The A’s have had a game for fifteen consecutive days thus far to start the year, not including the Japan Series that will not be talked about. The end is in sight, however, as the team has just three more before finally getting a day off on Monday.
The upcoming series against the Rangers will be the final three games of a ten game road trip, wherein the A’s were swept in three games by the Astros (with two of those games being winnable affairs), and won big in three of four games against the Orioles (with one of those games being the team’s most embarrassing loss since the Lucroy-butterfingers game). Winning two of three in Arlington ensures the A’s a 5-5 road trip, which is always respectable, regardless of the opponents, and a sweep ensures a winning road trip, which is better.
The Rangers have had an up and down season up to this point, and currently find themselves in last place in a competitive AL West with a record of 6-6. The team slugged their way to winning two of three games against both the Cubs and the Astros at home to start the season, but the offense fell quiet once the team went on the road to Anaheim and Arizona, getting just two wins on the six game road trip. Following a day off, Texas will hope that the team’s bats get hot once more in front of a supportive crowd and against a sputtering starting pitching staff.
While no one particular player is setting the world on fire, the Rangers middle-heavy lineup has been hitting well to start the year. Joey Gallo is his predictable self, batting just .182 but his power and walking abilities have his OPS sitting at a comfortable .902. Elvis Andrus has an OBP near .400 and has been a threat on the basepaths. The Rangers have been one of the more aggressive teams after reaching base, with their eight steals good for tied for fifth in the big leagues, although with four caught stealings that aggression has not always paid off. On the other side of the spectrum, after his bounceback campaign last year, Rougned Odor is off to a dreadful start this season, currently the holder of a .470 OPS, well more than 100 points lower than the next worst regular, Delino DeShields.
But while the offense has been mostly fine, the starting pitching has posed some major problems for the Rangers. Mike Minor is pitching as advertised, although the long ball has been a minor problem for him in the early going. Beyond Minor, however, the rotation has been very weak. Shelby Miller has made two starts and has yet to pitch six innings. Edinson Volquez and Drew Smyly each have ERA’s north of seven, though Volquez has gone down with an injury and is being replaced in the rotation by long reliever Adrian Sampson.
Outside of Sampson, Shawn Kelley, and Jeffrey Springs, the Rangers bullpen hasn’t been that inspiring either. Jose LeClerc is struggling in the closer role in the early going, having blown one save in three tries and having given up four runs in five innings total. Old friend Jesse Chavez currently leads the team in appearances out of the bullpen, but his ERA is encroaching on 12.00. Especially at the back end of the bullpen, their numbers should improve, as the talent is there and twelve games is much too small a sample size to make any judgements of how the unit will function across the entire season.
This is the first iteration of a Rangers team in a long time that won’t have Adrian Beltre and his fun-loving, slick-fielding, ball-smashing, A’s-destroying ways. The Hall of Famer spent 21 years in the big leagues and had several MVP-worthy campaigns along the way. He was a leader on his team and in his communities, and the baseball world is just a little bit darker without him on the field each night.
(Note: This is NOT a eulogy. Adrian Beltre is still alive, he just is just retired)
The Rangers are the final AL West team that the A’s have yet to face this season, so far only going outside the division to face the Orioles earlier this week. The AL West is shaping up to be a competitive one this year, with the Rangers looking like the one team that may not have a chance to compete for the top spot or a Wild Card. Having said that, especially when playing in the hot sun at Arlington, the Rangers are a team that is perfectly capable of embarrassing their opponents and beating teams that get too overconfident. While the A’s may be the odds on favorites to win the series, and have the stronger team on paper, the games are played on the field for a reason.
Shin-Soo Choo - DH
Rougned Odor - 2B
Elvis Andrus - SS
Nomar Mazara - RF
Joey Gallo - LF
Asdrubal Cabrera - 3B
Logan Forsythe - 1B
Isiah Kiner-Falefa - C
Delino DeShields - CF
Mike Fiers vs Drew Smyly
Marco Estrada vs Adrian Sampson
Brett Anderson vs Shelby Miller
Game 18: Friday, April 12th at 5:05
Game 19: Saturday, April 13th at 5:05
Game 20: Sunday, April 14 at 12:05
All games can be viewed on NBCSCA