Red Sox vs. Rangers

With Thursday’s game still pending, the Sox look to their three-game weekend series in Texas, back 5.5 of the Yankees; up 1.5 on the Rangers in the wildcard. This is a big set – don’t take it likely.
The Sox should fare well in the home run haven of Arlington, especially with Mike Lowell and Jason Bay showing some considerable improvement in their last couple games. If the pair are truly healthy, as their last couple games hint at, expect some big offensive showings.
The re-emergence of Lowell is especially encouraging and his two-homer outburst on Tuesday must have made Youk’s non-appeal an easy decision. Now, on to the matchups.
Boston has the advantage in Game One’s slotting, as hot lefty Jon Lester takes on righty Kevin Millwood. While Millwood posts an excellent 3.38 ERA, his 4.58 FIP ERA suggests he is more league average than All-Star. Lester, on the other hand, should give Texas big problems.
Game Two is a very interesting matchup. Veteran Brad Penny carries good peripheral numbers into the fold against Derek Holland, Texas’ ace of the future. Both pitchers have under-performed their peripherals, so expect a little less offense than you would from two pitchers with ERAs in the 5s. In the end, Holland should outpitch Penny, but the matchup is very close.
Game Three features two relative unknowns. Junichi Tazawa takes the hill for Boston, looking to improve on an outing in which he struck out six against two walks. Dustin Nippert continues to prove to doubters that he is the real deal, as evidenced by his 8.35 K/9 and 3.34 BB/9. Give the nod to Nippert, as Tazawa is still very green in the MLB.
The Batters:
The Sox offense has the edge over Texas, ranking 5th in the AL in runs scored, compared to the Rangers’ 8th. The Sox feature a triple slash line of .263/.348/.441 compared to Texas’ .255/.316/.454. If C Jarrod Saltalamacchia and the ever-evolving SS Elvis Andrus can make a dent this series, all bets are off.
The Defense:
Not even close. Texas all the way. Take this chance to watch what a real shortstop looks like. Andrus is incredible with the leather… and he’s learning to hit too. I’ll bet that Atlanta misses having him around, not to mention that Teixeira guy.
The WildCard:
There’s a lot of them in this series.
Texas recently returned RP Frank Francisco to the closer’s role, in relief of C.J. Wilson. Francisco has been effective while healthy this season, but his constant injury woes make him difficult to predict. If he falters, expect the Sox to tee off.
Junichi Tazawa is going to be a wild card all season unless he proves early on that he deserves a spot in the rotation. This is a pivotal outing for him. He actually pitched well his last time out. This matchup is a great chance to continue in the right direction.
Games Two and Three are very much coin flips. If Holland continues his HR propensity, the Sox will win in a blow out. If Nippert becomes the Old Dustin Nippert, expect things to get out of hand quickly. Be ready for a long night. Exciting, but long.
And now, what you’ve all been waiting for, this week’s…
“For Entertainment Purposes Only”
Game 1:
Boston 5.3 Texas 3.4
The Sox win the first game of the season on the back of Lester’s impeccable pitching. Millwood gets chased early and Boston comes out on top.
Game 2:
Texas 5.4 Boston 4.1
Holland puts up a great 6 innings behind an even better defense. Penny throws an admirable quality start but its not enough.
Game 3:
Texas 4.8 Boston 4.2
Nippert nips Tazawa, who has a nice game but is out done. Texas leads all the way and their bullpen holds. Don’t give up hope though, as Tazawa could surprise with a strong outing, plenty of Ks and few BBs. This one isn’t over yet.
The Rundown:
Boston should take at least one this series, but this is a road trip they really need to win. However, both Games 2 and 3 should be hotly contested, so make sure to wear your rally caps and do a rain dance, because this venture to Arlington should be full of surprises.