Series Preview: Texas Rangers @ Boston Red Sox - Fenway Face Off

Miss you, Naps - Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

The two best teams in the American League standings square off in the Rangers' final regular season meeting with the Red Sox

Series Schedule:

Tuesday, June 4 6:10: RHP Ryan Dempster vs. RHP Justin Grimm

Wednesday, June 5 6:10: RHP John Lackey vs. RHP Alexi Ogando

Thursday, June 6 6:10: LHP Jon Lester vs. LHP Derek Holland

It feels weird knowing that this early in June the Rangers will be done playing the Red Sox after this mid-week series at Fenway for the rest of the season. I suppose since it was so important to even up the divisions, get the Astros in the American League, and give us season-round Interleague play, there was bound to be scheduling peculiarities.

For example, the Rangers will be finished with Boston for the 2013 regular season before they've even played the Orioles, Yankees, Blue Jays, or Indians even once.

Maybe it's a good thing that the Rangers will be done with Boston. After all, the Red Sox have been one of the better teams in baseball this season. The Red Sox are one of only a handful of teams in baseball that seem to know how to hit well. The Red Sox have had a surprisingly solid bullpen. The Red Sox play good defense. And the Red Sox rotation has been good thanks in large part to Clay Buchholz (3rd in baseball in fWAR at 2.7) and Jon Lester (a nice bounce-back thus year for the Sox ace) anchoring the staff.

The Red Sox are good. The Red Sox have played well in every facet of the game through two months. The Red Sox have the American League's second best record. So you could see why not having the Red Sox on the schedule for much longer would otherwise be a good thing for the Texas Rangers.

But then again, maybe it's a bad thing that the Rangers are finished with Boston after Thursday. Since 2009, the Elvis Andrus era, the greatest era of Texas Rangers baseball, the Rangers have gone 28-11 against the Red Sox. That includes a series sweep a month ago in Arlington.

The Rangers have won the season series with Boston every year since that 2009 season began. There was at least one Rangers' series sweep over the Red Sox in 2009, 2011, 2012 and now this season. The Rangers have had their way with the Red Sox over the last nearly five seasons now.

That's not to say that there's a guarantee that this will continue in this series or going forward, but nevertheless, it's always nice to see the Red Sox flinch...

And the way these two teams have played so far, schedule makers be damned, it's not out of the realm of possibility that we could see them play again in 2013 after all.

Here's a breakdown of the pitching match-ups against Boston's second favorite team until the Stanley Cup Playoffs are over:

  • Justin Grimm: 5-3, 7.52 K/9, 2.39 BB/9, .339 BABIP, 74.3% LOB, 3.49 FIP, 3.74 xFIP, 1.2 WAR - Last three starts: 7 runs allowed in 19.0 innings
  • Ryan Dempster: 2-6, 10.20 K/9, 4.60 BB/9, .285 BABIP, 71.2% LOB, 4.41 FIP, 3.84 xFIP, 0.8 WAR - Last three appearances: 11 runs allowed in 14.2 innings

Advantage: Ryan Dempster wasn't very good for the Rangers after coming over from the Cubs in the final minutes before the clock struck 4:00 PM on the trade deadline last season. I'll never forget - or forgive - Dempster coming out in Game 162 with a big bag of nothing against the A's even when staked to a 5-1 lead in Oakland. But Ryan Dempster did one good thing for the Texas Rangers. I'd like to believe that Dempster is at least partially responsible for Derek Holland's turnaround.

Holland needed a mentor. Not like Matt Harrison found a pitching mentor in Cliff Lee in 2010. Derek Holland needed a comedy mentor. I truly think Ryan Dempster is a funny person. And I truly think Derek Holland learned that he isn't a funny person because he was around Ryan Dempster. Now Holland knows that there's a time and place to be goofy and maybe, just maybe, if he picks the right spots, he could some day be a funny person as well.

In the meantime, Holland's been busying himself by being one of the best pitchers in baseball. Thanks Ryan Dempster. Now please go out there and give up five dongs like you did seemingly every start you had as a Ranger.

Justin Grimm was drafted by the Red Sox out of high school in 2007. There has to be a part of Grimm that is excited to pitch at Fenway park for the first time in his career. You know there were days in the summer of 2007, when Grimm was still a teenager, where he dreamed of this possibility. And, if he pitches as well as he has in his last three starts (all six innings or more with three runs or fewer), he could be in line for his fourth straight win.

  • Alexi Ogando: 4-2, 6.70 K/9, 3.44 BB/9, .262 BABIP, 79.3% LOB, 4.22 FIP, 4.66 xFIP, 0.8 WAR - Last three starts (first start since May 15): 5 runs allowed in 17.2 innings
  • John Lackey: 3-5, 8.87 K/9, 2.76 BB/9, .272 BABIP, 73.0% LOB, 3.79 FIP, 3.18 xFIP, 0.8 WAR - Last three starts: 3 runs allowed in 19.0 innings

Advantage: Alexi Ogando is back after being gone for half a month with a tender arm. And, even though Ogando hasn't been consistent yet as a starter in 2013, this is good news for the stability of the rotation. Ross Wolf, Josh Lindblom, and Martin Perez provided varying levels of yeoman's work in their starts to cover Ogando, but getting Alexi back and in a grove would do wonders in providing another starter to rely on past Yu Darvish and Derek Holland.

John Lackey has had a pretty good bounce-back season for the Sox so far. It's a shame that Ian Kinsler is still on the shelf as it seems Kinsler terrorizes Lackey like no other Ranger. Lackey has given Boston at least five innings with three or fewer runs in every one of his starts this year except for one hiccup against Tampa Bay in mid-May when he allowed five runs in 4 1/3 innings. Since that start however, Lackey has only allowed three total runs over his last three outings.

  • Derek Holland: 5-2, 8.80 K/9, 2.20 BB/9, .312 BABIP, 73.4% LOB, 2.55 FIP, 3.09 xFIP, 2.6 WAR - Last three starts: 5 runs allowed in 18.1 innings
  • Jon Lester: 6-2, 7.41 K/9, 2.62 BB/9, .267 BABIP, 70.8% LOB, 3.31 FIP, 3.70 xFIP, 1.9 WAR - Last three starts: 13 runs allowed in 19.1 innings

Advantage: The new pensive and purposeful Derek Holland has been having himself quite a year. You might even say it's something of a Year of Holland. After a couple of missteps in the middle of last month, Holland reeled off two stellar outings to end May in what might have been Holland's best month of his career.

Holland allowed a total of ten runs in six starts in May spanning 39 innings. That included 44 strikeouts to only 9 walks on the month. Holland's first start of May was against Boston in Arlington. Holland went eight shutout innings with a then season high nine strikeouts. A repeat of that outing would be swell.

Matching Holland will be Jon Lester. Every time I see the Rangers are scheduled to face Lester, I'm reminded of a game from 2009 when Lester had legit no-hit stuff and dominated the Rangers over nine innings. That was June 6, 2009 in a game at Fenway also started by Holland. Nearly exactly four years later and I still remember that game vividly.

Luckily for us, and the Rangers, Lester hasn't fared as well against the Rangers since that game. Lester has allowed 22 runs to the Rangers in 36 innings spanning six starts since June 6, 2009. That includes allowing three runs in six innings in a loss to Yu Darvish and the Rangers on May 5.

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Boston Red Sox (35-23, 1st Place in AL East)

Rangers' Record vs. Boston: 3-0 (All at The Ballpark)

Boston's Recent Results: 2-1 road series win against the New York Yankees

Boston's 2013 Home Record: 17-12

Fenway Park Park Factors (LHB/RHB): HR: 78/114 - Runs: 107/120

SB Nation Red Sox Blog: Over the Monster

Match-up: (as of 06/04) Rangers Red Sox Advantage
Batting (RAR) 3.4 (10th) 22.9 (5th) The Sox are among the five teams that can actually hit
Base Running (RAR) -5.5 (28th) 5.2 (3rd) Gross
Starters (RAR) 41.2 32.7 Unless you're the Tigers, you're not better than the Rangers
Bullpen (RAR) 23.3 (4th) 16.2 (9th) Joe Nathan has looked solid in his last couple of outings
Defense (UZR) 8.6 (7th) 6.0 (9th) Mike Napoli: Quality defender?
Overall (UZR + RAR) 76.5 83.0

The Red Sox have a good team

Questions to Answer:

  • Has this Znjzflh_mediumbeen the best moment of the 2013 season? (Answer: Yes.)
  • Who is your Return of the McLemore Approved Player to Watch in this series? (Derek Holland continues The Year of Holland on Thursday night.)
  • Over/Under: 1.5 XBHs by Elvis Andrus with the benefit of the Green Monster in this series?
  • What's your guess for line (IP/H/K/BB/ER) by Alexi Ogando on his return to the rotation on Wednesday night after a DL stint with biceps tendinitis?
  • Yea or Nay: The Rangers leave Boston with the best record in the American League?
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