Series Preview: Minnesota Twins @ Texas Rangers - Vamos

Ron Gardenhire or disappointed Santa Claus? - Leon Halip

The Rangers have a brief respite at home against a Minnesota Twins team that they haven't seen since way back when Lance Berkman was still a good baseball player

Series Schedule:

Friday, August 30 7:05: RHP Liam Hendriks vs. RHP Yu Darvish

Saturday, August 31 7:05: RHP Mike Pelfrey vs. RHP Matt Garza

Sunday, September 1 2:05: RHP Kevin Correia vs. LHP Travis Blackley

It was a little over four months ago that the Texas Rangers played the Minnesota Twins for the first time in 2013. After four long months, the Rangers meet the Twins for the final time this season. It's interesting to look back at where the Rangers were then, when looking at where the Rangers are now, as the Rangers stare down the finish line of where they're looking to go. These Rangers have traveled quite a long way.

Four months ago, Nick Tepesch was demonstrating the poise of a veteran in the Rangers' rotation. Four months ago, Justin Grimm was still a member of the Texas Rangers, and in the rotation too, with Matt Harrison making his final start in 2013 just a few weeks prior. Four months ago, Colby Lewis was perpetually weeks away from joining the rotation before an endless string of setbacks ended his season before it ever began.

Four months ago, Alexi Ogando was healthy and pitching well while Joakim Soria was having a setback in his rehab as we awaited his Ranger debut. Four months ago, Michael Kirkman and Derek Lowe were still members of the bullpen. Four months ago, we cringed when we heard Jason Frasor's name maybe as much as when we heard those of Kirkman and Lowe.

Four months ago, Joe Ortiz was still Joe Ortiz, instead of Joseph Ortiz, and was one of the better early-season stories on the pitching side. Four months ago, Neal Cotts was toiling away in Round Rock making the adjustments with Brad Holman that would lead him back to the Majors for the first time in four years. Four months ago, we had no idea that Cotts would become the season-long best story out of the 'pen.

Four months ago, Leury Garcia was still a Texas Ranger and Jurickson Profar was in Round Rock as the No. 1 prospect in baseball. Four months ago, you may have wondered what the Rangers would do without Nelson Cruz's team-leading home run bat in the lineup. Four months ago, Julio Borbon was just settling in with the Chicago Cubs, in case you forgot that Borbon was on the Rangers Opening Day roster.

Four months ago, Lance Berkman was rocking an OPS of .965 and looked like a prescient winter signing by the front office. Four months ago, Adrian Beltre was rocking an OPS of .711 and folks were beginning to voice the concern that maybe age had finally caught up with the timeless Beltre.

Now, four months from then, the Rangers have weathered a rocky season's worth of changes. A season which has held names such as Robinson Chirinos, Joey Butler, Cory Burns, Chris McGuiness, and Kyle McClellan. This patchwork catamaran has stayed afloat and is currently sailing with a 78-55 record.

Two days from now, on September 1, we'll see some of those names again as rosters expand. Berkman will be back to see if he can muster an OPS of .965 again for a month. Nick Tepesch and Alexi Ogando will be back to form a three-headed No. 5 starter monster with Travis Blackley.

Four months ago, all was quiet on the Neftali Feliz Tommy John rehab front. Today, we find ourselves on the verge of Feliz making his long-awaited return:

Two days from now, the Rangers will have a month left before the real fun begins. Let's go!

Here's a breakdown of the pitching match-ups against Major League Baseball's most nondescript team:

  • Yu Darvish: 12-5, 12.05 K/9, 3.11 BB/9, .264 BABIP, 84.2% LOB, 3.05 FIP, 2.65 xFIP, 4.6 WAR - Last three starts: 6 runs allowed in 22.1 innings
  • Liam Hendriks: 0-2, 3.54 K/9, 1.33 BB/9, .284 BABIP, 69.6% LOB, 6.04 FIP, 4.94 xFIP, 2.7 WAR - Last three starts (Only two starts since April 10): 10 runs allowed in 15.2 innings

Advantage: Yu Darvish gave up a home run to Adam Dunn six days ago and somehow we -- the collective Internet -- decided it was time once again to define what an ace pitcher is.

Sabermetricians might argue that Yu Darvish is having a fantastic No. 1 starter type season because he's fifth in the American League in fWAR, third in bWAR, second in Adjusted ERA+, fifth in FIP, first in xFIP, and tops all of baseball in SIERA.

Traditionalists have to love the fact that Darvish leads baseball in strikeouts and Ks per 9, is second in the AL ERA, third in WHIP, has allowed the fewest hits by a starter, and fits the narrative of dominant.

So what's the problem here? Why can't Darvish merely be appreciated without caveats and qualifiers?

Well, for Darvish, it's simple. He's won just 12 games. That's good enough for only seventh best in the American League. How, after all, can you be called great if Jeremy Guthrie has more wins than you? Darvish has lost a game to the Houston Astros this season. The last two times out, Darvish took the mound against Erasmo Ramirez and the Seattle Mariners and Hector Santiago and the Chicago White Sox and the Rangers lost both those games. (It should be noted that the Rangers scored a total of four runs in those two games. But, you know, aces win.)

Yu Darvish has never finished a game. Yu Darvish hasn't pitched a shutout. Yu Darvish isn't as economical with his pitches as folks would like. Yu Darvish strays from his fastball too much. Yu Darvish isn't always good for a quote. Yu Darvish isn't Nolan Ryan.

Adam Dunn hit a home run off of Yu Darvish six days ago and suddenly it's easier to remember the things that Yu Darvish hasn't done for this team than it is to remember that Yu Darvish is having one of the best seasons on the mound that this franchise has ever seen.

Maybe Liam Hendriks is a winner.

  • Matt Garza: 9-3, 7.97 K/9, 2.26 BB/9, .275 BABIP, 75.7% LOB, 3.88 FIP, 3.71 xFIP, 1.6 WAR - Last three starts: 13 runs allowed in 19.1 innings
  • Mike Pelfrey: 5-10, 5.27 K/9, 3.28 BB/9, .325 BABIP, 68.8% LOB, 4.31 FIP, 4.78 xFIP, 1.4 WAR - Last three starts: 7 runs allowed in 18.0 innings

Advantage: Now, I know Matt Garza is a bulldog and a gamer, but he hasn't allowed fewer than four runs in a start in a month. On July 29, Garza allowed three runs against the Anaheim Angels. Since then, he's allowed 4, 4, 4, 5, 4 runs in his five August starts. It's okay though because the Rangers went 3-2 in those starts.

I didn't even know that Mike Pelfrey was still in the Majors. Though, for what it's worth, in August so far, Garza has allowed 21 earned runs in 34.1 innings while Pelfrey has allowed 13 earned runs in 28 innings.

  • Travis Blackley: 2-1, 7.00 K/9, 4.40 BB/9, .218 BABIP, 83.7% LOB, 6.48 FIP, 4.52 xFIP, -1.1 WAR - Last three appearances (Two starts with Texas): 5 runs allowed in 11.0 innings
  • Kevin Correia: 8-10, 5.13 K/9, 2.16 BB/9, .317 BABIP, 75.5% LOB, 4.42 FIP, 4.17 xFIP, 1.1 WAR - Last three appearances: 6 runs allowed in 21.0 innings

Advantage: Remember when Kevin Correia inexplicably held the Rangers scoreless over eight innings in an eventual 5-0 loss during the last game played between these two teams back in April? No? Yeah, I've blocked that out of my memory, as well.

We can solace in the fact that Correia has made it beyond seven innings in a few games since that game against the Rangers this season. Correia has also allowed zero runs in two other starts in 2013. Therefore, the Rangers have some company in having been dominated by Kevin Correia, if that makes anyone feel better.

The Rangers have gotten a quality start out of Travis Blackley. Blackley barely scraped by within the parameters of the definition of a quality start his last time out when he allowed three runs against the Mariners in six innings. Anything the Rangers get out of Travis Blackley that isn't a dumpster fire from this point forward is all gravy. The rosters expand on this day, so, if Blackley is terrible, we could see any number of reinforcements from the newly tumescent bullpen.

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Minnesota Twins (57-75, 4th Place in AL Central)

Rangers' Record vs. Minnesota: 2-2 (All at Target Field)

Minnesota's Recent Results: 0-3 swept at home by the Kansas City Royals

Minnesota's 2013 Road Record: 29-39

Ballpark in Arlington Park Factors (LHB/RHB): HR: 113/106 - Runs: 110/113

SB Nation Twins' Blog: Twinkie Town

Match-up: (as of 08/30) Rangers Twins Advantage
Batting (RAR) -11.7 (12th) -52.6 (22nd) Joe Mauer is out
Base Running (RAR) -6.6 (21st) 0.5 (15th) Thank goodness for Elvis Andrus
Starters (RAR) 44.4 23.5 I don't even know what Liam Hendriks looks like
Bullpen (RAR) 56.3 (1st) 51.4 (2nd) The top two 'pens in baseball
Defense (UZR) 25.3 (6th) -29.9 (26th) Never trust a guy named Plouffe
Overall (UZR + RAR) 107.7 -7.1

At least they have the Timberwolves?

Questions to Answer:

  • The Summer's hottest game: Could You Identify Ten Minnesota Twins?
  • Who is your Return of the McLemore Approved Player to Watch in this series? (Hot after a successful road trip, Ian Kinsler goes deep twice.)
  • Over/Under: 4.5 hits by future 2013 AL MVP Adrian Beltre in this series?
  • What's your guess for line (IP/H/K/BB/ER) by Matt Garza as he tries to allow fewer than four earned runs in a game for the first time since July 29?
  • Yea or Nay: Does Yu Darvish summon a winner's spirit and help lead the Rangers to a series win over the Twins?
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