ARLINGTON, Texas — The Texas Rangers are set to kick off their final homestand of the 2023 season, and they're hoping that some home cooking can help them recover from their recent topsy-turvy road trip.
Coming into this series, Texas is tied with Baltimore for the league’s second-best record at home at 45-30. That pace would serve them nicely this week.
But with the Wild Card-trailing Seattle Mariners following Boston in this final set from Arlington, the Rangers would probably like to do a little better than winning at a 60% clip.
Before Texas can worry about Seattle, however, the Boston Red Sox come to town looking to play spoiler.
Third baseman Josh Jung could rejoin the team at the start of or at some point later in this series, which could provide a huge boost to a lineup looking for more middle-of-the-order threats.
With Texas clinging to a Wild Card spot by just one game, they'll accept all the help that they can get.
Boston down the stretch
Boston, along with the New York Yankees, are officially out of the hunt for the American League East title, which has been battled for all season by the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles. The Red Sox played a little bit better than .500 ball in the first half, but they have had a poor second half, especially since August started.
Since the trade deadline, the BoSox have gone 18-25 and are a distant 8.5 games behind Texas for the final Wild Card spot.
In light of the team’s poor performance, ownership made the decision to relieve Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom from his post after four years of service. While there were many things that went against Bloom from the start -- starting during the 2020 pandemic, the trade of superstar Mookie Betts to keep payroll down, a depleted farm system coming into the job and maneuvering through the Alex Cora cheating scandal -- Bloom’s methodical approach to rebuilding a farm system ultimately didn’t seem to mesh with the “win it all while you’re doing that” expectations that Boston holds.
All that aside, it’s not the front office that plays the games on the field, but rather the players. And the Red Sox simply haven’t met expectations.
Despite some star power in Justin Turner, Rafael Devers and Rookie of the Year candidate Masataka Yoshida, it’s been pitching, and injuries to the pitching staff, that have hurt the Sox.
Together, the Red Sox pitchers have given up the fifth most runs in the American League in 2023. They’ve been plagued with injuries -- from Chris Sale, who started the season on the injured list, to James Paxton, who is currently on it -- and simply lack the punch from the rotation needed to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Tampa Bay and the ascending Orioles.
Even the standouts they’ve had -- Triston Casas and Jarren Duran, especially -- find themselves injured. And Duran won’t return for the rest of the year. Closer Kenley Jansen was also pulled from an Astros series with tightness in his hamstring and won’t return to the club until Wednesday, since he’s also on the COVID restriction list.
Still, two things ring true: Boston has some good hitters who can give the Rangers fits, and Texas hasn’t always played their best against teams with losing records.
The last time Texas took on Boston was in the road trip before the All-Star break, and the Red Sox took the three-game set at Fenway two games to one.
- Game 150: 7:05 PM CT - RHP Kutter Crawford (6-7, 4.26 ERA) vs. LHP Jordan Montgomery (9-11, 3.47 ERA)
- Game 151: 7:05 PM CT - RHP Tanner Houck (5-9, 4.94 ERA) vs. RHP Nathan Eovaldi (11-4, 2.96 ERA)
- Game 152: 1:05 PM CT - RHP Brayan Bello (12-9, 3.71 ERA) vs. RHP Jon Gray (8-8, 4.05 ERA)
Kutter Crawford and Brayan Bello will get second outings against Texas this series, pitching on Monday and Wednesday respectively.
Crawford, last time against Texas, tossed just four innings, giving up three runs on seven hits in a game the Red Sox eventually won 10-6. He also hasn’t cleared the 5th inning in any of his last three starts, most recently completing just 4 ⅔ innings against the Yankees, even though he only gave up one run on three hits and three walks in a loss to New York.
Bello, meanwhile, earned a win when he faced the Rangers back in July, holding Texas to just two runs over seven innings, even though he gave up eight hits during the start. His most recent outing was a quality start, as he gave up three runs in six innings of work against the Blue Jays in a losing effort on Friday.
Tanner Houck will draw the ball for the middle game. Houck is about a month removed from returning from the 60-day IL after being hit in the face with a line drive in a game against the Yankees back in June. Since then, he’s pitched worse than he did before he hit the shelf, although he threw six innings of shutout ball against the Yankees on Thursday. That was the first start since his return that he has held an opponent off the board.
The Rangers will send Jordan Montgomery, former Red Sox pitcher Nathan Eovaldi and Jon Gray out to face Boston this week.
Montgomery had one of his strongest starts in about a month in his last time out against the Blue Jays. During the sweep up north, Montgomery threw seven shutout innings, allowing just four hits. The only outing that topped that during his tenure with Texas was a shutout performance over eight innings against the Diamondbacks on August 21st.
For his part, Eovaldi has been increasing his pitch count to return to a starter’s workload since returning from the IL earlier this month, having gone into the 4th inning in Toronto on 73 pitches in his last outing. His offerings should now be in the 85-90 pitch range, although he’s also scheduled to go against the Mariners this upcoming weekend. Manager Bruce Bochy may choose to play it conservatively, depending on how the game is going. Eovaldi battled command issues against the Blue Jays, walking three and giving up a homer in the outing, which Texas ultimately won.
Closing out the series is Gray, who has not been having a great stretch. Gray is on a five-game run now of giving up at least three runs in every start, and in September, the righty hasn’t made it past the fifth inning in any outing. Most recently, in the first game against the Guardians on Friday, Gray lasted only 3 ⅔ innings, giving up three runs on seven hits while walking two and hitting two Cleveland batters.
Regardless, Texas has two pitchers with short leashes going two days in a row, which could spell trouble for a bullpen that is already a biohazard in the best of times.
It’s cliché to say, but every game is important now.
A bit of an impromptu playoff atmosphere has arrived for Texas as they enter the final homestand.
Do you think the Rangers can bounce back again against Boston? Share your predictions with Matt on Twitter @FisherWritesMLB.