West at 8-13. They rank 26th in runs, 28th in batting average (.222), 29th in OBP (.276), 27th in slugging percentage (.356) and are ranked 11th in ERA (3.54).
The team is led by Corey Hart, who is hitting .270/.333/.508 and leads the team in home runs with four. Former Yankee Robinson Cano is hitting .280/.333/.354, but is missing his power as he only has one home run.
Veteran Closer Fernando Rodney is playing great as he has three saves and is sporting a 1.42 ERA in 6.1 innings this season. Former Ranger Chris Young is having a solid start to the season, as he is 1-0 with a 3.50 ERA in 18 innings. Felix Hernandez is his normal self as he is 3-1 with a 2.04 ERA. This weekend's pitching matchups:
9:10 p.m., Friday: LHP Robbie Ross (1-1, 2.31) vs. LHP Roenis Elias (1-1, 3.22)
Ross is coming off his worst start this season as he gave up seven runs (four earned) in 5.1 innings last Sunday. Despite the struggles, he did collect eight strikeouts and didn't walk a batter. Last Tuesday, he collected his first win as a starter against these Mariners as he went 7.2 shutout innings and only allowed five hits and no walks.
Cuba native Roenis Elias is in his rookie season. The 25-year-old was superb against Texas on April 14, as he went 6.2 innings, allowed five hits, one run and struck out five for his only win this season. He is coming off his worst start of the season as well last Saturday when he went 5.2 innings, gave up six runs (four earned) and walked five in a 7-0 loss to Minnesota. Elias primarily relies on a 92 mph four-seam fastball and a curve while mixing in a changeup and 92 mph two-seam fastball.
8:10 p.m., Saturday: RHP Colby Lewis (1-1, 4.22) vs. RHP Felix Hernandez (3-1, 2.04)
Lewis was much better in his last start against Chicago last Saturday when he went 5.1 innings, gave up one run and struck out four for his first win since 2012. He faced Seattle on April 14, and went 5.1 innings, gave up four runs and struck out four in a 7-1 loss. In his career at Safeco Field, he is 2-4 with a 3.74 ERA in eight starts.
King Felix took his first loss of the season in his last start against Houston when he went seven innings, gave up six runs (two earned) in a 7-2 loss at home. Against Texas on April 16, he was great, only giving up one run in seven innings, but took a no-decision in the 3-2 loss. Hernandez has struggled against the Rangers in his career, as he is 12-20 with a 4.10 ERA in 40 starts. The 20 losses are his most against a single team.
3:10 p.m., Sunday: LHP Matt Harrison (N/A) vs. RHP Erasmo Ramirez (1-3, 6.75)
Harrison makes his first start of the season and his first start since last April when he only made two starts before going down with a season-ending injury. In three starts at Frisco this year, Harrison was 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA. In his last start, he went eight innings, allowed zero runs, three hits and struck out five. If he can be anywhere close to his 2012 campaign when he went 18-11 with a 3.29 ERA, this can be one of the best rotations in the AL.
Ramirez struggled against Texas on April 17, as he only lasted two innings and gave up five runs in an 8-6 loss. He bounced back in his last start, however, as he went six innings, gave up three runs and struck out eight, but took the loss against Houston (5-2). His primary pitches are a 91 mph two-seam fastball and a change, but he mixes in a slider, 92 mph four-seam fastball and a curve.
I know it's early, but take a moment to stop and appreciate what this team has done through 22 games. Despite all the injuries and adversity, they are the best team in the American League and are firing on all cylinders. Wednesday's win is proof of this as they could've easily settled for winning the series and took it easy on a travel day, but Perez pitched amazing and Wilson, Murphy and Choice were great on the offensive end. This team doesn't settle and that is a testament to its manager, Ron Washington.
They should be able to take two of three from Seattle and finish off this short road trip an impressive 5-1.
Eddie Middlebrook also writes for Paranoid Fan as a MLB and College Football contributor. He can be found on Twitter@emiddlebrook.