Series Preview: Texas Rangers @ Oakland Athletics - To Win in Oakland

So, did he win the beard-off? - USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers return to Oakland for the first meeting between the Rangers and A's since last October's Abortion by the Bay

Series Schedule:

Monday, May 13 9:05: RHP A.J. Griffin vs. RHP Justin Grimm

Tuesday, May 14 9:05: RHP Bartolo Colon vs. LHP Derek Holland

Wednesday, May 15 2:35: RHP Dan Straily vs. RHP Alexi Ogando

-Game 160, Monday, Oct 1 2012 at O.Co Coliesum:

Texas 3, Oakland 4 - Jarrod Parker and the A's bullpen survive after knocking out a rattled Martin Perez - Rangers lead the American League West by a game

-Game 161, Tuesday, Oct 2 2012 at O.Co Coliesum:

Texas 1, Oakland 3 - Matt Harrison and the Ranger offense fails to delivery against now Astro outcast Travis Blackley of all people - Rangers and A's are tied for the American League West title with a game to play

-Game 162, Wednesday, Oct 3 2012 at O.Co Coliesum:

Texas 5, Oakland 12:

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I don't have historical wells of hatred stored up for the A's like I do for the Seattle Mariners. I don't currently despise Oakland like I do Anaheim. But that isn't to say that I like the A's and those three days last October remain a bitter monument to one of the more disappointing seasons that we've experienced as fans of baseball. And for that, I hope the Rangers beat the hell out of the A's this week and forever.

Since the A's are currently clinging to second place:

  • A's sweep - The Rangers lead the A's in the AL West by 3 games
  • A's win 2 of 3 - The Rangers lead A's in the AL West by 5 games
  • Rangers win 2 of 3 - The Rangers lead the probably not second place anymore A's in the AL West by 7 games
  • Rangers sweep - The Rangers lead the probably not second place anymore A's in the AL West by 9 games

Here's a breakdown of the pitching match-ups against the below .500 but still in second place Oakland Athletics:

  • Justin Grimm: 2-2, 9.73 K/9, 3.45 BB/9, .329 BABIP, 78.8% LOB, 3.36 FIP, 3.72 xFIP, 0.7 WAR - Last three starts: 8 runs allowed in 18.2 innings
  • A.J. Griffin: 3-3, 6.25 K/9, 2.62 BB/9, .250 BABIP, 73.0% LOB, 4.60 FIP, 4.64 xFIP, 0.3 WAR - Last three appearances: 7 runs allowed in 20.2 innings

Advantage: Grimm vs Griffin sounds more like a ceremonial jousting clash being held during the King Joffrey Lannister royal wedding to Lady Margaery Tyrell at King's Landing than an American League pitching match-up at O.Co Coliseum in Oakland, California.

Luckily, for the Rangers, as of yet, Justin Grimm has not been a work of fiction. Though comprising only 28 2/3 innings, Grimm has given the Rangers everything they could have hoped for from a starter plucked from the depth-pile after Matt Harrison was lost to a back injury. And while he hasn't won in each of his previous starts, he's pitched well.

Against Chicago, back on the 2nd, a 6th inning three-run home run was all the scoring the White Sox mustered but the Rangers managed only a single run themselves. In his last start, against Milwaukee, the Rangers' defense had a bit of a disaster in the first inning and Grimm coughed up five runs. He was able to go four more innings without allowing a run and struck out seven Brewers overall. That was likely Grimm's worst start since his first start in Seattle back in early April, so it would be nice to see him bounce back.

As for A.J. Griffin, his hair looks like a giant mustache:

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  • Derek Holland: 3-2, 7.79 K/9, 1.81 BB/9, .273 BABIP, 74.2% LOB, 2.40 FIP, 3.28 xFIP, 1.8 WAR - Last three starts: 4 runs allowed in 22.0 innings
  • Bartolo Colon: 3-2, 5.88 K/9, 0.22 BB/9, .303 BABIP, 67.4% LOB, 3.66 FIP, 3.67 xFIP, 0.7 WAR - Last three starts: 14 runs allowed in 14.1 innings

Advantage: Derek Holland was worth 1.7 fWAR last season. Already, before mid-May, he's been worth 1.8 fWAR. You try telling me that this isn't The Year of Holland! With that exclaimed, is Holland's walk rate in The Year of Holland for real? He's walking less than two batters per nine innings. His career best walk rate over a full season was 2.67 BB/9 last year and he's improved that by nearly a walk less per nine. Along with the oft discussed rediscovery of the plus changeup, Holland's ability to limit walks is a large part of this emerging story.

Now you want to talk about limiting your free passes? Bartolo Colon currently has a 0.22 BB/9. That's because he's walked one hitter all season. One in 41 1/3 innings. Only Jacoby Ellsbury on April 23 has worked a walk against Colon on the year. That's pretty remarkable.

  • Alexi Ogando: 3-2, 7.01 K/9, 3.71 BB/9, .270 BABIP, 80.8% LOB, 4.31 FIP, 4.42 xFIP, 0.6 WAR - Last three starts: 6 runs allowed in 17.2 innings
  • Dan Straily: 1-1, 10.38 K/9, 3.32 BB/9, .328 BABIP, 52.2% LOB, 3.75 FIP, 3.76 xFIP, 0.4 WAR - Last three starts: 15 runs allowed in 15.0 innings

Advantage: Dan Straily does one thing well. He strikes people out. In the minor leagues, over five seasons, he had a K/9 rate of 9.7. Last season, in Double A and Triple A, he struck out 11.2 per nine. And, thanks to an Astros-aided start this season, he's striking out 10.38 per nine in the big leagues in 2013. Well, bad news for Straily. No team strikes out less than the Rangers. The Rangers have a league low 16.1 K%. That means the Rangers are going to put it in play and hopefully do some damage.

There's going to come a time, perhaps very soon, where folks will begin to wonder if it is time to put Alexi Ogando back in the bullpen. Ogando has been serviceable as a starter, but you could probably make a compelling argument that he's been the worst starter for the Rangers so far this season. It isn't like Alexi Ogando is killing the Rangers out there -- he's given up three earned runs or less in all but one of his starts, for example.

The problem thus far with Ogando has been his command. And surprisingly enough, it isn't the command of his breaking stuff. He's been having trouble locating his fastball. That's caused Ogando to pitch beyond the 6th inning only twice this season (one of those being his first start of the year against the Astros) and have what would be a career high walk rate of 3.71. He hasn't been wild or anything, he's just been inefficient.

I'd imagine there's still ample time for Ogando to work out the kinks with his command before the whispers of a return trip to the 'pen become roars. But with Martin Perez nearly healthy, Colby Lewis rehabbing, and Grimm and Nick Tepesch holding their own in the big league rotation, it might be something the Rangers eventually have to consider. Nevertheless, it's the kind of problem the Texas Rangers have almost never had.

"Oh no, my pretty good starting pitcher isn't good enough!"

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Oakland Athletics (19-20, 2nd Place in AL West)

Rangers' Record vs. Oakland: First series of 2013 (8-11 in 2012)

Oakland's Recent Results: 1-2 road series loss against the Seattle Mariners

Oakland's 2013 Home Record: 9-8

O.Co Coliseum Park Factors (LHB/RHB): HR: 75/90 - Runs: 92/97

SB Nation A's Blog: Athletics Nation

Match-up: (as of 05/13) Rangers A's Advantage
Batting (RAR) 9.1 (5th) 4.1 (8th) What a difference a series with the Astros makes
Base Running (RAR) -3.8 (29th) 4.6 (2nd) Those blasted runnin' A's
Starters (RAR) 27.5 12.8 Yu who?
Bullpen (RAR) 15.6 (5th) 12.9 (8th) The bullpen might be Oakland's biggest strength...
Defense (UZR) 8.9 (6th) -11.8 (28th) ...because it surely isn't their defense
Overall (UZR + RAR) 57.3 22.6

Rangers, as usual

Questions to Answer:

  • On a scale of 1 (Golden State Warriors) to 10 (Anaheim Angels), how much do you dislike the Oakland Athletics?
  • Who is your Return of the McLemore Approved Player to Watch in this series? (Just you wait, Geovany Soto is going to blast off.)
  • Over/Under: 2.5 walks allowed by Derek Holland and Bartolo Colon combined on Tuesday night?
  • What's your guess for line (IP/H/K/BB/ER) by Alexi Ogando on Wednesday as he continues to attempt establishing himself as a reliable starter?
  • What happened to Jemile Weeks?
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