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Series #2: Athletics vs Rangers - The Redemption, Part 1

MLB: Houston Astros at Texas Rangers Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Rangers didn’t fare any better than the A’s did in their opening series, as the aging AL West foe finds themselves in a tie for last place in the division with Oakland. Both teams seek to turn their fortunes around in their second straight four game set.

Rangers’ Record: 1-3

Rangers’ Spring Record: 8-22

Projected Lineup:

SS- Elvis Andrus

DH- Shin-Soo Choo

RF- Nomar Mazara

3B- Adrian Beltre

1B- Joey Gallo

2B- Rougned Odor

C- Robinson Chirinos

LF- Willie Calhoun

CF- Carlos Tocci

Probable Starting Pitchers:

Bartolo Colon

Cole Hamels

Doug Fister

Martin Perez

Hottest Hitter(s):

Elvis Andrus tore the cover off of the ball all spring long, hitting six of sixteen spring knocks for extra bases, good enough for a 1.166 OPS in the baseball friendlies. Other young studs on the Texas roster, such as Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo, flexed some serious muscle as well. In order for Texas to have any sort of shot at competing this year, it is these players who have to take significant steps forward on offense, with the veterans smattered across the roster slowly and surely declining (with the exception of the ageless Adrian Beltre). Elvis Andrus, in particular, has continued his hot hitting into the regular season.

Coldest Hitter(s):

Longtime Texas prospect Jurickson Profar still has yet to put it together at the dish, and now seems destined to be a light-hitting utility player for his career unless something suddenly clicks for him. Catcher and A’s-killer Robinson Chirinos has also struggled to do much at the plate this year, though his backup Juan Centano has been one of the team’s better hitters.

Hottest Pitcher(s):

Newest addition to the Rangers’ squad is Bartolo Colon, and has made the team against all odds. Colon was better at preventing runs in spring training than any other starter currently on the team. Also, one of the first players to get the call from Triple A, Austin Bibens-Dirkx, has looked very strong as well.

Coldest Pitcher(s):

Though it no longer really comes as a surprise, lefty Matt Moore continues to look like he is incapable of controlling his offerings and is still getting killed by walks. Closer Matt Bush also struggled with walks in spring training.

Key Injuries:

Delino DeShields just went down for 4-6 weeks with a fractured bone in his hand. The team did not really have a backup plan in the event of a DeShields injury, and so the loss of the centerfielder is a rather mighty blow to the squadron.

* * *

The A’s ultimately dropped three of four in their first series, but the team played well against a much-improved Angels club, and with better defense in the outfield corners, a problem that is designed to fix itself in due time, the A’s could have easily won three of the four games. How the defense and offense recover against a new opponent is key: if the A’s can put their mistakes behind them and start fresh, this team will be able to find success all season. If players continue to press, success will be much harder to come by.

For the Rangers, a promising young batch of position players are the sole reason the team hasn’t torn everything down and started over with rebuild. This team can hit, with strong veteran leadership able to guide and teach its new generation of stars, Texas won’t have to worry about its offense for a decade. However, the offense will have to work hard to support the pitching staff, which, after the anchor of Cole Hamels, is cobbled together with aging and breaking down pitchers, all of whom have major questions surrounding their abilities to stay both healthy over a long campaign as well as merely staying effective.

Game 5 - Monday, April 2, 7:05 - NBCSCA, FSSW,

Andrew Triggs vs Bartolo Colon

The A’s faithful still love Bartolo Colon, and even if he’s in a Texas uniform, it will be nice to see Big Sexy return to the coliseum. For a while, it appeared as though Colon would be without a job this year, but with Texas’ rotation in the state that it is, Colon became a perfect fit for the team. Andrew Triggs makes his first start of the year, and it will be interesting to see how his arm holds up over a full season, or whether he will be forced to be relegated to the bullpen later on.

Game 6 - Tuesday, April 3, 7:05 - NBCSCA, FSSW,

Kendall Graveman vs Cole Hamels

Both starters are seeking to recover from opening day struggles, as Graveman fell victim to the long ball repeatedly and Hamels was dealt a loss after failing to finish the sixth inning against the Astros. Both teams’ slim playoff hopes hinge on their top starters performing to the best of their abilities.

Game 7 - Wednesday, April 4, 7:05 - NBCSCA, FSSW, MLBN,

Sean Manaea vs Doug Fister

Doug Fister has long had success versus the A’s, and he’s off on the right foot this season after paving the way to the Rangers’ sole win on the season in his start. After nearly falling out of baseball entirely, Fister has made the unlikely comeback to baseball relevance. Sean Manaea was the hard luck loser in his first start, showing control over his offerings that he never showed last season, and pitched like the ace he was long scouted to be. Even if his velocity still isn’t as advertised, Manaea proved he can be as good as anyone in the game on the mound.

Game 8 - Thursday, April 5, 12:35 - NBCSCA, FSSW,

Daniel Mengden vs Martin Perez

For the getaway day game, Mengden will hope that his defense actually supports him after he was let down in his first start. He will be opposed by Martin Perez, who will make his first start on the year after a long recovery from an elbow fracture in his pitching arm.