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Athletics at Rangers: Series #2 Preview

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MLB: Cleveland Indians at Texas Rangers Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Going up against Texas for the weekend, the A’s should be feeling confident. Sure, the A’s only managed a four-game series split against their biggest division rivals, the Angels, while at home to start the season, but they were close to winning three of four. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, but even with two losses the A’s outplayed the Angels on both sides of the ball for most of each game, and seek to continue that good gameplay in the heart of Texas.

The split earned both the A’s and the Angels a tie for 2nd place in the AL West, with Houston and a record of 3-1 just above them and the Mariners with a record of 1-3 just below them. Bringing up the rear in the division to start the season is the Texas Rangers, currently 0-3 after getting swept at home while hosting the Indians.

That kind of start would be disheartening for any team, but after the Rangers road a 36-11 record in one run games all the way to their second straight division title, the particular way the Rangers have gotten to 0-3 must be incredibly frustrating. Most of their success last season could be owed to a strong bullpen, anchored by Sam Dyson and Matt Bush. Even though the team’s overall run prevention wasn’t amongst the best in the league, it could not be denied that the relief corps got the job done when it mattered most. In their season opener, Matt Bush blew a save in the eighth inning and Sam Dyson coughed up the winning runs in the ninth. In their third game, Dyson allowed a ninth inning grand slam to Indians’ phenom Francisco Lindor, leading to another blown save and an unsightly 72.00 ERA for the closer.

The Rangers entered this offseason having won two consecutive division titles on the backs of an elite half of a starting rotation and some exciting young position players, while also managing a rather old and breaking down part of their roster that looked unlikely to improve without doing some tinkering. For every young ballplayer like Nomar Mazara or Joey Gallo on the rise, there is also high cost veteran, declining like Shin-Soo Choo or Carlos Gomez. This put the Rangers in a unique position during the offseason, where doing a tear-down and rebuild wouldn’t make much sense with the scores of youth that have made their way up to the show over the past few seasons, but limited roster space and a limited budget also made supplementing the existing roster a challenge. So, all in all, the Rangers did what they could this offseason, even if it wasn’t much, or all-too flashy. The team resigned Jonathan Lucroy, ensuring one of the best 1-2 starting rotation punches would be throwing to the best possible battery mate, and the Rangers also welcomed back Mike Napoli after a few years away to man first base. To round out the rotation, the Rangers also signed Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross during the offseason, a pair of high-risk-high-reward pitchers who could just as conceivably be diamonds in the rough or never throw a single inning for the Rangers this year.

If not for some ninth inning dramatics, the Rangers, as well as the A’s, could very easily be above the .500 mark going into this weekend’s series. The Rangers are projected for more or less the same number of wins and losses for the entire season, according to Fangraphs, but it would be remiss to not mention how dramatically different the Rangers’ actual win total differed from their projected win total last season. The Rangers are a team that fully expect to be competing and in strong position to defend their hard-earned AL West crown, so long as their roster can stay healthy, and they will be a force to be reckoned with should the A’s surprise everyone and make a run at the title for themselves. While the starting pitching depth is shallow, and the bullpen will likely give up its fair share of runs, the strengths of the Rangers outnumber their weaknesses.

The schedule for the three game set against the Rangers is as follows:

4/7, @ 5:05 PM: Alcantara (0-0) vs Griffin (0-0) on NBCSCA and MLB.TV

4/8, @ 5:05 PM: Graveman (1-0) vs Darvish (0-0) on NBCSCA and MLB.TV

4/9, @ 12:05 PM: Manaea (0-0) vs Perez (0-0) on NBCSCA and MLB.TV

To fraternize with the enemy during the games, visit Lone Star Ball.