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Athletics at Rangers: Second Place in Sight

MLB: Texas Rangers at San Diego Padres Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The A’s just won their first series against the Angels in already their third series against them in the early going, having split the season opner and having gotten swept in Anaheim in the team’s second go. They will not have to think about playing the Angels until August, now. The A’s are now embarking on a two team, six game road trip that starts in Texas and ends in Seattle. Oakland will be playing in its third series against Texas in the early going before not needing to think about playing Texas again until August. The A’s are 3-3 against the Rangers so far, each team winning its own home series 2-1.

Outside of Houston, the division is neck and neck, with the bottom four teams beating each other up into obscurity.

· Houston: 24-11

· Seattle: 17-18

· Oakland: 16-18

· Anaheim: 17-20

· Texas: 16-20

Houston is seven games up on Oakland at the top of the division, and the Rangers, bringing up the rear, are just a mere one game behind the A’s. This series should change things in the division yet again. After dropping two of three games against the A’s back in mid-April, the Rangers went on a small hot streak wherein they handily swept the Royals in four games, but upon facing AL West opponents yet again, the Rangers went 4-8 and slipped back to the bottom of the standings. As a whole, in Texas, the pitching has been just about as advertised, the starting pitching holding up just fine even with Cole Hamels’ recent injury that will have him out for at least two months, but the offense has been scuffling big time. The occasional offensive outburst prevents the Rangers’ overall batting line from looking too out of step from last year, but the Rangers’ hitters have been walking less and less while striking out more and more and have been far less effective from game to game. A fresh Beltre would do the lineup a whole lot of good, but unfortunately for the Rangers, and for all of baseball, the Hall of Fame third baseman is just starting to swing the bat again.

Who’s Hot/Not

With Beltre gone, it was make or break time for Joey Gallo. He has had legitimate 80-grade power, but a strikeout rate teetering uncomfortably close to 50% prevented Gallo from having any sustainable success in the show in his first two callups. However, this year, Gallo is getting everyday playing time and is playing the same position, third base, each day, and that kind of consistency has allowed Gallo to finally become the three-true-outcomes threat the Rangers’ had always dreamt about. He still strikes out nearly 40% of the time, but that sharp decrease in strikeouts has resulted in a batting average above the Mendoza line paired with an ISO of .333. He’s no schmuck in the field either, with a throwing arm that could rival Matt Chapman’s.

The Rangers’ other top prospect, Jurickson Profar, was understandably sent down to AAA this week after hitting a putrid .135 with a .135 slugging percentage through the first month and a week of the year. The bullpen is also continuing to struggle, as Matt Bush has taken over the closer’s role from Sam Dyson, but the rest of the bullpen can’t hold the leads in the innings Bush used to pitch to give him any save opportunities. The team currently has no plan other than "wait and see" with their bullpen, and hope that the struggles go away and the 5.10 ERA goes down.

The Matchups

Friday, 5/12 @ 5:05- Hahn (1-2) vs Cashner (0-3)

Saturday, 5/13 @ 5:05- Gray (0-1) vs Martinez (0-2)

Sunday, 5/14 @ 12:05- Graveman (2-2) vs Griffin (4-0)

How the A’s Win the Series

The A’s are fortunate in that they won’t have to face ace Yu Darvish, though historically the A’s have beaten Yu Darvish with relative ease. The A’s will be facing the arguable other ace of the Rangers’ starting staff this season, old friend AJ Griffin, who is undefeated on the year and tossed a shutout in his last start.

This series has a "feast or famine" potential for both teams. The A’s are starting three rather homer-prone pitchers to the hill in Texas, where the ball flies out of the park, but they are also starting three guys who should be pretty capable of missing bats. The Rangers’ lineup has been really scuffling the past few weeks, largely due to striking out lots while not walking lots, but it can also put up crooked numbers on the scoreboard quickly if the opposing pitching isn’t on its game. The A’s pitching staff won’t necessarily need its best stuff, though that would be, and always is, rather helpful to have, but having good command will be essential. Sonny Gray, in particular, still won’t be able to get away with the mistakes he’s been making upon his return, and in fact may have an even thinner margin for error considering where he’s pitching and who he’s facing.

The Angels’ pitching more or less shut down the A’s bats in the most recent series, other than Yonder Alonso’s, and so this series gives the position players a chance to find their groove again.

Link to Lonestar Ball

Rangers’ Struggles on Offense

Cole Hamels’ Injury

Joey Gallo Has Figured It Out