Elvis Andrus (Photo: Samara Pearlstein)

After taking two of three in Canada, the Boston Red Sox (20-8, 2.5 games ahead in the AL East) travel to Arlington to take on the Texas Rangers (17-11, 1.5 games ahead in the AL West) for a three-game weekend series. The Boston Red Sox, still holders of the best record in baseball, are 8-2 in their last 10 games and won their last two in a row. The Rangers are 5-5 in their last 10 games and lost their last two.

STARTING PITCHERS: Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando and Yu Darvish

Derek Holland (facing Felix Doubront in Friday night’s opener) had a subpar 2012 season but has rebounded nicely in 2013. Holland 2012 pitching line of 4.67 ERA/4.75 FIP/4.14 xFIP earned a minus line of 107 ERA-/107 FIP-/100 xFIP-. Just a bit worse than the average pitcher. But the Rangers expected better than average from Holland, and this year he has delivered on that expectation. So far in 2013, Holland’s pitching line is 3.38 ERA/2.93 FIP/3.58 xFIP, good for a minus line of 78 ERA-/69 FIP-/90 xFIP-. The biggest change for Holland is in homers allowed and, sadly, BABIP. Holland has only surrendered two quadrangulars in 34.2 innings pitched this year, with a ratio of homers to fly balls of an excellent 5.9% (in 2012, he gave up 32 homers in 175.1 innings, and a HR/FB ratio of an ugly 15.2%. Holland’s BABIP in 2013 is an extremely lucky .227, compared to .261 in 2012.

Alexi Ogando (versus John Lackey) keeps getting bounced back and forth from the bullpen to the starting rotation, but he’s been successful in both roles. In 2012 and 2012 he was mainly used as a reliever (aside from one spot start), and was used as a starter in 2011 and (so far) in 2013. As you might expect, when used as a reliever Ogando throws much harder than when used as a starter (96-97 mph as a reliever, 93-95 as a starter). Interestingly, Ogando’s cutter is faster than his four-seam fastball (94.2 mph cutter, 93.3 mph four-seamer in 2013). Ogando’s 2013 walk rate of 3.38 is a touch high and he has given up 4 homers in 32 innings pitched, but the Rangers will take his pitching line of 3.38 ERA/4.17 FIP/4.02 xFIP.

Yu Darvish (against Jon Lester in the finale) is the pitcher that all Red Sox fans wanted Daisuke Matsuzaka to be. PITCHf/x shows that Darvish throws seven different pitches (four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, cutter, splitter, slider, curveball and changeup). Darvish’s 58 strikeouts (in 38.2 innings pitched, no less) leads the majors by eight. His pitching line (2.33 ERA/1.59 FIP/2.22 xFIP) and his minus line (53 ERA-/38 FIP-/56 xFIP-) are just sick. The only negative I’d have for Darvish is that his 3.99 career walk rate per nine innings in MLB is a little bit high but it is counterbalanced by his career strikeout rate per nine innings of 10.92. Sorry to sound like a fanboy but I really like Darvish.

EXPECTED LINEUP

1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
2. Elvis Andrus, SS
3. Lance Berkman, DH
4. Adrian Beltre, 3B
5. Nelson Cruz, RF
6. A.J. Pierzynski, C
7. David Murphy, LF
8. Mitch Moreland, 1B
9. Craig Gentry, CF

WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT

In the last two weeks, the hot Ranger hitters were Mitch Moreland (.349/.404/.558, .415 wOBA, 157 wRC+), Nelson Cruz (.283/.389/.565, .410 wOBA, 153 wRC+) and Ian Kinsler (.352/.426/.481, .399 wOBA, 146 wRC+), with honorable mention going to Jeff Baker (.333/.400/.833, .513 wOBA, 223 wRC+, three homers in 8 games). However, David Murphy (.205/.279/.333, .274 wOBA, 61 wRC+), Elvis Andrus (.259/.273/.315, .258 wOBA, 51 wRC+), Geovany Soto (.167/.333/.167, .256 wOBA, 49 wRC+) and Craig Gentry (.192/.250/.308, .230 wOBA, 32 wRC+) were not so hot.

In the bullpen, Robbie Ross (0.00 ERA/2.61 FIP/3.58 xFIP, .318 BABIP) and Jason Frasor (0.00 ERA/1.92 FIP/1.92 xFIP, .333 BABIP) pitched well over the last two weeks. Tanner Scheppers (1.23 ERA/5.20 FIP/4.78 xFIP, .227 BABIP) rubbed his rabbit’s foot raw. Perhaps Scheppers should have shared that lucky charm with Michael Kirkman (6.75 ERA/3.77 FIP/3.10 xFIP, .429 BABIP) and Joe Ortiz (12.27 ERA/5.74 FIP/3.36 xFIP, .429 BABIP), both of whom were extremely unlucky.

INJURIES

RHP Neftali Perez (recovery from August 2012 Tommy John surgery, placed on the 60-day DL on March 24), LHP Matt Harrison (herniated disc in back, placed on 15-day DL on April 10, retroactive to April 7), RHP Colby Lewis (recovery from July 2012 right elbow surgery, placed on the 15-day DL on March 31, retroactive to March 22), RHP Justin Miller (recovery from April 2012 Tommy John surgery, placed on 60-day DL on April 11), LHP Martin Perez (fractured left forearm, placed on 15-day DL on March 31, retroactive to March 22) and RHP Joakim Soria (recovery from April 2012 Tommy John surgery, placed on 15-day DL on March 31, retroactive to March 22).

AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?

In the last fortnight, the hot Red Sox hitters were Mike Carp (.429/.500/.952, .594 wOBA, 280 wRC+), David Ortiz (.487/.512/.897, .581 wOBA, 271 wRC+, 0.9 WAR), Mike Napoli (.313/.411/.729, .476 wOBA, 200 wRC+, 0.8 WAR), Daniel Nava (.271/.364/.479, .368 wOBA, 127 wRC+), Dustin Pedroia (.320/.424/.400, .365 wOBA, 125 wRC+) and Jonny Gomes (.250/.357/.458, .358 wOBA, 120 wRC+). Honorable mention goes to David Ross (.250/.348/.600, .402 wOBA, 150 wRC+), who hit well in limited playing time. On the cold side was Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.233/.324/.300, .285 wOBA, 71 wRC+) and Will Middlebrooks (.216/.259/.373, .277 wOBA, 66 wRC+).

In the bullpen, nobody qualified for the Blutarsky ERA Award. For shame. However, Andrew Bailey (1.80 ERA/3.62 FIP/3.30 xFIP, .222 BABIP), Alex Wilson (2.45 ERA/2.47 FIP/4.02 xFIP, .417 BABIP) and Andrew Miller (2.70 ERA/2.12 FIP/2.54 xFIP, .429 BABIP) all pitched well, but Junichi Tazawa (5.40 ERA/4.62 FIP/4.01 xFIP, .273 BABIP, 8.3% ground ball rate) and Clayton Mortensen (8.31 ERA/3.48 FIP/4.13 xFIP, .273 BABIP) had a touch of bad luck.

SUMMARY

The Rangers just keep finding ways to win, no matter who is on their team. I can’t wait for the Lester/Darvish matchup on Sunday.

Categories: A.J. Pierzynski Adrian Beltre Alex Wilson Alexi Ogando Andrew Bailey Andrew Miller Boston Red Sox Clayton Mortensen Colby Lewis Craig Gentry Daisuke Matsuzaka Daniel Nava David Murphy David Ortiz David Ross Derek Holland Dustin Pedroia Elvis Andrus Felix Doubront Geovany Soto Ian Kinsler Jarrod Saltalamacchia Jason Frasor Jeff Baker Joakim Soria Joe Ortiz John Lackey Jon Lester Jonny Gomes Junichi Tazawa Justin Miller Lance Berkman Martin Perez Matt Harrison Michael Kirkman Mitch Moreland Neftali Feliz Nelson Cruz Robbie Ross Tanner Scheppers Texas Rangers Will Middlebrooks Yu Darvish

Scott Candage is a long-time Red Sox fan. He recently came in third in the 127th annual Upperclass Twit of the Year competition. His best friend is a tree and he is a stockbroker in his spare time.

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