After taking two of three against the Yankees (thanks, rain!), the Boston Red Sox (35-23, first place in the AL East, 2.5 games ahead) return to Fenway Park to face the Texas Rangers (35-21, first place in the AL West, 1.5 games ahead) in a three-game series. The Red Sox are 7-3 in their last ten games and have won their last two games in a row, while the Rangers are 6-4 in their last ten games and won their last game.
Justin Grimm (versus Ryan Dempster in the opener) has promising statistics. Grimm’s pitching line of 3.93 ERA/3.48 FIP/3.74 xFIP is pretty good (minus line of 89 ERA-/80 FIP-/92 xFIP-) for a pitcher in his first full season in the majors. Grimm’s 7.52 K/9 and 2.39 BB/9 (3.14 K/BB) are above average. His GB rate of 45.3% is slightly higher than the league average of 44.0%, and his 9.5% HR/FB is better than the 11.0% league average in 2013. Grimm’s plate discipline statistics are all about average. However, Grimm’s batting average against is an ugly .286. But Grimm’s BABIP is high at .339 (the average BABIP is usually around .300), so with a little luck and/or some regression, Grimm’s ERA could significantly drop.
Alexi Ogando (against John Lackey) is the anti-Grimm. Ogando’s 3.08 ERA (70 ERA-) sure looks good. However, Ogando’s 6.70 K/9, 3.44 BB/9, 1.95 K/BB and 39.5% GB rate are all below average. Ogando has a .230 batting average against, but his BABIP of .262 is on the low side. Ogando has kept the ball in the park for the most part (8.5% HR/FB). But with some regression, Ogando could be a average to below-average pitcher (see his 4.21 FIP and 4.66 xFIP).
Derek Holland (facing Jon Lester in the finale) is having the best season of his career. After posting a pedestrian pitching line of 4.67 ERA/4.75 FIP/4.14 xFIP in 2012, Holland has rebounded to a line of 2.81 ERA/2.55 FIP/3.08 xFIP. Holland is striking out more batters (8.80/9 in 2013 versus 7.44/9 in 2012) and walking fewer batters (2.20 in 2013 versus 2.67 last year). Most notably, after surrendering 32 homers in 175.1 innings in 2012 (15.2% HR/FB), Holland has only given up 4 homers in 73.2 innings in 2013 (6.3% HR/FB). Granted, summer in Texas means that the ball flies out of the park, but even if Holland’s HR/FB rate rose to the 2013 league average of 11.0%, his xFIP says his ERA would be 3.08 (all other things being equal). Big ups to Holland.
EXPECTED LINEUP (based on games in Boston)
WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT
In the last two weeks, the hot hitters for the Rangers were Adrian Beltre (.390/.419/.634, .451 wOBA, 181 wRC), super-rookie Jurickson Profar (.343/.378/.543, .398 wOBA, 145 wRC) and Nelson Cruz (.308/.357/.538, .378 wOBA, 132 wRC), while Jeff Baker (.357/.400/.643, .445 wOBA, 177 wRC) also hit well in limited appearances. The cold Rangers with the bat were Geovany Soto (.143/.333/.143, .251 wOBA, 46 wRC), Lance Berkman (.179/.220/.256, .214 wOBA, 20 wRC), Elvis Andrus (.190/.271/.190, .209 wOBA, 17 wRC), Leury Garcia (.200/.200/.200, .177 wOBA, -4 wRC) and Craig Gentry (.111/.200/.111, .129 wOBA, -37 wRC).
In the Rangers bullpen, Neal Cotts (1.08 ERA/1.63 FIP/2.31 xFIP, .238 BABIP) and closer Joe Nathan (1.42 ERA/2.59 FIP/1.89 xFIP, be careful of that .000 BABIP) pitched well over the past two weeks. Tanner Scheppers (0.00 ERA/4.38 FIP/5.18 xFIP, .200 BABIP) got pretty lucky in the fortnight, and he must have gotten his luck directly from Robbie Ross (4.76 ERA/2.18 FIP/3.95 xFIP, .500 BABIP). Joe Ortiz (16.20 ERA/6.67 FIP/10.09 xFIP, .556 BABIP, 0.00 K/9, 10.80 BB/9, 22.2% GB) just plain stunk in two appearances.
AND NOW FOR A MUSICAL INTERLUDE
RHP Neftali Feliz (recovery from August 2012 Tommy John surgery, placed on the 60-day DL on March 23), LHP Matt Harrison (recovery from May 2013 back surgery, placed on the 15-day DL on April 10, retroactive to April 7, transferred to 60-day DL on May 25), 2B Ian Kinsler (right intercostal strain, laced on 15-day DL on May 19, retroactive to May 18), 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 the 60-day DL on April 11), RHP Alexi Ogando (right triceps inflammation, placed on the 15-day DL on May 16) and RHP Joakim Soria (recovery from April 2012 Tommy John surgery, placed on the 15-day DL on March 31, retroactive to March 22). However, Ogando will be activated from the DL before Wednesday’s game for his start.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?
In the last two weeks, the hot hitters for the Red Sox were Jose Iglesias (.424/.444/.606, .447 wOBA, 181 wRC), Jacoby Ellsbury (.400/.489/.550, .446 wOBA, 180 wRC), David Ortiz (.286/.412/.548, .403 wOBA, 151 wRC), Daniel Nava (.319/.439/.468, .403 wOBA, 151 wRC) and Mike Napoli (.326/.404/.500, .395 wOBA, 145 wRC). Pedro Ciriaco (.500/.500/.625, .489 wOBA, 209 wRC) also hit well in limited action (ok, he was 4-8, but still…). However, Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.216/.275/.324, .266 wOBA, 58 wRC), Stephen Drew (.167/.271/.310, .263 wOBA, 56 wRC), Jonny Gomes (.125/.241/.250, .231 wOBA, 34 wRC) and David Ross (.100/.100/.200, .126 wOBA, -37 wRC) need to find a few more ground balls with eyes.
In the Sox’ bullpen, Alfredo Aceves (0.00 ERA/1.07 FIP/2.49 xFIP, .333 BABIP) will get the Blutarsky ERA Award delivered to Pawtucket again. Craig Breslow (1.42 ERA/1.96 FIP/2.19 xFIP, .200 BABIP), Junichi Tazawa (1.80 ERA/2.87 FIP/0.84 xFIP, .333 BABIP) and Andrew Miller (2.08 ERA/3.30 FIP/1.28 xFIP, .500 BABIP, 18.69 K/9, 4.15 BB/9) excelled, while Koji Uehara (2.08 ERA/3.76 FIP/3.06 xFIP, .111 BABIP) rode a bit of luck. Alex Wilson (7.36 ERA/2.52 FIP/4.08 xFIP, .500 BABIP) probably didn’t deserve such a high ERA but a 4.91 BB/9 and a 16.7% GB rate will get a pitcher in trouble. Clayton Mortensen (10.80 ERA/5.67 FIP/7.95 xFIP, .300 BABIP, 1.80 K/9, 7.20 BB/9) is falling by the wayside
Two of the best teams in the American League facing off at Fenway? Yes, please!