Series Preview: Oakland Athletics @ Texas Rangers - Overcast

You don't even want to know what shade of Gray this is - Thearon W. Henderson

The Rangers and A's duel for first place in the final series of baseball's opening month

Series Schedule:

Monday, April 28 7:05: RHP Sonny Gray vs. RHP Yu Darvish

Tuesday, April 29 7:05: LHP Scott Kazmir vs. LHP Martin Perez

Wednesday, April 30 7:05: RHP Jesse Chavez vs. LHP Robbie Ross Jr.

It's been a week since the Rangers faced the A's. One week ago the Rangers opened a six game West Coast road trip at 11-8 and 2.5 games back of Oakland in the AL West. One week later, the Rangers return home for the final series in April at 15-10 while in a first place tie with the A's. Oakland's week went down as a 2-5 bummer against the Rangers and Astros and included a three game sweep at the hands of these Rangers beginning last Monday at the O.co.

The Rangers' week was a weird one in that it seemed like -- other than last Wednesday's game where Martin Perez dominated the A's from the start -- the Rangers won every game it looked like they would lose and lost every game it looked like they might win.

Last Monday, the A's had Yu Darvish on the ropes and a 3-1 lead. Yu battled and the Rangers enacted the John Blake peck-away theory and came back to win 4-3. Last Tuesday, the Rangers trailed 4-3 heading into the 9th and were a strike away from defeat when Josh Wilson doubled and Michael Choice singled to put the Rangers ahead with two outs. That game was an unlikely win up until Wilson's double especially since the Rangers bungled a suicide bunt attempt for the second out of the inning moments earlier.

On Friday in Seattle, the Rangers held a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the 8th when Neal Cotts couldn't get outs and the M's scored four runs. Of course, the Rangers rallied on Fernando Rodney and it took a diving stab by Justin Smoak to end the game at 6-5 after the Rangers loaded the bases and scored twice. On Saturday, Felix Hernandez was staked to a 3-0 lead and was cruising when he bizarrely lost command in the 5th inning allowing the Rangers to tie it at 3 all. Then the Rangers won the game with some runs off the Mariner bullpen late.

And then yesterday: Kyle Seager. End of story.

It was a week that sort of proved that these things all even out in the end. Including, at the moment, the AL West. The A's are coming in ready with their three best starters thus far. The Rangers counter with their three best starters thus far. In fact, the starter with the lowest ERA in this series is Robbie Ross. Robbie Ross has an ERA of 2.45. Robbie Ross' ERA is 15th best in the American League and he's the worst starter in this series.

Should be fun.

Battle for first place. You know what that means: Here are all of the possible outcomes we could be facing come Wednesday night:

  • Rangers sweep - The Rangers lead the A's in the AL West by 3 game
  • Rangers win 2 of 3 - The A's lead the Rangers in the AL West by 1 game
  • A's win 2 of 3 - The A's lead Rangers in the AL West by 1 games
  • A's sweep - The A's lead the Rangers in the AL West by 3 games

Here's a breakdown of the pitching match-ups against the Oakland Rat-Tails:

  • Yu Darvish: 1-0, 9.32 K/9, 2.57 BB/9, .289 BABIP, 87.8% LOB, 2.33 FIP, 3.55 xFIP, 1.1 WAR - Last three starts: 5 runs allowed in 21.0 innings
  • Sonny Gray: 3-1, 8.72 K/9, 3.66 BB/9, .312 BABIP, 79.3% LOB, 2.77 FIP, 3.26 xFIP, 0.8 WAR - Last three starts: 7 runs allowed in 20.0 innings

Thoughts: Yu Darvish has a chance to do something he hasn't done since May of 2012. He has a chance to beat the A's. After beginning his Major League career 1-0 against the A's, he's gone 0-6 against them in seven starts since. Of course, in Darvish's last seven starts against Oakland, the Rangers have averaged 1.7 runs of support for him and have scored two or fewer in five of seven of those starts and never more than four runs. Darvish's 2014 season support has been even worse as the Rangers have scored five runs when Darvish has still been on the mound in four starts. That said, the Rangers are also 4-0 in games started by Darvish this season.

Sonny Gray has a chance to do something he hasn't ever done in his life. He has a chance to beat the Rangers. Sonny Gray has also only ever faced the Rangers once in his life and that was last Wednesday when Martin Perez was busy continuing to toss zeroes at the league. It's too early to say that the Rangers have Gray's number but I'm going to pretend that they do.

  • Martin Perez: 4-0, 5.45 K/9, 2.13 BB/9, .252 BABIP, 82.9% LOB, 2.58 FIP, 3.41 xFIP, 1.2 WAR - Last three starts: 0 runs allowed in 26.0 innings (26 inning scoreless streak)
  • Scott Kazmir: 3-0, 8.37 K/9, 1.62 BB/9, .239 BABIP, 80.4% LOB, 2.33 FIP, 3.16 xFIP, 1.1 WAR - Last three starts: 3 runs allowed in 20.0 innings

Thoughts: Martin Perez hasn't allowed a run in 26 innings. Martin Perez has pitched consecutive complete game shutouts. Since 2009, in the American League, only Roy Halladay and Derek Holland have tossed consecutive shutouts. In the NL, the last to do it was Cliff Lee. That's pretty nice company. If Perez were to throw another shutout against the A's like he did in his last start on Wednesday, he would be at 35 consecutive scoreless innings. The team record for consecutive scoreless innings is held by Kenny Rogers who wasn't scored upon for 39 consecutive innings in 1995. I'm not counting on Perez to throw another complete game shutout, but then again, I'm not counting on him not throwing another complete game shutout.

If it seems like a lifetime ago that the Rangers passed up Scott Kazmir in the 2002 draft to select Drew Meyer, it's because, for Kazmir, it has been many lifetimes ago. Kazmir was drafted by the Mets, became an elite pitching prospect, was traded to the then Devil Rays for Victor Zambrano and someone named Bartolome Fortunato, became an All-Star pitcher for the Rays, cratered in 2009, was traded to the Angels where he was maybe the worst pitcher in baseball, was out of the league in 2012, came back with Cleveland last season and pitched well, and is now in Oakland doing what you'd expect a pitcher with that kind of rap sheet to do once they find their way onto Billy Beane's mound. He's not only been good, so far, he's been the best starter for the A's this season because of course he has.

  • Robbie Ross Jr.: 1-1, 7.98 K/9, 2.45 BB/9, .286 BABIP, 75.4% LOB, 3.97 FIP, 3.62 xFIP, 0.4 WAR - Last three starts: 6 runs allowed in 19.0 innings
  • Jesse Chavez: 1-0, 9.58 K/9, 2.03 BB/9, .286 BABIP, 77.2% LOB, 2.89 FIP, 2.73 xFIP, 0.7 WAR - Last three starts: 6 runs allowed in 18.0 innings

Thoughts: It's the battle of the converted Bullpen-to-Rotation No. 3 starters. In one corner you have Ranger draftee Jesse Chavez who ultimately produced two Kip Wells starts for the Rangers in 2006 after being traded to Pittsburgh for Wells at the 2006 trade deadline. In the other corner you have Robbie Ross Jr. who is maybe the best second round draft pick the Rangers have ever made in like 40 years.

P.S. Jesse Chavez looks like a turtle.

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Oakland Athletics (15-10, t-1st Place in AL West)

Rangers' 2014 Record vs. Oakland: 3-0 (All at O.Co)

Oakland's Recent Results: 2-2 road series split with the Houston Astros

Oakland's Road Record: 9-4

Ballpark in Arlington Park Factors (LHB/RHB): HR: 106/99 - Runs: 111/109

SB Nation Athletics Blog: Athletics Nation

Match-up: (as of 04/28) Rangers A's Advantage
Batting (RAR) -1.7 (16th) 15.7 (2nd) Yeah, well, Daric Barton isn't very good so there
Base Running (RAR) 2.3 (7th) -4.9 (28th) You can't platoon speed
Starters (RAR) 23.7 23.8 Well that is close
Bullpen (RAR) 6.5 (9th) 10.6 (4th) If only Fernando Abad weren't so Agood
Defense (UZR) -0.3 (14th) -4.7 (22nd) With a name like Nick Punto, you know he kicks grounders
Overall (UZR + RAR) 30.5 40.5

Give the A's the played-Houston-four-more-times bonus

Questions to Answer:

  • On a scale of 1 to 10: Assuming the Rangers aren't swept in this series, how satisfied are you with the first month of Texas Rangers baseball in 2014?
  • Who is your Return of the McLemore Approved Player to Watch in this series? (Michael Choice hits two home runs in this series.)
  • Over/Under: 8.5 strikeouts by Yu Darvish tonight in his second start against the A's this season?
  • What's your guess for line (IP/H/K/BB/ER) by Martin Perez as he goes for another shutout on Tuesday?
  • Yea or Nay: The Rangers close out the month of April in first place in the West?
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