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Oakland A's series preview: The Texas Rangers in 1,258 more words

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The Athletics face the Texas Rangers for a quick three-game homestand before beginning a southern coast swing to Anaheim and San Diego.

Chi Chi Gonzalez has not conceded a run in his first two major league starts.
Chi Chi Gonzalez has not conceded a run in his first two major league starts.
John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Athletics (23-36) welcome the Texas Rangers (30-27) for a three-game series that begins a 16-game period of facing Western Division opponents in intra-division and interleague play. The Oakland Athletics (23-36) are 4-3 against the Texas Rangers (30-27) this year, and took two of three in Arlington in early May.

The Rangers have been surging up the standings of late despite continued injury woes. After the A's series, they trailed in the division by 9½ games and were in fifth place. They have since gone 22-11, are in second, and trail by just 3½. These Rangers have won three of their last four, eight of their last 10, and 13 of their last 17.

How have the Rangers pulled this off? They started scoring runs again and more consistently. In their first 24 games, the Rangers played 11 contests where they scored two or fewer runs and lost them all. In their last 33, they have just eight games scoring two or fewer, and are 4-4 in those contests.

Starting pitchers

In May, the A's faced two out of the three probable Rangers pitchers they will face this week. Against Nick Martinez, the A's forced Nick Martinez out after he failed to record an out against four batters in the seventh inning, but the bullpen coughed up the lead to eventually lose the game in 10 innings. Against Yovani Gallardo, the A's scored four runs (three earned) in 6⅔ innings and went on to a comfortable 7-1 win. Chi Chi Gonzalez is the only newcomer this week.

Tuesday vs. RHP Nick Martinez
Tuesday (7:05 PM PDT)
Nick Martinez vs. Sonny Gray
2.89 ERA 1.65
4.22 FIP 2.66
4.79 xFIP 3.36
14.1% K% 23.3%
1.25 GB/FB 1.72

Nick Martinez got off to a brilliant start for the Rangers, not giving up more than three earned runs in any start in his first 10 tries, and pitching enough innings to earn eight quality starts. His most recent start, against the White Sox, was a disaster, allowing seven runs on nine hits and two walks though striking out five in 3⅓ innings.

Martinez is throwing a 91 mph fastball, slider, sinker, change, and curve, according to Brooks Baseball. He is around the middle of the pack in ground ball tendencies, ranking 34th out of 55 qualified American League starting pitchers in GB/FB (1st is greatest ground ball ratio).

Wednesday vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo
Wednesday (7:05 PM PDT)
Yovani Gallardo vs. Jesse Hahn
3.54 ERA 3.51
3.94 FIP 3.17
3.93 xFIP 3.59
16.7% K% 16.3%
1.82 GB/FB 2.29

Yovani Gallardo is riding a streak of three consecutive quality starts, though he has only reached the minimum six innings in all of them. With the way the Rangers have been scoring, however, a quality start has been all the Rangers have needed to bring home the win.

Gallardo throws a 92 mph fastball, slider, sinker, curve, circle change, and cutter, says his Brooks Baseball profile. He'll run away from the curveball if he falls behind in the count, pretty much narrowing what batters need to look for in a favorable count to the fastball, sinker, and slider. His 1.82 GB/FB ratio is 11th out of 55 qualified American League starters.

Thursday vs. RHP Chi Chi Gonzalez
Thursday (12:35 PM PDT)
Chi Chi Gonzalez vs. Scott Kazmir
0.00 ERA 3.14
4.01 FIP 3.76
5.15 xFIP 3.78
7.4% K% 22.7%
2.00 GB/FB 1.39

The Rangers called up their BP#2/BA#6 prospect Chi Chi Gonzalez on May 30, and he threw a shutout against the Kansas City Royals on June 5 and 5⅔ shutout innings against the Boston Red Sox on May 30. The walks are what limited him in his first start, he conceded five free passes.

Gonzalez throws a 93 mph fastball, sinker, slider, change, and curve, per his Brooks Baseball profile. He's had some trouble commanding his changeup, 10 of the 19 he's thrown have been out of the zone. The A's will hope that Gonzalez will continue to struggle with command in Thursday's finale.

At the plate and in the field

Rangers AL Ranks A's
3rd (4.61) RS/G 8th (4.20)
8th (99) wRC+ 6th (102)
6th (60) HR 10th (50)
8th (.252) AVG 4th (.255)
4th (.322) OBP 6th (.318)
7th (.404) SLG 9th (.391)
5th (.152) ISO 11th (.136)
3rd (42) SB 6th (33)
14th (52) Errors 15th (57)
13th (-16) DRS 8th (-2)
8th (-0.8) UZR/150 15th (-9.3)
10th (.712) DE 9th (.713)

The Texas Rangers are ahead of only the Athletics in the number of errors charged to them, and are behind in Defensive Runs Saved but ahead in Ultimate Zone Rating. Individually, shortstop Elvis Andrus is running away with the team lead in errors, with 12, eight of them the fielding variety.

On the disabled list are Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton. Joey Gallo has shown his ability to crush baseballs and also his ability to strike out a whole bunch in the week he has been up in place of Beltre. The Rangers elected to call up an eighth reliever to take Hamilton's place.

Sogard Line: The Eric Sogard Line is Sogard's wRC+, representing my gut feel for what represents serviceable offensive production for a bottom of the order hitter with a good glove, but you probably don't want more than one or two of those in your lineup. Sogard bumped his wRC+ from 64 to 66 after going 2-for-9 with a walk and a hit-by-pitch in 11 plate appearances against the Red Sox over the weekend. The Rangers have given 12.8% (284 of 2,212) of non-pitcher plate appearances to batters hitting at or below the Sogard Line. Leonys Martin, Tommy Field, and Elvis Andrus are just above the cutoff.

Bullpen

Rangers AL Ranks A's
1st (194.1) IP 10th (168.1)
14th (4.08) ERA 15th (4.97)
15th (4.49) FIP 12th (4.15)
13th (4.24) xFIP 10th (4.17)

The Rangers bullpen continues to own the highest workload in baseball, and have slipped to the 2nd-worst ERA in the American League, ahead of just the A's. The Rangers have pretty much turned over their entire bullpen, with Shawn Tolleson, Keone Kela, and Anthony Bass the only holdovers from early May.

Gone from the last time the A's were here are Neftali Feliz (disabled list), Roman Mendez (optioned), Stolmy Pimentel (outrighted), and Alex Claudio (optioned). Joining us this time are Tanner Scheppers, Sam Freeman, Jon Edwards, Ross Detwiler, and Spencer Patton.

2015 Stats Recent usage (pitch count from www.rosterresource.com)
Player Hand IP ERA K% GB% FB% 8-Jun 7-Jun 6-Jun 5-Jun 4-Jun 3-Jun 2-Jun
Shawn Tolleson R 26.1 2.73 30.5% 43.3% 32.8% O 19 26
Tanner Scheppers R 14.2 5.52 16.4% 51.1% 27.7% F 16 12 23
Keone Kela R 25.2 2.10 21.5% 45.5% 35.1% F 12 15
Sam Freeman L 8.1 5.40 8.6% 50.0% 28.6% 2 5 10
Jon Edwards R 4.1 0.00 21.1% 9.1% 72.7% 13 15
Ross Detwiler L 33.2 6.95 13.6% 35.8% 40.0% D 42
Spencer Patton R 3.0 9.00 33.3% 16.7% 66.7% A 10 26
Anthony Bass R 34.2 3.89 14.0% 50.0% 27.3% Y 49 9

The games

Thursday is another A's Baseball Breakfast radio simulcast on CSN California and the Oakland Athletics Radio Network. Normal start times for this series before heading off to Anaheim and San Diego.

Time (PT) Probable starters TV
Tuesday 7:05 PM Nick Martinez vs. Sonny Gray CSNCA
Wednesday 7:05 PM Yovani Gallardo vs. Jesse Hahn CSNCA
Thursday 12:35 PM Chi Chi Gonzalez vs. Scott Kazmir CSNCA radio simulcast