8/13-8/16 Series Preview: Texas Rangers

Fan Confidence Poll: August 13th, 2012
It's official: Derek Lowe's a Yankee
And the Rangers win the Wor … oh. Right. (Rick Yeatts/Getty)

The Yankees and Rangers have quite a bit of recent history, most notably the 2010 ALCS. If you stretch the definition of recent — hey, the Rangers franchise has been around for 40 years now — you can go back to the the three ALDS matchups in the late-1990s. Texas took two of three from New York back in April, but now they’re in the Bronx.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Rangers have won two in a row, four of five, and eight of eleven. At 67-46 with a +82 run differential, they’re in a dead heat with the Yankees for the title of Best Team In The American League. Texas has a comfy seven game lead in the AL West.

Offense

(Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)

With an average of 5.1 runs per game, the Rangers are the highest scoring team in baseball. They’re a touch behind the Yankees with a team 107 wRC+, but they will not have Mike Napoli (105 wRC+) for the next two weeks because he was just placed on the DL. He hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire this year anyway.

The offense is led by Josh Hamilton (142 wRC+), who remains one of the most dangerous hitters in the game despite a prolonged slump. He’s going deep at some point this series, just accept it now and await the inevitable. Adrian Beltre (117 wRC+) and Nelson Cruz (111 wRC+) give them two more power bats while Ian Kinsler (110 wRC+) does a little bit of everything. Elvis Andrus (108 wRC+) is the speed guy, then you have some excellent platoon bats in David Murphy (122 wRC+ vs. RHP), Mitch Moreland (131 wRC+ vs. RHP), and the speedy Craig Gentry (149 wRC+ vs. LHP).

Franchise icon Michael Young (68 wRC+) is having the worst season of his career and appears to be at the point where Derek Jeter was last June — just not hitting anything with authority and looking pretty close to done. The Cap’n rebounded, but so far Young has not. The catching duo — Geovany Soto (67 wRC+) and Luis Martinez (one whole plate appearance) — is hardly a threat with Napoli on the shelf. The Rangers are carrying 13 pitches, so the only other guy on their bench is the recently-recalled super-prospect Mike Olt (79 wRC+ in limited time). Texas went through a pretty brutal RISPFAIL funk last month, but this team can score runs with the best of ‘em.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP David Phelps vs. RHP Ryan Dempster
The Yankees looked into acquiring Dempster prior to the trade deadline, but the Rangers ended up swinging a deal for him with moments to spare. The 35-year-old right-hander has had one awful (eight runs in 4.2 IP) and one good (three runs in 6.2 IP) start with Texas, and overall he’s pitched to a 2.65 ERA (3.62 FIP). Obviously most of that came in the NL with the Cubs. Dempster currently owns his lowest strikeout rate since 2001 (7.41 K/9 and 20.3 K%) as well as his lowest walk rate ever (2.42 K/9 and 6.6 BB%). His 42.0% ground ball rate is a touch below his career average. An extreme slider pitcher, Dempster has thrown the mid-80s pitch more than 40% of the time this year. He’ll also feature two and four-seamers in the upper-80s as well as a low-80s split-finger. The Yankees faced Dempster in interleague play last season and he held them to three runs in 5.1 innings.

(Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)

Tuesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Matt Harrison
A first-time All-Star this year, the 26-year-old Harrison was part of the Mark Teixeira trade and has pitched to a 3.31 ERA (3.84 FIP) this season. He’s a low-walk (2.58 BB/9 and 6.9 BB%), high-ground ball (51.2%) guy who won’t miss many bats (5.34 K/9 and 14.3 K%). Harrison relies heavily on a sinking low-90s two-seamer, but will also mix in a low-90s four-seamer and the occasional mid-80s cutter. His two offspeed offerings are a low-80s changeup and an upper-70s curve. Harrison has a huge split — righties have a .340 wOBA against him this season, lefties just .232 — so this is a good game to stack the lineup on that one side.

Wednesday: RHP Freddy Garcia vs. RHP Scott Feldman
Feldman, 27, has had to step into the rotation due to injuries and has posted a 4.64 ERA (4.00 FIP) in 83.1 innings. He doesn’t strike hitters out (5.94 K/9 and 15.5 K%) or get ground balls (40.2%), but he won’t kill himself with walks (1.94 BB/9 and 5.1 BB%). Feldman is a sinker-cutter guy, and both pitches sit right around 90. He’ll also throw a mid-70s curveball and a mid-80s changeup. He’s been pretty good of late, allowing no more than two runs while throwing at least seven innings in three of his last four hitters.

Thursday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. LHP Derek Holland
It’s been an up and down season for the 25-year-old Holland, who spent some time on the DL with a shoulder issue and has otherwise pitched to a 4.92 ERA (4.91 FIP). His strikeout (7.41 K/9 and 19.9 K%), walk (2.89 BB/9 and 7.9 BB%), and ground ball (41.8%) numbers are solid, though he will give up plenty of long balls (1.72 HR/9). Holland does throw hard, sitting in the low-to-mid-90s with his sinker. He’ll back it up with a low-80s slider and a mid-70s curveball, though his mid-80s changeup is a seldom used fourth offering. The Yankees pounded Holland back in April (7 R in 6 IP), but the southpaw is just as capable of throwing a gem as he is a total stinker.

(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Bullpen Status
Manager Ron Washington was able to give his core relievers a nice rest in yesterday’s semi-blowout win, so closer Joe Nathan (2.80 FIP) and setup men Mike Adams (2.76 FIP) and Alexi Ogando (3.04 FIP) come into the series fresh. Rookie left-hander Robbie Ross (3.69 FIP) has appeared in each of the last three games, so we’re unlikely to see him tonight. Fellow lefty Michael Kirkman (4.61 FIP) pitched yesterday and is more of a long man-type than a specialist. The rest of the bullpen includes right-handers Roy Oswalt (4.09 FIP), Mark Lowe (3.68 FIP), and Tanner Scheppers (5.21 FIP). Everyone in this bullpen throws hard and can miss bats, and frankly Oswalt is probably the weak link despite his reputation.

Joe Girardi had to use four relievers yesterday due to Phil Hughes‘ short start, and one of those four (Ryota Igarashi) is ticketed for a return to Triple-A today once the Derek Lowe signing in made official. The Yankees are in pretty good bullpen shape, but check out our Bullpen Workload page for exact reliever usage. For the latest and greatest on the two-time defending AL Champs, we recommend Baseball Time In Arlington and Lone Star Ball.

Ticket Info

By using this link, you can save up to 50% on tickets to the final three games of the Rangers series and 25% on tickets to the Red Sox series via ScoreBig. Just click the link, sign up, and find a seating section.

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Fan Confidence Poll: August 13th, 2012
It's official: Derek Lowe's a Yankee
  • Mike Myers

    I have a feeling we are going to see some football like scores this series.

    • http://fendersonandhampton.com Cuso

      I’d be fine with it if it’s football scores on both sides. You know they’re going to hit us hard.

      I just don’t want to make Holland & Harrison look like Cy Young winners that MSM thinks they are.

      We have to pound on them, too.

      Meaningless for standings series, probably. But a mild statement series, it would seem.

  • The Real Greg

    I don’t know where this series is going to go. Both teams have offenses that are clicking right now, yet both have injuries in the pitching rotations.

  • The Real Greg

    Meanwhile the Rays are going to play the M’s, who have been hot of late and they (the Rays) get to face King Felix.

    The Orioles get to face the desperate Red Sox, who, if swept, might just give up on the season.

    • DERP

      The Rays have to face Hernandez, Haren, Weaver, Wilson, and Greinke in a row.

      • Bavarian Yankee

        Haren, Wilson and Greinke are slumping big time right now, so I guess the Rays won’t be too afraid of them ;)

        • The Real Greg

          You’d be right. Except the Rays aren’t the best offensive team out there.

          • http://fendersonandhampton.com Cuso

            Except that as soon as Longo came back, Upton & Joyce remembered how to hit again.

  • Kosmo

    Phelps tonight 6 innings 2 hits 1 run on 88 pitches.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      That would be awesome! Sign me up!

      • Kosmo

        Hope for the best !

  • Eddard

    The key game might be tonight and how Phelps and Dumpster fare. Could go either way. I think we have the advantage with Kuroda and if Nova can do somewhat decent we crush Holland every time we see him. It would be nice to take 3/4 but a split would be ok given all the injuries.

  • The Real Greg

    I’m not particularly worried about Phelps’s length. In his three starts he has thrown about 85 pitches avg.

    However, against Texas earlier this year, he gave up 3 ER in 2 1/3 innings with 2 home runs

    • The Real Greg

      By the way, Derek Lowe this year against the Rangers?

      1 start, 6IP 9H 2R 2BB 1K and 1 DP forced. However, 8 of those 9 hits were singles.

  • Size Queen

    I’m actually excited about Phelps’s length. Very excited.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      His length tonight may have more to do with his excitement than yours.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      ietc

  • Bavarian Yankee

    tough series. Split it and I’ll be happy.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      While I’d love to see the Yankees take 3 of 4, since Texas is such a tough team, I too would be happy with a split.

  • Kevin G.

    Now would be a good time to start a seven game winning streak

  • JobaWockeeZ

    I mean a 105 wRC+ isn’t really setting the world on fire but people defend Martin saying he’s still a good bat for catcher because he walks. His wRC+ is 88. By that measure Napoli is an All Star.

    • jjyank

      I think he means relative to expectations. Dude had a 178 wRC+ last year, so he’s been underwhelming by the bar he set.

      • Cris Pengiucci

        And Napoli is no defensive wiz behind the plate. While Martin may not be living up to expectations on either O or D, I’m pretty sure his D would be ranked significantly higher than Napoli’s.

  • Brian S.

    I think Napoli was one of the players with a home run off of Phelps earlier this year. And he has really good oppo power. I’m really glad he is missing the series Hope for a split. Anything less I will be disappointed, anything more is gravy.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Pretty much how I feel. More concerned about keeping some breathing room in first place than anything else.

  • Samuel

    Mitchell stinks. Brett Marshall would be a better option. He throws strikes, has three solid pitches and gets ground balls.

    But he is three years removed from TJS, so Nardi probably has him on a structured program which has worked so well for Betances.

  • MannyGeee

    I am having a hard time seeing a pitching advantage for either looking at those matchups… I would not be surprised if either team swept.

    so by law of averages, I think we take the split and be happy and shut up

  • Brian

    Mickey, Rizzuto, and My Birthday: How We Share the Bittersweet Day
    http://bit.ly/OoGkCx

  • FreeAgentSignee

    Go Yankees!