Friday, August 23 7:10: LHP Chris Sale vs. LHP Martin Perez
Saturday, August 24 6:10: LHP Hector Santiago vs. RHP Yu Darvish
Sunday, August 25 1:10: LHP John Danks vs. RHP Matt Garza
It's July 28, the Rangers have just been swept by the Cleveland Indians to move to 56-49. The Rangers are six games back of Oakland in the American League West. The Rangers have fallen behind Cleveland and Baltimore in the American League Wild Card hunt. Were the baseball season a paltry 105 games long, the 2013 Texas Rangers wouldn't qualify for the playoffs.
Flash forward to August 23, the Rangers have just swept the Houston Astros to move to 74-53. The Rangers are 2.5 games up on Oakland in the American League West. The Rangers are tied for the best record in the American League and hold all tie-breakers. Were the baseball season 127 games long, the 2013 Texas Rangers would be awaiting the winner of the Wild Card play-in game to know who which opponent would be coming to Arlington for Game 1 of the ALDS.
Obviously, a lot has changed in just over three weeks. The fact that the Rangers have climbed to the top of the American League standings is astounding. In addition, there is plenty of reason to believe that they can hang around there for at least the next little while. For example, the Rangers open a three game series on the road against Chicago tonight and they will face three White Sox left-handers. Here's why this is a good thing:
- The White Sox aren't a good baseball team. In fact, at 52-74, they're currently the third worst team in baseball behind the Astros and Miami Marlins.
- At 36-26, the Rangers have the best road record in the American League. Only the Los Angeles Dodgers have more road wins than the Texas Rangers. The Rangers were 27-25 on the road after that fateful sweep against Cleveland in July. The Rangers have gone 9-1 away from Arlington since that date.
- The Rangers have by far the best record against left-handed starters in baseball and have won seven straight games against lefties. At 25-13, the Rangers lead baseball in wins against lefties and have the second fewest losses against southpaws behind a Pittsburgh Pirates team that has only faced a left-hander 24 times this year. The Indians and New York Yankees share the second best record against lefties at 24-17.
Here's where it might not be such a good thing:
- The Rangers are facing a relatively hot White Sox team. Chicago is on their longest win streak of the season, which is comprised of six straight wins over Minnesota and Kansas City.
- Who knows why, but the Rangers are 18-18 this season against teams in the Central divisions. That includes series losses against these White Sox, the Cubs, and series splits with Minnesota and Milwaukee. Those four teams have a combined record of 217-289, or, a winning percentage of .429. Those four teams are also in 4th and 5th place in their respective divisions. The Midwest has not been kind.
- The first left-hander the Rangers will be facing is Chris Sale. When I watch Chris Sale pitch it seems virtually impossible to hit a baseball thrown by him. It's like he's tossing a wiffle ball and you have a toothpick for a bat.
Here's a breakdown of the pitching match-ups against the Midwestern Menace from Chicago's South Side:
- Martin Perez: 6-3, 6.24 K/9, 2.64 BB/9, .283 BABIP, 75.2% LOB, 4.17 FIP, 3.90 xFIP, 1.0 WAR - Last three starts: 6 runs allowed in 22.1 innings
- Chris Sale: 9-11, 9.53 K/9, 1.96 BB/9, .293 BABIP, 77.1% LOB, 2.85 FIP, 2.90 xFIP, 4.6 WAR - Last three starts: 5 runs allowed in 23.1 innings
Advantage: Well, Martin Perez did out-pitch Felix Hernandez last time out. If he's going to pick up his fourth straight win, he might as well out-pitch the other best pitcher in the American League.
- Yu Darvish: 12-5, 11.96 K/9, 3.07 BB/9, .259 BABIP, 83.8% LOB, 3.05 FIP, 2.66 xFIP, 4.3 WAR - Last three starts: 7 runs allowed in 22.1 innings
- Hector Santiago: 4-7, 8.73 K/9, 4.15 BB/9, .283 BABIP, 77.2% LOB, 4.19 FIP, 4.37 xFIP, 1.6 WAR - Last three starts: 6 runs allowed in 16.2 innings
Advantage: The other other best pitcher in the American League, Yu Darvish, gets his first chance to prove that being great is good enough. The Rangers get their first crack at Hector Santiago since a May 02 loss where Santiago allowed a single run while striking out six Rangers. In fact, that loss marked the only time this season that the Rangers have lost back-to-back starts against left-handers. Those games were started by Chris Sale and Hector Santiago.
- Matt Garza: 9-2, 7.83 K/9, 2.24 BB/9, .275 BABIP, 76.3% LOB, 3.79 FIP, 3.74 xFIP, 1.6 WAR - Last three starts: 13 runs allowed in 19.1 innings
- John Danks: 5-6, 6.84 K/9, 2.99 BB/9, .330 BABIP, 76.3% LOB, 3.79 FIP, 3.74 xFIP, 0.2 WAR - Last three starts: 7 runs allowed in 21.1 innings
Advantage: It's the one that got away before you figured out later that it wouldn't have been worth the effort anyway versus the one that you'd been pining over for years, finally snagged, but then realized too late that maybe you really were better off just being friends.
Chicago White Sox (52-74, 5th Place in AL Central)
Rangers' Record vs. Chicago: 1-2 (All at The Ballpark)
Chicago's Recent Results: 3-0 road series sweep of the Kansas City Royals
Chicago's 2013 Home Record: 28-32
U.S. Cellular Field Park Factors (LHB/RHB): HR: 120/132 - Runs: 107/113
SB Nation White Sox Blog: South Side Sox
|Match-up: (as of 08/23)||Rangers||White Sox||Advantage|
|Batting (RAR)||-19.3 (13th)||-91.3 (27th)||So this is why the White Sox are in last place|
|Base Running (RAR)||-7.9 (28th)||-6.9 (23rd)||Rangers get the Alex Rios bump|
|Starters (RAR)||63.2||59.9||Hopefully it'll be smooth sailing after Sale|
|Bullpen (RAR)||50.4 (2nd)||47.4 (3rd)||A challenger appears|
|Defense (UZR)||27.5 (6th)||-14.1 (23rd)||King Leonys is more than just an arm|
|Overall (UZR + RAR)||113.9||-5.0||
The dangers of having a truly terrible offense
Questions to Answer:
- On a scale of 1 to 10: How weird would it be to see A.J. Pierzynski get a standing ovation on a baseball field?
- Who is your Return of the McLemore Approved Player to Watch in this series? (Alex Rios shows off his dong stroke in Chicago.)
- Over/Under: 5.5 runs scored by Craig Gentry in this series against Chicago's three left-handers?
- What's your guess for line (IP/H/K/BB/ER) by Martin Perez tonight as he goes up against Chris Sale and tries to slay another ace?
- Yea or Nay: The Rangers atone for making fun of the 1985 Chicago Bears or whatever it is that they've done to the Midwest and take this series in Chicago?