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Series #8: Athletics at Rangers - Road Through the Wild West

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MLB: Seattle Mariners at Texas Rangers Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Rangers’ Current Record: 8-15, last place in the AL West, 8 games out of first, 3.5 games behind the A’s. They are 3-10 while playing in Arlington.

Possible Lineup:

CF- Delino DeShields

DH- Shin-Soo Choo

RF- Nomar Mazara

3B- Adrian Beltre

1B- Joey Gallo

SS- Jurickson Profar

2B- Isiah Kiner-Falefa

LF- Renato Nunez

C- Robinson Chirinos

Probable Starting Pitchers:

Matt Moore

Cole Hamels

Doug Fister

Recent Bullpen Activity:

The Rangers bullpen has been mighty busy of late, with every single one of their relievers throwing at least twenty pitches over the weekend, apart from Jesse Chavez who did not appear in a game. In Sunday’s victory over the Seattle Mariners, the Rangers used four pitchers, each of whom threw at least fifteen pitches.

Hottest Hitter(s):

The Rangers’ offense, as a whole, hasn’t been as intimidating as it has been in past seasons, but is still capable of putting runs on the board in bunches. Elvis Andrus has been the surprising leader on offense for Texas, but Andrus is on the shelf for several weeks after getting a fracture on his right elbow. In his place, over the past week it has been the DH Choo continuing his resurgence this season as well as now-quality-veteran Nomar Mazara, who each have hit two home runs and are OPS-ing over 1.000 in the week since Andrus went down with an injury. Over that same time span, Joey Gallo is hitting for just a .188 average, but has a .409 OBP and is their biggest weapon.

Coldest Hitter(s):

For those currently wondering what could have been, Renato Nunez is hitting .154/.214/.231 in four games since being claimed by the Rangers. It is unlikely that he continues to struggle so mightily at the plate, given his talents with the bat, but early results are indicating that the A’s club wouldn’t have ever been able to find a place for him on the field. It is tough to lose an “asset” that has spent years and years slowly growing and developing in the system, but the best chance for Nunez to succeed in the league is to play for a different team.

Hottest Pitcher(s):

Big Sexy just keeps going and going. The timeless wonder Bartolo Colon has made three starts on the season, and has an ERA below three, the only Texas starting pitcher who can make that claim. Volatile lefty Matt Moore was extremely good in his last start, allowing just one run in seven innings, with just two walks, but he has very poor overall numbers for the season. Jose Leclerc has been strong out of the bullpen for Texas, as has Kevin Jepsen.

Coldest Pitcher(s):

Martin Perez has been absolutely Graveman-esque in his beginning to the year, though, like Graveman, his numbers are bound to improve after such a rocky start. Keone Kela has served as the Rangers closer in 2018, but he has struggled with his control and has given up a lot of loud contact to start the year. Former closer Matt Bush has also lost his control and hasn’t been effective because of it.

Key Injuries:

Both starting middle infielders have been dealing with short-term, nagging injuries that have kept them each out of the lineup in recent weeks, stretching the Rangers’ lineup rather thin at the bottom of the order. Fortunately for Texas, starting center fielder Delino DeShields just returned to the lineup a week earlier than anticipated after a broken bone in his hand took him out of action early. A blister on Tim Lincecum’s hand has managed to land him on the 60-day DL.

* * *

The A’s will begin their second road trip playing their best baseball of the young season. And it’s important they continue to play the way they have, as this road trip involves the A’s visiting every team in the AL West apart from the Angels, and it is a golden opportunity to make an unexpected surge up the standings. Sean Manaea’s brilliant and unforgettable no-hitter aside, the pitching on the staff is really starting to come together, completely shutting down the far-and-away best offense in all of baseball for three games (save for two poorly-timed home runs in the first game against Boston). If the pitching can continue to pitch the way they have, or even if the pitching is merely average, the A’s will make some noise in the standings over the next nine games.

The Rangers haven’t had the start to 2018 that they were expecting. The pitching was always going to be a volatile mystery, with a rotation armed with potential but much of it locked away in a vault that may or may not ever be opened. What has been disappointing for the Rangers in the early going has been the very mediocre offense, Texas is in the bottom-third in all of baseball in runs scored, and there isn’t much help coming from the minor leagues at this point. It doesn’t help that every other team in the AL West is .500 or better, as it stands to be the deepest and toughest division to win in the entire league, if not all of baseball. All told, despite the Rangers’ struggles at home this season, they can get hot at any point and be just as tough of competition as Boston.

Game #23: Monday, April 23rd, 5:05 - NBCSCA, FSSW, MLB.tv

Trevor Cahill vs Matt Moore

After a brilliant return to the green and gold in front of 46000+ fans on the A’s 50th anniversary celebration game, Trevor Cahill will look to prove that he righted whatever plagued his pitching in the latter half of last season. His control looked iffy, to put it lightly, but his pitches appeared to have more movement than they ever had in his first stint in Oakland, and if he can harness them a bit better he will be a much better pitcher than he was when he got down-ballot Cy Young votes in 2011. Matt Moore was brilliant in his most recent start, but has struggled on the season overall and has struggled mightily in the past versus the A’s, overall.

Game #24: Tuesday, April 24th, 5:05 - NBCSCA, FSSW, MLB.tv

Andrew Triggs vs Cole Hamels

Triggs would most assuredly like to put his last start behind him, wherein he threw just 1.3 innings while giving up six runs in his last start against the lowly White Sox. Some days, pitchers just don’t have their best stuff, and assuming Triggs returns to his “brilliant for five innings” form, his poor start can just be written off as an unfortunate blip. Cole Hamels has been the Rangers’ ace in the absence of Yu Darvish, but has failed to pitch like one, his lone solid start, and victory, on the season coming against the A’s earlier in April. Hamels will look to make it two-for-two versus the A’s, while Oakland will seek to make his 6.55 home ERA look modest.

Game #25: Wednesday, April 25th, 5:05 - NBCSCA, FSSW, MLB.tv

Kendall Graveman vs Doug Fister

Graveman finally appeared to right the ship versus the Red Sox, and likely bought himself a few more turns in the rotation before potentially getting sent down to figure things out in Triple-A, but two poorly timed home runs tarnished his overall pitching line. Graveman still hasn’t looked like his old, dependable self on the season, but he looked closer last time out, and may be figuring things out with a simplified windup that is easier to repeat consistently. Doug Fister has been primarily injured since his start against the A’s in earlier April, and will be returning to the hill after a DL stint Wednesday evening.