By Mike Axisa
he road trip continues with a four-game series in Texas. The Yankees and Rangers have a lot of recent history (2010 ALCS) and not-so-recent history (1996, 1998, 1999 ALDS), which of course means nada this week. The Rangers swept three games from the Yankees in Yankee Stadium back in May in dominating fashion — they outscored them 30-15 in the three games. Yikes!
What Have The Rangers Done Lately?
The Rangers got clobbered by the Angels yesterday but did win two of three in the series. They’ve won four of their last five overall and are 5-4 since the All-Star break. Texas is 47-50 overall with a -28 run differential. They are 7.5 games back of the Astros in the AL West and 4.5 games of the Twins for the second wildcard spot.
Offense & Defense
The Rangers have a bit of an offensive disconnect — they average 4.36 runs per game, which is above the 4.21 AL average, by they also have a 95 wRC+ as a team. Weird. They’re without several players because of injury, including IF Jurickson Profar (shoulder), 1B Kyle Blanks (Achilles), C Carlos Corporan (thumb), and ex-Yankee OF Antoan Richardson (back). Corporan (45 wRC+) could return this series but the other guys are out long-term.
Rookie skipper Jeff Banister builds his lineup around three left-handed hitters: 1B Prince Fielder (150 wRC+), 1B/DH Mitch Moreland (129 wRC+), and 2B Rougned Odor (124 wRC+). Odor had a miserable start to the season (35 wRC+), got sent to the minors in early-May, returned in mid-June, and has raked since (146 wRC+). Those are the club’s three big bats, and the speedy OF Delino DeShields Jr. (110 wRC+) has done a nice job setting the table.
OF Shin-Soo Choo (95 wRC+) and OF Josh Hamilton (89 wRC+) aren’t having much impact and 3B Adrian Beltre (83 wRC+) is having his worst season since leaving the Mariners. Getting old sucks. SS Elvis Andrus (69 wRC+) and OF Leonys Martin (54 wRC+) offer little at the dish, ditto UTIL Adam Rosales (77 wRC+) and UTIL Ryan Rua (61 wRC+). C Robinson Chirinos (104 wRC+) and C Tomas Telis (48 wRC+) are the catching tandem.
The Rangers have a surprisingly weak defense. Martin is outstanding in center and Beltre is still very good at third, though he’s no longer the elite gloveman he was for most of his career. Odor is very good as well. Andrus has a reputation for strong defense but has slowed down the last year or two. Fielder, Choo, Hamilton, and Moreland are liabilities in the field. Chirinos won’t shut down the running game (24.3% caught stealing rate) and he’s a below-average pitch framer, so says StatCorner.
Monday (8pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. TEX) vs. LHP Matt Harrison (vs. NYY)
It’s pretty remarkable the 29-year-old Harrison has made it back to the big leagues. He made just six starts the last two years due to ongoing back trouble, including spinal fusion surgery last June that could have ended his career. Harrison has been able to work his way back and this will be his third start off the DL. He threw six scoreless innings last time out after allowing six runs in four innings in his first start. At his peak, Harrison was a big time ground ball pitcher who didn’t walk or strike out many. Now? Who knows. PitchFX says he was sitting in the 85-88 mph range with his sinker in his first two starts after living in the low-90s before his injury. Harrison also throws mid-70s curveballs and changeups right around 80 mph. Previous stats and scouting reports don’t mean too much after an injury like that.
Tuesday (8pm): TBA vs. LHP Martin Perez (vs. NYY)
Like Harrison, Perez returned from major injury not too long ago, though he was out with regular ol’ Tommy John surgery. The 24-year-old will also be making his third start since coming off the DL — Perez allowed three runs in five innings first time out and four runs in six innings last time out. Before getting hurt last year, he had a 4.38 ERA (3.70 FIP) with a great ground ball rate (52.7%) but below-average strikeout (16.9%) and walk (9.2%) rates. Perez has sat in the low-90s with both his two and four-seam fastballs in his first two starts, and in the mid-80s with both his slider and changeup.
As for the Yankees, they’re using a spot sixth starter tomorrow to give the rest of the rotation an extra day of rest. Luis Severino (started Friday) and Bryan Mitchell (started Saturday) are not candidates for this game because they recently started for Triple-A Scranton. Diego Moreno is tomorrow’s scheduled starter for the RailRiders, though he hasn’t been stretched out yet. Chances are we’ll see a bullpen game with Adam Warren and Chris Capuano each throwing 50 pitches or so. I bet Nick Goody will then get sent down Wednesday in favor of a fresh long man, maybe Mitchell, who only threw 65 pitches Saturday. Shouldn’t be a huge deal to bring him back on short rest.
Wednesday (8pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. TEX) vs. RHP Colby Lewis (vs. NYY)
Lewis, 35, made his big injury comeback two years ago. He has a 4.49 ERA (3.82 FIP) in 20 starts and 126.1 innings so far this year. The only thing he does exceptionally well is limit walks (4.8%). His strikeout (18.3%), grounder (35.4%), and homer (1.07 HR/9) rates are all worse than the league average. Lefties (.320 wOBA) have hit him a bit harder than righties (.293 wOBA) this year. An upper-80s fastball is what Lewis uses to set up his mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, and mid-70s curveball. He uses the slider more than the changeup and curveball combined, hence the platoon split. The Yankees scored five runs in 6.2 innings against Lewis when these teams met in May.
Thursday (8pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. TEX) vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo (vs. NYY)
The trade deadline is this coming Friday and Gallardo, an impending free agent, is a candidate to be moved, so I guess that means he may not actually start this game. We’ll just have to wait and see. Gallardo, 29, has a 3.19 ERA (3.69 FIP) in 21 starts and 121.1 innings this year with below-average strikeout (16.1%) and walk (8.9%) rates but above-average ground ball (50.1%) and homer (0.59 HR/9) rates. Lefties (.304 wOBA) have hit him harder than righties (.282 wOBA). Gallardo uses his two and four-seamers equally and both sit in the 90-92 mph range. A hard upper-80s slider — it’s almost like a cutter, but the break is bigger — is his main secondary pitch. He’ll also mix in a few mid-70s curveballs and very rarely throws his mid-80s changeup. The Yankees pushed two runs across in six innings against Gallardo a few weeks ago.
I’m not sure who would start Thursday should Gallardo get traded, but LHP Wandy Rodriguez seems like a safe bet, unless, of course, he gets traded as well. Rodriguez was bumped to the bullpen recently when Harrison and Perez returned from the DL.
The Rangers have baseball’s worst bullpen with a 4.59 ERA (4.47 FIP), so the old “wait out the starter then go to town on the relievers” strategy will work against this club. Closer RHP Shawn Tolleson (3.19 ERA/3.32 FIP) has been solid and these days RHP Tanner Scheppers (5.45/5.58) and RHP Keone Kela (3.24/2.94) are setting him up. Scheppers has the job out of reputation, Kela out of production.
RHP Anthony Bass (4.35/3.66) is the long man and LHP Sam Freeman (3.32/3.52) is the matchup lefty. RHP Spencer Patton (6.46/6.19) and Wandy (4.22/4.08) round out the bullpen. Ex-Yankee RHP Ross Ohlendorf (3.52/5.67) is out with a groin strain and is expected to be activated this week. Patton figures to go down to Triple-A to clear a roster spot for Rock ‘n Rohlendorf. Bass, Freeman, Patton, Kela, and Wandy all pitched yesterday. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of New York’s bullpen and then check out Lone Star Ball for updates on the Rangers.