Each Thursday, we will look back at the week that was for the Texas Rangers and then preview the weekend series.
What Pitching Problems?
It's amazing what can happen in the span of a week. Heading into Wednesday's game, the Rangers were 16th in team ERA (3.86) after being 27th the week before. Colby Lewis made a solid first start as he went 5.1 innings and gave up four runs and struck out four Seattle hitters. He was able to touch 91 mph at times during the outing which is something he wasn't able to do during his rehab starts.
With Lewis in the fold and Yu Darvish, Martin Perez and Robbie Ross Jr. consistently producing, the rotation is once again becoming a strength of this ballclub. If Matt Harrison can come back soon to replace Tanner Scheppers, the rest of the league can once again fear the Texas Rangers.
Fun fact: The Rangers lead the majors in shutouts with four.
In Tuesday's 5-0 win over the Mariners, Kevin Kouzmanoff had three extra base hits including his first home run as a Ranger. Kouzmanoff won't be confused for Adrian Beltre anytime soon, but the veteran is hitting .417/.481/.667 as the future Hall of Famer's replacement. Not bad at all for a guy who hasn't played in the majors since 2011. Elvis Andrus continues to hit well as he is hitting .305/.328/.407 and continuing to put last season's early struggles behind him.
Yu Darvish is still the ace of this staff, but Ross (1-1, 1.00) and Perez (2-0, 2.70) are great complements to the Japanese workhorse. Ross continues to improve and Tuesday night showed what he is capable of as a starter as he went 7.2 innings, gave up five hits and zero runs as he picked up his first win of the season. With Ross at 24 and Perez who just turned 23 on April 4, youth is on the Rangers side in the rotation.
Who's Ice Cold?
If JP Arencibia continues on his current pace, he could be DFA'ed sometime in May as he is hitting a paltry .083/.120/.125. His replacement, Robinson Chirinos, hasn't fared much better (.160/.250/.320), but he has a good relationship with the pitchers and is throwing runners out as he has thrown out all four attempted base stealers.
Scheppers sits at a 7.88 ERA after three starts and though he went seven innings against Houston last Saturday, he still gave up five earned runs as he got the no-decision in a 6-5 loss. Keep an eye on closer Joakim Soria as he has been far from perfect this season: five innings with four runs allowed.
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.
The Homestand Continues
The Seattle series concludes on Thursday afternoon which makes way for the White Sox this weekend. Prior to Wednesday's night slate of games, Chicago led the majors in runs (82) and on-base percentage (.353), second in batting average (.276) and third in slugging percentage (.450). As strong as their offense has been, their pitching is just the opposite as they are 28th in the majors with a 5.15 ERA, which explains why they are 9-6 this season.
7:05 p.m., Friday: RHP Felipe Paulino (0-1, 7.98) vs. LHP Martin Perez (2-0, 2.70)
After only giving up one run in his first start of the season against Minnesota, Paulino has given up six runs in each of his last two starts against Colorado and Cleveland. He hasn't lasted longer than 5.1 innings and is allowing 2.11 WHIP through three starts. He features a 94 mph four-seam fastball while mixing in a change, slider and 93 mph two-seam fastball.
Perez is coming off a brilliant performance as he went eight innings and allowed zero runs in a 1-0 win over Houston on Sunday afternoon. In his two starts at home this season, he is 2-0 with a 1.32 ERA.
7:05 p.m., Saturday: RHP Jose Quintana (1-0, 2.37) vs. RHP Colby Lewis (0-1, 6.75)
The Columbia native, Quintana, has been exceptional through three starts as he has gone at least six innings and allowed two runs or less in each of his starts. The 25-year-old has made 58 starts for Chicago over the past three seasons and posted a 121 ERA+ during that span. He is signed to a very team-friendly contract until 2018, but also has team options for 2019 and 2020.
Lewis will be hoping to build off his outing on Monday in which he picked up the loss, but showed promise as he continues to be one of the feel-good stories of 2014.
2:05 p.m., Sunday: RHP Erik Johnson (0-1, 6.35) vs. LHP Robbie Ross (1-0, 1.00)
Sunday's finale will include rookie and University of California alum Erik Johnson as he hopes to have a repeat performance of his last start where he went 6.2 innings, gave up one earned run and struck out nine Boston hitters in a no-decision. He primarily throws a 91 mph four-seam fastball and a 87 mph cutter while mixing in a 90 mph two-seam fastball, change and curve.
Ross will be challenged by the strong White Sox lineup, but he works fast and shows no mercy on the mound.
The pitching matchups favor the Rangers this weekend and I expect them to be able to take at least two of three from Chicago.
Eddie Middlebrook also writes for Paranoid Fan as a MLB and College Football contributor. He can be on Twitter@emiddlebrook.