Series Preview: Texas Rangers

\Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers rookie first baseman Mike Olt (9) at bat in the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Rangers Ballpark. This was the first game in the major leagues for Olt. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

The Boston Red Sox are one game under .500, 4-1/2 games back of a wild card spot, trailing the Tigers, Athletics, Angels, Orioles, and Rays. The whole lot has had a poor past 10 games, with no one club able to take advantage of the middling play of all of the others, but that's a far worse situation for a team like Boston, who is in the back of the list, than it is for someone like the A's, who are counting down the days of the season for a different reason.

Boston just came off of the last (hypothetically) easy series they're going to have until late August when they face the
Royals, and it resulted in three losses and one win, with one of those Ls coming in extras, and another coming when Boston needed just one more pitch to secure a victory. Now they have to face the Texas Rangers, who, while reeling a bit themselves, are still dangerous.

Game 1: Yu Darvish (127-1/3 IP, 2.1 K/BB, 103 ERA+) vs. Aaron Cook (44-2/3 IP, 1.0 K/BB, 83 ERA+)

Game 2: Ryan Dempster (108-2/3 IP, 3.0 K/BB, 143 ERA+) vs. Jon Lester (134-1/3 IP, 2.8 K/BB, 81 ERA+)

Game 3: Matt Harrison (142 IP, 2.2 K/BB, 142 ERA+) vs. Josh Beckett (111 IP, 2.7 K/BB, 96 ERA+)

Darvish has been disappointing in the sense that he hasn't been an ace his first year out, but he's shown flashes of greatness, especially when you see that, in spite of an average overall campaign, he's striking out well over a batter per inning. He'll take on Aaron Cook, who has four strikeouts on the season, also known as the total that Yu Darvish has managed or exceeded in 19 of his 20 starts this year. If not for Beckett's missed start Sunday, Cook might already be out of the rotation, and deservedly so.

Ryan Dempster's first start with the Rangers didn't go so well, as he lasted just 4-2/3 innings and allowed two homers and eight runs. He's been better than that by a mile in 2012, as well as his whole career, but another rough start in a park he's not used to would work for the Sox. He'll take on Jon Lester, who has had two solid starts after his season hit its nadir against the Blue Jays.

Matt Harrison might not blow hitters away, but he's been very good for the Rangers for two years now as a starter. He'll face Josh Beckett, who the Rangers reportedly could have interest in once he and his contract clear waivers. Beckett missed his last start thanks to back spasms suffered in a start against the Tigers last week, but it wasn't considered a serious injury -- just bad enough that he needed a start skipped and the rotation reset a bit.

David Ortiz is unlikely to be back for this series, but in his place, we might see a bit more Ryan Lavarnway. Boston designated hitters just haven't been getting it done in his place, but with Lavarnway up, the outfield can remain in its strongest form, while Jarrod Saltalmacchia can get some time off from behind the plate to keep himself rested enough to produce. It's not optimal -- you want Ortiz in -- but at least there's a viable alternative until he can get back to 100 percent.

The Texas lineup is at full strength now that Mitch Moreland has come back from the disabled list, and we might even get a chance to see prospect Mike Olt this week. He's played in three games and picked up 11 plate appearances since his call-up, but Baseball America's #43 pre-season prospect hasn't done very much at the plate yet. He's a 23-year-old who mashed in Double-A, though, and the Rangers refused to give him up in the Zack Greinke deal. He's also likely the successor to Michael Young, who has been atrocious in 2012. That's a shame for non-Rangers fans, as he was the weak link in an otherwise strong lineup.

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