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Series Preview: Red Sox at Rangers

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A look ahead to the four-game stint in Texas

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Texas Rangers Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

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Lone Star Ball

The Opponent in one sentence

The Rangers have gotten off to an awful start from which they probably won’t recover due to league-worst pitching numbers and a middle-of-the-road offense that has plenty of potential but little consistency.

Record

12-20

Head-to-Head Record

0-0

Trend

Down, a bit. Things had been looking up for this Rangers team about a week ago as they won three straight and looked like maybe they could turn things around. That didn’t last super long as they lost their last game in Toronto before heading to Cleveland and dropping two of three. They are an even 5-5 over their last ten, though, so this isn’t a team that is reeling or anything at the moment.

Pitching Matchups

5/3: David Price vs. Mike Minor, 8:05 PM ET

Price is looking to recover from his worst outing of the year in which he could feel his throwing hand, having lost his command last time out against the Rays. For the most part the lefty has been nails this year, though, and he just needs to get back to being able to locate that fastball and cutter on the edges of the zone. Price made one start against Texas last year and was great, tossing six shutout innings with nine strikeouts and two walks.

Minor was an offseason acquisition for the Rangers, who decided to convert the former Braves starter back to the rotation after a year in Kansas City’s bullpen. The early returns have been solid as he has an ERA+ above 100 (meaning he’s been above-average when park effects are factored in), he’s showing consistent control and his strikeout stuff has been solid though a bit inconsistent start-to-start. The Red Sox have had some trouble against lefties this year, so this will be a good test. Minor tossed 5 23 innings against Boston last year over four appearances and he allowed two runs on eight strikeouts and three walks. The southpaw features a low-to-mid-90s fastball to go with a slider, changeup and curveball.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

5/4: Rick Porcello vs. Bartolo Colon, 8:05 PM ET

Porcello has been everything the Red Sox could have possibly hoped for and more this year. In fact, one could make the argument that he somehow looks even better than he did during his Cy Young campaign in 2016. Obviously, that doesn’t mean a ton because the wonder of that season was that he was so good all year, but the righty is coming off a dominant April. Due to lackluster run support he hasn’t gotten a win in his last two starts (the horror!) so hopefully that can change on Friday.

Colon has been pitching since the 1930’s (or 1997 if you want facts), and if you’ll recall he had a brief stint with the Red Sox a decade ago. It’s amazing that he’s still pitching and that he can still put zeroes on the board, and he somehow has a sub-3.00 ERA over his first 31 innings this year. The soon to be 45-year-old won’t miss many bats but he’s proven tough to square up this year. The Red Sox did not see Colon last year, and the righty features a a low-90s four-seamer, a high-80s two-seamer and a changeup with a slider mixed in once in a while as well.

5/5: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Cole Hamels, 8:05 PM ET

Rodriguez may or may not be making this start as he was placed on the family leave list prior to Wednesday’s game. The lefty has to miss at least three games, but that would put him on track to return for his outing if he can. Alex Cora thinks he could be back by then but wouldn’t say 100 percent. Fortunately, the Red Sox have options even if Rodriguez doesn’t come back. Expect either Hector Velazquez or Brian Johnson to make this start if Rodriguez is unable to.

Hamels and the Red Sox have some history as he was a popular trade target for what seemed like forever just a few years ago. Guys like Blake Swihart and even Mookie Betts were floated as possible chips, but Ben Cherington never pulled the trigger. That turned out to be a good move (at least with respect to Mookie) as the lefty hasn’t really been the same in recent years. His first year-and-a-half in Texas were good, but he’s fallen off since then. He has an ERA over four in each of the last two years (though his ERA+ is still above-average for both) and while he’s striking out batters again in 2018 it’s also coming with more walks and more home runs. Hamels has been settling in of late, though, allowing just two runs in three of his last four outings. The Red Sox did not see the lefty last year and he features a pair of low-90s fastballs to go with a cutter, a changeup and a curveball.

5/6: Chris Sale vs. Doug Fister, 3:05 PM ET

Sunday is Sale Day, the best day of the week. As we’ve mentioned a whole lot, the Red Sox ace still doesn’t look quite like himself, but the more time goes on I think it’s all about standards. He’s still dominating pretty much every time out and maybe he was so out of his mind to start last year that our realistic perceptions are out of whack. Or maybe he’s just holding himself back and he’ll get back to that. Either way, this is one of the best pitchers in baseball and every team that faces him is going to be upset that they are forced to do so.

The Red Sox will face their second old friend of the weekend in the series finale as last year’s surprise rotation stalwart will take the mound opposite Sale. This game should move at a ferocious pace as both Sale and Fister fly through the motions. The righty’s performance with the Sox last year earned him a major-league contract this winter, and he’s been good again for the Rangers with a 2.88 ERA. The fashion it’s being done is very similar as it was with the Red Sox with fine strikeout and walk numbers but mostly weak contact getting him through. Fister leans on that high-80s, low-90s sinker to go with a cutter, a curveball and a splitter.

Old Friends

Adrian Beltre is the most prominent old friend in this series and one of the best “what-ifs” in franchise history. One of the best third basemen of all-time, he only played one year in Boston but he made a big impression on the fans in that amazing season. Unfortunately, he’s on the shelf for this series and we won’t be able to see him.

Colon and Fister are the other two old friends in this series, and they were discussed above. Fister’s legacy with Boston is probably a little cleaner than that of Colon’s, given that the latter up and quit on the team in the middle of the year.

MLB: Houston Astros at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Notable Position Players

If you like three true outcomes (walks, homers and strikeouts) then Joey Gallo is the player for you. He is the most fearsome hitter in this lineup with arguably the biggest raw power in the game and the ability to draw a million walks, but he’s also going to whiff a whole bunch in this series. If the Sox can keep him in the yard, they’ll be alright.

Nomar Mazara is not far removed from being one of the best prospects in the game, and despite it being his third season in the majors he’s still only 23 years old. We’re still waiting for the consistent power, but the talent is clearly there.

Jurickson Profar was once the top prospect in the game but he never really found his footing with the Rangers, particularly in terms of hitting for power. Amazingly, he’s still only 25 years old but it feels like he’ll have to get a fresh start somewhere if he’s going to come close to his potential.

Shin-Soo Choo is one of the steadier, if unexciting, players in the league as he has solid power and tremendous on-base skills.

Delino DeShields Jr. is a terrific athlete and will wreak havoc on the bases, but his contact issues make his bat inconsistent at best.

Ronald Guzman is a recent call-up and one of the top prospects in Texas’ organization. The first baseman doesn’t hit for a ton of power but he has the on-base skills to make up for it.

Robinson Chirinos is one of the very best power-hitting catchers in all of baseball, but he can’t quite take the next step in his game due to very real contact issues.

Bullpen Snapshot

Keone Kela has seemed like the closer-in-waiting for Texas for a few years now, but he’s finally gotten the gig this year. He’s been mostly solid despite a rough ERA and his stuff is filthy when it’s on, but there are some command issues that can certainly get the better of him at times.

The Rangers are a bit unorthodox as two of their other late-inning arms are lefties. Alex Claudio is their former closer and while he doesn’t get a ton of strikeouts he induces incredibly weak contact on a consistent basis. Jake Diekman is more of a prototypical late-inning arm.

Kevin Jepsen is the Rangers’ next-best righty after Kela, but he’s had a rough start to the year in just about every respect.

Injuries

Beltre, as mentioned above, is on the shelf for this series. He shouldn’t be out too much longer with his hamstring injury, but I haven’t seen any indication he’ll be back as soon as this weekend.

Elvis Andrus is arguably the best player on the Rangers these days, but the shortstop fractured his elbow and is going to be out for at least another 4-6 weeks, if not longer.

Rougned Odor is out with a hamstring injury of his own and could return this weekend, but more likely will return at some point after this series.

Tim Lincecum hasn’t been able to pitch yet this season, but he’s expected to start throwing in extended spring training at some point this weekend.

Chris Martin had worked his way up to a set-up role before going down with a forearm injury. His timetable is unknown.

Clayton Blackburn underwent Tommy John and will miss the entire season.

Carlos Tocci is a backup outfielder, but he’s been out for about a week with a hip injury.

Ronald Herrera was a trade acquisition from the Yankees, but he’s going to miss at least half of this season with a shoulder injury.

Joe Palumbo is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and likely won’t be in the majors even after he’s activated.

Ricardo Rodriguez just started a rehab appearance as he recovers from a biceps injury, but he’s ineligible to return to the majors until the end of the month.

Weather Forecast

We may have some issues getting the first game off without any interruptions as there are thunderstorms in the forecast down in Arlington with calls for downpours at times over the night. Hopefully that will just mean a delay or two and not an outright cancellation, but we’ll see. The rest of the weekend should be clear, though Friday is expected to be a little cooler than you’d expect.