Series Preview: Texas Rangers @ Oakland Athletics - Soylent Green

A likable Athletic - Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers get their first look at the rattail'd, Bernie-ing, sewage-wading denizens of Oakland, CA

Series Schedule:

Monday, April 21 9:05: RHP Dan Straily vs. RHP Yu Darvish

Tuesday, April 22 9:05: LHP Tommy Milone vs. RHP Nick Martinez

Wednesday, April 23 2:35: RHP Sonny Gray vs. LHP Martin Perez

Yu Darvish versus the A's has never really gone as planned. Maybe my least favorite Yu Darvish start ever happened the last time Darvish started in Oakland. That was on September 4, 2013 with the Rangers up one game in the AL West going into the final game of a series against Oakland even at one apiece. A win and the Rangers would have won the series and strengthened their lead with less than a month to go. A loss and the Rangers would lose the series and lose their lead in the division.

Needless to say, the Rangers lost. They lost 11-4, in fact. It was ugly. It was an emphatic defeat that ushered in a crummy month that saw the Rangers go from two games up to as much as 8.5 games back. It stunk. Worst though was it being probably Yu Darvish's worst start of his stateside career. Though Darvish was only charged with five of those 11 runs, you might remember it as the game where Darvish and A.J. Pierzynski got into it on the mound and the jabbering about Darvish's toughness reached its peak as frustration boiled over.

I hope Darvish remembers it. Obviously it's foolish to even think that Darvish was a problem in 2013. He was right there with Adrian Beltre as the best member of the team. But it would be nice to put an end to the Oakland-has-Yu's-number narrative. I hope what's left of that 2013 team remembers that loss, too. That is still the last taste of baseball the Rangers have had in Oakland and it surely left a bitter taste. That won't matter to the Prince Fielders and Shin-Soo Choos but it should mean something to the Elvis Andruses and Leonys Martins of the team.

The A's are in first place in the West and are playing perhaps the best baseball in the game right now. However, even with all their injuries and issues, the Rangers are only 2.5 games back of this A's squad. And while this series isn't critical as we sit here a few weeks in the season, it's still a great opportunity for the Rangers to exorcise some Bay Area demons and kick things off on the right foot against the A's in 2014.

At the very least, it's not September 2013 anymore.

This doesn't really matter too much yet, but it's tradition. Here are all of the possible outcomes we could be facing come Wednesday evening:

  • Rangers sweep - The Rangers lead the A's in the AL West by .5 game
  • Rangers win 2 of 3 - The A's lead the Rangers in the AL West by .5 game
  • A's win 2 of 3 - The A's lead Rangers in the AL West by 3.5 games
  • A's sweep - The A's lead the Rangers in the AL West by 5.5 games

Here's a breakdown of the pitching match-ups against Billy Beane's Opus:

  • Yu Darvish: 1-0, 9.41 K/9, 1.64 BB/9, .259 BABIP, 89.5% LOB, 1.53 FIP, 3.23 xFIP, 1.1 WAR - Last three starts: 2 runs allowed in 22.0 innings
  • Dan Straily: 1-1, 8.10 K/9, 2.16 BB/9, .261 BABIP, 69.4% LOB, 5.12 FIP, 3.92 xFIP, 0.0 WAR - Last three starts: 10 runs allowed in 16.2 innings

Thoughts:  Darvish has never won at O.Co. He hasn't beaten the A's in his last six starts against them. And the Rangers haven't scored a single run with Darvish on the mound all season. Nevertheless, he's thrown it like the best pitcher in baseball through three starts this season and it would be a good time to put all of those dubious facts -- and September 4, 2013 -- to rest tonight.

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One of these days that image will mean Dan Straily doesn't pitch a gem against the Rangers.

  • Nick Martinez: 0-0, 4.50 K/9, 4.50 BB/9, .125 BABIP, 95.2% LOB, 7.91 FIP, 5.13 xFIP, -0.1 WAR -Only other big league start: 3 runs allowed in 6.0 innings
  • Tommy Milone: 0-1, 6.55 K/9, 1.64 BB/9, .350 BABIP, 62.5% LOB, 3.90 FIP, 4.78 xFIP, 0.2 WAR - Only two starts of 2014: 5 runs allowed in 11.0 innings

Thoughts: DEPTH FIGHT! DEPTH FIGHT! DEPTH FIGHT!

  • Martin Perez: 3-0, 6.21 K/9, 2.17 BB/9, .295 BABIP, 80.0% LOB, 2.42 FIP, 3.20 xFIP, 0.9 WAR - Last three starts: 4 runs allowed in 23.1 innings (17 inning scoreless streak)
  • Sonny Gray: 3-0, 8.28 K/9, 3.24 BB/9, .325 BABIP, 79.4% LOB, 2.32 FIP, 3.12 xFIP, 0.8 WAR - Last three starts: 5 runs allowed in 19.0 innings

Thoughts: With all of the buzz surrounding him, it's weird that Sonny Gray has never toed the rubber against the Rangers. It seems like he's been in the A's rotation mowing down the American League for a while now and the Rangers haven't seen him yet. In fact, every other team in the division has faced him at least twice. Baseball you are strange. That said, not facing Sonny Gray has probably worked to the Rangers' advantage simply because Sonny Gray is really good and the less times the Rangers have to hit against him the better.

Then again, you know what Sonny Gray has never done? Sonny Gray has never pitched a CGSO in his big league career. You know who has done that? Martin Perez. This is an exciting match-up because it pits two of the better young starters in the division against each other in a battle of the two best teams in the AL West. Both of these pitchers have exceeded expectations thus far in 2014 so, barring the inevitable blowout, I'm really pumped up to watch this game.

Hard-hitting analysis it is not but do you really need it for a game like this? Just watch. Martin Perez and Sonny Gray will be throwing.

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Oakland Athletics (13-5, 1st Place in AL West)

Rangers' 2013 Record vs. Oakland: 9-10

Oakland's Recent Results: 3-0 home sweep of the Houston Astros

Oakland's Home Record: 6-3

O.co Coliseum Park Factors (LHB/RHB): HR: 73/89 - Runs: 84/95

SB Nation Athletics Blog: Athletics Nation

Match-up: (as of 04/21) Rangers A's Advantage
Batting (RAR) 1.9 (10th) 15.1 (1st) Damn you and your platoons, Billy!
Base Running (RAR) 1.0 (9th) -4.5 (30th) What have they done to Kittenface?!
Starters (RAR) 15.0 8.4 Sonny Gray vs. Martin Perez!
Bullpen (RAR) 3.0 (15th) 5.8 (9th) Not fair! They don't have a Noesi
Defense (UZR) 4.0 (10th) -2.3 (14th) Where is your Sam Fuld now?
Overall (UZR + RAR) 24.9 22.5

Dare I say the Rangers have a well-rounded team?

Questions to Answer:

  • True or False: The A's have overtaken the Angels for most hated in your heart?
  • Who is your Return of the McLemore Approved Player to Watch in this series? (Yu's gonna Yu, but I want to see Martin Perez shove it on Wednesday.)
  • Over/Under: 6.5 U's written by me in the GDT when Kouuuuzmanoff hits a home run against his old team?
  • What's your guess for line (IP/H/K/BB/ER) by Yu Darvish in his first look of 2014 at the team that has his number?
  • Yea or Nay: The Rangers win this series against the Oakland A's?
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