After losing three of four to the lowly Minnesota Twins, the Boston Red Sox (54-55, 10 games back in the AL East) welcome the Texas Rangers (63-44, 5.5 games ahead in the AL West) to Fenway Park for a three-game series. Both teams are 5-5 in their last 10 games.
STARTING PITCHERS Yu Darvish, Ryan Dempster and Matt Harrison
Yu Darvish (facing Aaron Cook in the opener) has had a very good first season in Major League Baseball. On the good side of the ledger is Darvish’s 10.25 K/9 and his .227 batting average against. On the bad side of the ledger is 4.95 BB/9 and a 1.41 WHIP. If Darvish could cut down on his walks, his triple slash line of 4.38 ERA/3.89 FIP/3.90 xFIP would fall.
Ryan Dempster (against Jon Lester) is having a career year. His National League numbers were 2.25 ERA/3.42 FIP/3.71 xFIP. However, the Angels gave Dempster a rude introduction to the American League, pounding him for 8 runs on 9 hits and two homers. Dempster isn’t going to overpower you with his 89 MPH fastball but he doesn’t get himself in trouble, surrendering only 2.48 BB/9 and has a stellar batting average against of .219. Time will tell if Dempster can succeed in the American League.
Matt Harrison (versus Josh Beckett in the finale) has 13 wins, 5 losses, and a 3.17 ERA. Pretty good. A deeper look at Harrison’s numbers, however, shows that Harrison has been average this season. Harrison is walking only 2.47 batters per nine innings, which is good but he is striking out only 5.32 per nine. Not as good. His batting average against of .262? Not so good. FIP of 3.75 (14% better than average)? Pretty good. xFIP of 4.11 (1% better than average)? Oh.
1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
2. Elvis Andrus, SS
3. Josh Hamilton, CF
4. Adrian Beltre, 3B
5. Nelson Cruz, RF
6. Michael Young, DH
7. Mike Napoli, C
8. David Murphy, LF
9. Mitch Moreland, 1B
WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT
In the last 14 days, the hot hitters in Texas have been Ian Kinsler (.362/.444/.553, .441 wOBA, 178 wRC) and David Murphy (.425/.477/.600, .456 wOBA, 189 wRC). Special mention has to go out to Mike Napoli (.194/.390/.516, .391 wOBA, 144 wRC, 3 homers) and Nelson Cruz (.208/.304/.563, .361 wOBA, 123 wRC, 5 homers), who, despite low batting averages, are pounding the ball when they do hit it. But someone has to explain to me what happened to Josh Hamilton (.204/.241/.347, .250 wOBA, 47 wRC). He’s been ice cold for weeks.
In the Ranger bullpen, closer Joe Nathan (2.91 2.92 2.81, 10.59 1.66) continues his stellar return from injury. Robbie Ross (1.68 3.53 3.65 ) may flatter to deceive, but with a 64.5% ground ball rate, your defense is going to make you look good (or not). There is a bit of a controversy in the Rangers bullpen, as Roy Oswalt refused to pitch a third inning in relief in Sunday’s game. It seems he hates his new role.
RHP Neftali Feliz (recovery from August 2012 Tommy John surgery) and RHP Colby Lewis (recovery from July 2012 right elbow surgery) are out for the season. RHP Mark Lowe (strained ribcage muscle) and RHP Koji Uehara (strained right lat muscle) are on the 15-day DL. SS Elvis Andrus (right shoulder soreness) is day-to-day but is expected to play in this series.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?
Ugh. Losing 3 of 4 to the Twins? Really? I mean, really? Did that just happen? This team is killing me.
The hot hitters for the Red Sox in the past two weeks have been Adrian Gonzalez (.362/.434/.532, .409 wOBA, 156 wRC) and Will Middlebrooks (.326/.340/.500, .366 wOBA, 127 wRC). Carl Crawford (.261/.292/.543, .358 wOBA, 121 wRC) is finally heating up after returning from injury. Ryan Kalish (.167/.286/.250, .268 wOBA, 60 wRC), Mike Aviles (.207/.258/.310, .253 wOBA, 49 wRC) and Jacoby Ellsbury (.217/.302/.283, .275 wOBA, 64 wRC) need to step it up.
As for the starters, Clay Buchholz (1.23 ERA/3.90 FIP/4.58 xFIP) and Franklin Morales (1.50 ERA/3.25 FIP/4.23 xFIP) have pitched fairly well, despite Clay striking out too few batters (3.27 per 9) and Franklin walking too many (4.50 per 9). Jon Lester (4.50 ERA/3.51 FIP/2.50 xFIP) had a nice start against the Twins and seems to be over that horrible stretch he had. Aaron Cook (12.46 ERA/9.54 FIP/4.90 xFIP) has been terrible lately.
In the bullpen, Craig Breslow (0.00 ERA/1.88 FIP/4.09 xFIP) and Junichi Tazawa (0.00 ERA/0.68 FIP/1.57 xFIP) win the Blutarsky ERA Award, while Andrew Miller (5.79 ERA/5.87 FIP/4.03 xFIP), Mark Melancon (6.75 ERA/5.71 FIP/4.10 xFIP) and Alfredo Aceves (6.75 ERA/5.96 FIP/4.92 xFIP) had horrible fortnights.
The Rangers are keeping the Athletics and the Angels at bay in the AL West. Can they continue to do so without Josh Hamilton’s bat?