Series Preview: Texas Rangers (36-23) @ Toronto Blue Jays (25-34)


Jun 5, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Edwin Encarnacion (10) is congratulated by right fielder Jose Bautista (19) after they both scored during the fifth inning of the game against the San Francisco Giants at ATFinally. After so much has gone wrong for R.A. Dickey during his next season hangover from winning the Cy Young he pitched a masterful game against the Giants. 8 1/3 IP, 2H, O R. This is the pitcher we thought we were getting at the beginning of the year. Maybe it’s something about summer because last year in June he had an ERA under one in five starts. Under one. Perhaps the warmer weather serves Dickey’s knuckleball better. Whatever the case is let’s hope he can keep it going in his next start. Until then it is a patched in starter, a veteran coming around and another making his second start off the DL as the Blue Jays host the Texas Rangers.

The Rangers have a couple of rookies in the rotation due to injury, notably Colby Lewis and come in having not lost three games in a row for the entire season. Their vaunted offence has been clicking rather well with a .270 team BAA. Not bad considering they lost all-world OF Josh Hamilton, though Adrian Beltre is a bit hobbled with a hamstring issue. Expect him to give way to back up Jeff Baker at the hot corner, taking his gold glove defense out with him. Beltre will most likely hit in the DH spot to keep his thundering bat around. They will need the thump with Mitch Moreland recently DL’d with strained right hamstring. Rookie Chris McGuinness (.275 BA, 6 HR, 34 RBI, .382 OBP, .477 SLG. in AAA) has been called up and is expected to make his MLB debut at first on Friday. Lance Berkman could take the spot but Ron Washington wants a natural first baseman around while Moreland is away.

Probable Starters:

Game 1: Nick Tepesch (3-4, 3.44 ERA) vs Esmil Rogers (1-2, 3.77 ERA)
Game 2: Yu Darvish (7-2, 2.77 ERA) vs Mark Buehrle (2-4, 5.42 ERA)
Game 3: Justin Grimm (5-4, 5.13 ERA) vs Josh Johnson (0-2, 5.40 ERA)

Tepesch has filled in admirably since taking the fifth starters spot in spring training. He has given up two runs or less in his last four starts but hasn’t pitched much beyond the sixth inning (save for the last start where he went 6 1/3 giving up an unearned run versus Kansas City). Those numbers are the makings of a 4 or 5 in the rotation and not much more. The ERA is fine but his WHIP is almost 1.3 and opponents are hitting .258 off of him this year. I would say the stellar Rangers defense has much to do with this although they are a middling 7th in the AL in fielding percentage. It could be his GO/AO of 1.93. That’s a bunch of grounders for sure.

Rogers did a great job in his first start allowing only 3 hits of 3 1/3 innings against a very good Atlanta Braves offence. Coming out of the ‘pen his pitch count was around 60. Expect Rogers to have it pushed to about 75-80 for this start as the Jays slowly stretch out his arm…though that worries me considering the arm injuries that plague our team last year and this year. If his fastball is breaking late as it should, it could provide fits for the Rangers. Considering the options, Rogers is most viable, holding down the fort until J.A. Happ or Kyle Drabek have returned from the DL.

Game 2 could be a sad Saturday afternoon in Hogtown. Yu Darvish, IMO, is turning into the best player to leave Japan for MLB since Ichiro. He didn’t disappoint like “Dice-K” or become an average MLB starter (Hideo Nomo). He took last year and his plethora of pitches and has put himself right into early contender status for the Cy Young. Although he is winless in his last three starts his ERA in that span is 2.18 and opponents are hitting just .203 off him. If Darvish pitches like he is capable you are looking at about 7 innings pitched,lots of Ks and ground balls. Overall opponents are batt .188(!) against the whirling Darvish and he has a WHIP under 1 (0.93).

I think Buerhle is up to the task of taking on Darvish. FOur of his last five starts has seen a decent start of 6 innings and 3 runs or less. He is still getting hit to the tune of a .282 opp BA and his WHIP is 1.42 so he is giving up hits at a pace not too far off his career mark (.272 opp BAA) so if he can keep the Rangers in the park we may have a shot. Yeah no. I hate to say it but Darvish is all-world and Buehrle is only about all-Ontario at this point. This game could get ugly.

After being the AL Rookie of the Month for April, Justin Grimm has slowly seen his ERA rise and rise, culminated it the 17-5 Boston Massacre on Tuesday. Grimm gave up 8 earned walked 3 and struck out 1 in 1 2/3 innings, by far his worst outing of the year. In his last ten starts, 7 of them he gave up 3 runs or less and his 45:17 K:BB is not too shabby. His minor league ERA is 3.07 so you know he has had the tools. Hopefully he is starting to experience the rookie yips. More likely is he is starting his trek through the AL East and that can be murder on any pitcher.

Josh Johnson made a huge splash his first game back from the DL. He held the Giants to 6 hits over 7 innings, giving up 2 runs and striking out 6 without a walk. This is the pitcher that the Alex Anthopoulos was counting on when he made “The Trade”. He is definitely a control type pitcher as evidenced by his 25:9 K:BB. He throws strikes. Always has. If he is anywhere near the pitcher he is capable of, then we may have two aces on the staff. I see Johnson really taking off now that his arm issues are settled and expect a dominant win in this match-up.

Projected Starting Lineups:

Texas Rangers

1. SS: Elvis Andrus
2. LF: David Murphy
3. DH: Adrian Beltre
4. RF: Nelson Cruz
5. C: A.J. Pierzynski
6. 1B: Chris McGuiness
7. 3B: Jeff Baker
8. CF: Craig Gentry
9. 2B: Jurickson Profar

Toronto Blue Jays

1. LF: Melky Cabrera
2. RF: Jose Bautista
3. 1B: Edwin Encarnacion
4. DH: Adam Lind
5. C: J.P. Arencibia
6. CF: Colby Rasmus
7. 3B: Mark DeRosa
8. 2B: Emilio Bonifacio
9. SS: Munenori Kawasaki

The one player that can carry the Rangers offence is Adrian Beltre. The rest of the team can rake but Beltre has become the player the Los Angeles Dodgers thought they were getting when they originally drafted him. .311 avg, 13 HR, 36 RBI, .902 OPS. These numbers lead all Rangers regulars in each category and his K:BB is a stunning 24:15. Now that is a man who puts the ball in play quiet often. He could be murder this weekend just focusing on the DH duties. Since the turf will not be an issue for his always aching legs expect Beltre to go off, especially in the first two games of the series.

And I stand behind Melky Cabrera. He has become our most consistent hitter recently and has proven it can be done without ‘roids. Unfortunately the witch hunt being led by the commissioners office may get him suspended again. This is ludicrous. He paid the time stipulated by MLB. it was in writing. You cannot retro-suspend anyone. It is backwards and reeks of A Clockwork Orange and every cheesy doomsday movie out there. If he does time again, look for Rajai Davis get more reps out there.

Final Word

This series should be interesting. We are getting two rookies tossed at us in a whirling Darvish sandwich. We have two of our original starters hoping to make great back to backs after great showings. But this is a Rangers team that is built for the playoffs. The fact they are killing it right now without two of their planned starters mean they will be that much harder to beat for the playoffs. If we get to the two rooks we should be able to gain a 2-1 series victory. That is a big if. I see light at the end of the tunnel so let’s be optimistic. We got this series.