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Series Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates @ Texas Rangers - Reunion

Yu Darvish! Yu Darvish! Yu Darvish! Yu Darvish! Yu Darvish! Yu Darvish!

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

This series is dripping with subtext. This three-game set in Arlington between the Rangers and Pirates is just oozing rich narratives. An interleague match-up against World Series hopefuls is marinating in meaning.

Yes, this is the first interleague series of the season for the Rangers. Texas gets a look at one of the NL Central elite and that's weird to type because these are the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates and Rangers have been two of the winningest teams over the last half decade and that's just the world we live in. A world where the Golden State Warriors are the best basketball team ever. A world where the Saints, Royals, and Seahawks have been recent champions.

Yes, this series will mean a lot to the skipper as Jeff Banister faces the only organization he knew for nearly 30 years before he finally put on the baseball cap with a T for Texas in 2015. Banister was drafted by the Pirates, played his only big league game as a Pirate, coached for the Pirates, managed in the minor leagues for the Pirates, was Clint Hurdle's right hand man for the Pirates as they began to make the sunken ship seaworthy. Seeing the black and yellow across the field will probably be very odd for Banister this weekend.

And yes, there's Cole Hamels and Martin Perez and YU FUCKIN' DARVISH!! With apologies to Colby Lewis, were the Rangers in a playoff series, you'd probably draw up your rotation as Hamels/Darvish/Perez and that's what we're getting to see this weekend.

At long last, the Rangers have completed their rotation build. It's been a long time coming between injuries to every member of the staff besides Hamels, but it's here. When last we saw Yu Darvish on the mound for the Rangers, August 9, 2014, here's the lineup Texas ran out there:

  1. Shin-Soo Choo DH
  2. Elvis Andrus SS
  3. Mike Carp LF
  4. Adrian Beltre 3B
  5. Jim Adduci RF
  6. J.P. Arencibia 1B
  7. Leonys Martin CF
  8. Geovany Soto C
  9. Rougned Odor 2B

Elvis and Adrian remain constants, of course. Choo and Rougie'll be there again soon, but otherwise, this is nearly a completely different team than when last we saw our erstwhile ace. Did you forget what he looked like? Let me remind you:

It's May 27 and the Rangers just acquired YU DARVISH and put him in the rotation with Cole Hamels, Martin Perez, Colby Lewis, and Derek Holland. The wait is finally over.

Series Schedule:

Friday, May 27 7:05 pm: LHP Jonathon Niese vs LHP Cole Hamels

Saturday, May 28 6:15 pm: RHP Juan Nicasio vs RHP Yu Darvish

Sunday, May 29 2:05 pm: LHP Francisco Liriano vs LHP Martin Perez

Pittsburgh Strengths:

My god, that outfield. Starling Marte/Andrew McCutchen/Gregory Polanco. Just look at it and let the jealousy take you over. Those three are on pace to put up a combined 20 or so WAR this season. And that's with McCutchen having something of a down year a quarter of the way through the season. Buoyed by Polanco's breakout, the Pirates could, essentially, fill their outfield with a devilish 6.6 WAR across the board.

We like to dream a little dream of a Joey Gallo/Lewis Brinson/Nomar Mazara outfield around here but the Pirates pulled it off. The dream is real in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Weaknesses:

Much like the Rangers, the Pirates have experienced issues in the bullpen where once it was thought of as a strength. They do have Wilfredo Boscan and Neftali Feliz in there, though! Remember those guys?! David Freese is also on the Pirates which will make for the awkward situation where Feliz will throw against the Rangers with Freese defending behind him at some point this weekend. *shivers*

Go Rangers!

Pittsburgh Pirates (27-19, 2nd Place in NL Central)

Rangers' Record vs. Pirates: Haven't played since 2013

Pittsburgh's Recent Results: 3-0 home series sweep against the Arizona Diamondbacks

Pittsburgh's 2016 Road Record: 12-10

The Ballpark Park Factors (LHB/RHB): HR: 100/99 - Runs: 114/111

SB Nation Blue Pirates Blog: Bucs Dugout

Match-up: (as of 05/27) Rangers Pirates Advantage
Batting (RAR) -15.0 (9th) 41.0 (2nd) Pirates
Base Running (RAR) 1.8 (8th) -0.6 (16th) Rangers
Starters (RAR) 9.5 -2.6 Rangers
Bullpen (RAR) -15.4 (29th) -7.3 (28th) Double gross
Defense (UZR) 21.0 (2nd) -0.6 (16th) Rangers!
Overall (UZR + RAR) 1.9 29.9 : (

Questions to Answer:

  • Yay or Nay: Jeff Banister (1) ends up with more Manager of the Year awards than Clint Hurdle (1) over his career?
  • Who is your Return of the McLemore Approved Player to Watch in this series? (Gee, I wonder Yu it could be...)
  • Over/Under: 2.5 hits collected by Jurickson Profar in this series as he replaces the suspended Rougned Odor in the lineup?
  • What's your guess for line (IP/H/K/BB/ER) by Yu Darvish (!!) on Saturday in his first start since August 2014?
  • Do the Rangers bump their streak of consecutive series wins at home to eight with a series win over the Pirates this weekend?