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Red Sox at Rangers Series Preview

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A look ahead to this week’s series in Texas.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Boston Red Sox David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation Blog

Lonestar Ball

The opponent in one sentence

The Rangers have a strong offense but are hovering around .500 thanks to a lackluster rotation and an inconsistent-at-best bullpen.

Record

40-42

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 3, Rangers 0

Trend

Down. The Rangers took care of the Yankees the weekend prior to this past weekend, but they’ve been struggling since winning that series. They’ve won only two of their last seven games, and that includes losing two out of three to the White Sox. The Red Sox will look to continue that downward trajectory.

Pitching Matchups

7/3: Rick Porcello vs. Martin Perez, 8:00 PM ET

Porcello clearly hasn’t been up to par this year and is arguably the most disappointing player on this Red Sox team. With that being said, he at least looks better in his last few outings, even if the results haven’t been what we’d hope for. As we’ve been saying all season, the key for the righty is to work the edges of the zone and have confidence in his ability to do so. This is particularly true with his two-seam fastball. That pitch has actually looked alright lately, though, and he seems as if he’s one or two small tweaks from going on a big run in the second half. Perhaps that can start in Texas. Porcello allowed five runs (four of which were earned) on 11 hits with four strikeouts in 6 23 innings against the Rangers earlier this year.

Perez is actually currently on the disabled list with a fractured thumb and hasn’t officially been announced as Monday’s starter, although that is expected to come down this afternoon. The lefty has made 15 starts for the Rangers this season and has pitched to a 4.70 ERA with a 4.26 FIP and a 5.30 DRA. Perez has never been a pitcher to rely on his stuff, but instead depends on plenty of weak contact and grounders. That clearly hasn’t worked out on a consistent basis this year. If the Red Sox are getting balls into the air on Monday, they should have success. He allowed three runs in 6 13 innings against the Red Sox earlier this year. Perez will feature both a four-seamer and a sinker — both in the mid-90s — along with a curveball and a changeup.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

7/4: David Price vs. Yu Darvish, 8:00 PM ET

Like Porcello, Price has not been the pitcher we were hoping to see in his seven starts since returning to the disabled list. Also like Porcello, he seems on the verge of totally figuring it out as he has performed better in his last couple of outings. The runs are still being scored, but he is improving. During his worst stretch early in June, he was walking players left and right, an issue that has never really plagued Price before. He only walked one batter over his last two starts (spanning 13 innings), though. The hope is he can continue to do so against the Rangers on Independence Day, and perhaps the results will start to follow with it.

Tuesday will be the biggest test of the week for Boston, as they go up against the Rangers’ ace. Darvish has pitched to a 3.11 ERA for Texas over 17 starts this season with a 3.72 FIP and a 2.58 DRA. He hasn’t been quite as dominant in terms of strikeouts this season, setting down fewer than ten batters per nine innings for the first time in his career. Of course, that rate is at 9.7 K/9, so it’s not as if he’s a scrub in this area. He’s also had simply average command judging by his walk rate around three per nine and the 13 home runs he’s allowed. That’s not to be too negative, as we’re talking about an outstanding pitcher who has 16 strikeouts against just one walk in his last 13 innings. Part of that is due to a 10-strikeout, 0-walk outing against the vaunted Yankees lineup. Darvish will feature a mid-90s fastball and sinker to go with a cutter and a devastating slider.

7/5: Doug Fister vs. Andrew Cashner, 8:05 PM ET

Fister is, as of now, expected to make his third start of his Red Sox career on Wednesday. There could be a chance that Eduardo Rodriguez will be ready to come back this week, but Fister is listed as the probable starter as of now, so we’ll roll with that. The former Angel (most recently) has been decent enough in his first two outings with the team, though he hasn’t been overly impressive either. For a fifth starter who will likely be bumped out of the rotation soon, he has been more than enough. With that being said, the offense will have to do its part on Wednesday to pull out a win.

As with Perez on Monday, Cashner hasn’t been officially announced as Wednesday’s starter just yet, but it appears he will get the nod. The righty has an improbable 3.87 ERA over 13 starts with Texas this year to go with a 4.43 FIP and a 6.08 DRA. I say it is improbable because over 74 innings he has just 36 strikeouts compared to 33 walks. For what it’s worth, his ERA has ballooned up to 6.14 in the month of June, and the Red Sox were able to score five runs in five innings against him in May. Cashner relies heavily on a low-to-mid-90s sinker to go with a mid-90s four-seamer, a changeup and a cutter.

Old Friends

Mike Napoli was, of course, a key member of the 2013 championship team. After a strong season with the Indians in 2016, he returned to Texas with his third stint with the Rangers this year. Things haven’t gone as well in 2017 for the first baseman, as he’s hitting just .192/.272/.415 on the season and is mainly being plagued by his propensity to strike out. Napoli appeared to be turning things around in May but struggled mightily in June. Hopefully for the Red Sox this isn’t an every other month type deal.

Adrian Beltre is one of the biggest what-ifs in Red Sox history, and they haven’t been able to find a consistent solution at third base since he left following the 2010 season. Of course, he’s been just fine since then and has built a Hall of Fame resumé. He began this season with a length DL stint, but in 120 plate appearances since returning he is hitting a good ..279/.358/.500.

Notable Hitters

Elvis Andrus has somewhat surprisingly been the best everyday bat in Texas’ lineup this season. The star defensive shortstop has been able to get on base at a high clip thanks not to strong plate discipline but rather good contact skills and speed. It will be key for Red Sox pitchers to keep him off base atop the Rangers lineup as much as possible.

Shin-Soo Choo has had an up-and-down Rangers career but is on the way up in 2017. He’s average at just about everything at the plate except for patience. In that area, he is great and has been elite this year with a walk rate above 15 percent. He ranks ninth in walk rate this year among qualified batters.

Nomar Mazara is one of the most talented young hitters in the game, though he’s still a bit inconsistent at just 22 years old. He’s solidly average across the board, but there is potential for so much more.

Rougned Odor was supposed to be one of the best players on the Rangers roster this year but has combined a drop in power, bad luck and poor plate discipline to be one of the worst regular hitters in baseball this season.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Chicago White Sox Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Joey Gallo is among the more fascinating players in the game, as he brings elite power to the table along with great patience and atrocious strikeout tendencies.

Carlos Gomez has been incredibly streaky for the Rangers this year, and unfortunately for the Red Sox he’s on one of his hot streaks.

Jonathan Lucroy has been hugely disappointing for Texas since they traded for the catcher last summer and now he finds himself on the trade block.

Delino DeShields Jr. doesn’t play everyday, but when he does get in the lineup he features great speed that helps him get on base and wreak havoc when he gets there.

Bullpen Snapshot

The Rangers have had some consistent struggles in their bullpen this year and closer Matt Bush was taken out of his role recently. Now, they are rolling with a large committee that includes all of the following names.

Bush is no longer the number one option in Texas’ bullpen, but you can expect him to still be in the mix if he has a couple strong outings coming up. Although he struggles with command, he has the stuff to dominate lineups in any given outing.

Keone Kela is probably the number one option right now and also the most talented arm in this bullpen. At just 24 years old he strikes out more than 12 batters per nine innings while keeping his walk rate low enough to avoid major problems.

Jose Leclerc is another talented young arm who strikes out even more batters than Kela to help cancel out his more extreme control issues.

Alex Claudio is a contact-oriented pitcher who gets great results thanks to an elite ground ball rate. The results are good enough to think he could be a closer, but he’s also their primary lefty.

Injuries

Jake Diekman was supposed to be Texas’ primary lefty out of the bullpen but has been out all season after having his colon removed this past offseason. Back in April, the hope was that he’d return after the All-Star break, and that appears to still be the case.

Chi Chi Gonzalez was once a top prospect but hasn’t been able to put it together as a major-league starter. He’s been out all season with a tear in his UCL. He’s trying to avoid Tommy John surgery and began a throwing program early in June.

A.J. Griffin made eight lackluster starts for the Rangers early in the season before going down with an intercostal strain. He’s not eligible return until late July.

Jeremy Jeffress is a former closer who has lost his command since being traded to Texas last summer. He was placed on the disabled list with a back injury in late June and his timetable to return is unclear at this time.

Hanser Alberto was supposed to be a young bench piece for the Rangers this year but has been out since spring training with a shoulder injury. After undergoing surgery, it’s likely he’ll miss the entire season.

Weather Forecast

The Red Sox and Rangers should be able to get this series in with no problems, but as it generally is in Texas it is going to be scorching in Arlington this week. Day-time temperatures are expected to reach the high-90s and the lows are forecasted in the mid-to-high 70s. It is going to be uncomfortable for everyone there. There are also thunderstorms in the forecast for Wednesday, although those should pass by the time first pitch arrives.