The Rangers are so hot right now.
Since the A’s visited the Rangers in Arlington, splitting the rain-shortened series at one game apiece, the Rangers have surged ahead in the standings, and are now currently just a half game out of second place and a game and a half out of first in the division with a record of 12-8. After the A’s left town, the Rangers not only swept the Angels, but scored twice as many runs as the Angels, 22-11. After an off day Thursday, the Rangers hosted the Astros for three games and won two of those games in decisive fashion, something that the A’s have yet to do this season.
The key to the Rangers’ success over the last week has been some very potent forces on offense. Joey Gallo, a controversial figure in Ranger fan circles, had the biggest week of his career. Since last playing the A’s, he has seemingly out-hit the entire A’s lineup himself, as in six games Gallo has hit four home runs to go with a triple and a double, and has a slash line of .478/.480/1.174, good for an OPS of 1.654. His eleven RsBI and eight runs scored lead the team. Perhaps the most surprising stat Gallo has this week, however, is that he hit the first sacrifice fly of his entire career in his last game.
Also leading the offense are Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo, each of whom have OPS’ north of 1.000 as well. This lineup just doesn’t have any black holes in it at the moment, and the beaten up and struggling starting rotation is going to have its work cut out for it this week. With two of the games being played at night at the coliseum, home runs are going to be harder to come by, and just maybe the A’s starting staff can end their abnormally poor performance.
The Rangers’ pitching staff hasn’t been nearly as dominant as the offense has been, but it clearly has been doing enough to help the Rangers win. Mike Minor couldn’t have done much better his last time out, pitching a complete game shutout against the Angels while only allowing five baserunners total. The fact that Minor pitched a complete game may have saved the Rangers in a couple of future games, as the remainder of their starts have had a very hard time getting through five innings, and the bullpen has been very heavily used as a result. With the bullpen taxed and the Rangers without an off day until next Monday, in all likelihood Texas’ starters will have a slightly longer leash than they would have otherwise.
The key for the A’s to turn things around will be for the lineup to practice some patience. The A’s have worked the count significantly less this season, often jumping on one of the first three or so pitches in an at bat if it is anywhere near their sweet spot. This has worked quite well for the A’s this year, this last week be damned, but sometimes different approaches are needed based on the context of the series being played.
Another key for the A’s would be to use Treinen and Trivino as much as humanly possible over the next three games, with the A’s having an off day on Thursday. The A’s bullpen should be fine and numbers should improve, but the hot hands need to be played while the A’s are still in a position to win the game, instead of when it is already too late. For as long as the rotation cannot be trusted, TnT can be, and should be, the A’s failsafe.
For the last two previous series, it has been written that the A’s should probably aim for a sweep in order to make a statement and/or get the team back on pace for a playoff spot. Well, now more than ever before, the A’s shouldn’t settle for less than winning all three games. It isn’t going to be easy, but it is imperative that the A’s don’t dig themselves too deep a hole early in the year. Beyond starting pitching, the A’s and Astros are a lot closer in starting pitching talent than the baseball world gives credit, and winning the division should still be the goal. The A’s were tied with the Astros for the division lead as late as August last year. If the team must begrudgingly settle for the Wild Card, at the very least the A’s primary competition in the East has equally struggled to start the season.
For now though, let’s just focus on the next three days.
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
Chris Bassitt vs Mike Minor
Frankie Montas vs Lance Lynn
Aaron Brooks vs Drew Smyly
Game #25: Monday, April 22nd at 7:07
Game #26: Tuesday, April 23rd at 7:07
Game #27: Wednesday, April 24th at 12:37
All games are available on NBCSCA.