SB Nation Blog
The Opponent in one sentence
The Rangers haven’t quite bottomed out like a lot of other teams around the league, but they are still clearly out of the playoff race largely thanks to poor pitching all year.
Red Sox 3, Rangers 1
Down, but only slightly. The Rangers haven’t been good this year and they are going through a rough stretch, but that was coming off a very good end to June. To end that month Texas won 11 of 13 games. Since the calendar flipped, however, they’ve lost five of seven. Hopefully the Red Sox can keep the more recent stretch going.
7/9: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Mike Minor, 7:00 PM ET
Rodriguez is coming off what was probably his best start of the year and what was perhaps his most impressive start of his entire major-league career. The lefty was using all of his pitches, and specifically his changeup, with great success while also pitching extremely efficiently. He didn’t make it super deep into the game because NL rules are hell, but he could have made it through seven or maybe even eight in a normal game. We’ve seen him look great (if not this great) before and then we’ve seen him backslide immediately after. Hopefully this time around he will continue to show confidence in the changeup. He struggled a bit in Texas earlier this year, allowing five runs over six innings. He did strike out ten batters, though.
Minor hasn’t been great since signing with the Rangers prior to this season but he’s been...fine. The lefty has made 16 starts for Texas this year and has posted a 4.63 ERA that comes in almost exactly average as a 98 ERA+. FIP suggests that ERA is about right given his solid strikeout rate, good control and bad home run rate, but DRA has him all the way up at 6.01, 36 percent worse than the league-average pitcher. For what it’s worth, he’s been better of late pitching to a 2.53 ERA over his last five starts. The Red Sox scored three runs over six innings against Minor earlier this year. The southpaw will feature a low-to-mid-90s fastball along with a slider, a changeup and a curveball.
7/10: Hector Velazquez vs. Yovani Gallardo, 7:10 PM ET
The Red Sox haven’t officially named a starter for Tuesday’s game, but it seems that the plan is to go with Velazquez with Johnson on the disabled list. The righty has been pitching out of the bullpen all year and has largely pitched well in that role. Over 45 innings (that does include two starts early in the year) he has pitched to a 2.76 ERA, though his peripherals suggest he hasn’t been quite that good. He doesn’t miss many bats so he’ll need to have his command on point against a Rangers lineup that can run into plenty of homers. It should also be mentioned that Velazquez hasn’t thrown more than 52 pitches since April 14, so expect someone like William Cuevas to be piggy-backed in this game.
Once upon a time, Gallardo was fairly underrated on a national level as the number one arm in Milwaukee. Now, he’s just barely hanging on as a major-league pitcher. He started this season pitching very poorly out of the Reds’ bullpen, and now he’s made four starts with the Rangers. Over that span he’s pitched to a 5.87 ERA with a low strikeout rate and a real home run problem. These days, Gallardo features two low-90s fastballs along with a slider and a curveball.
7/11: Chris Sale vs. Bartolo Colon, 7:00 PM ET
Wednesday is Sale Day at Fenway Park, and it will be the final Sale Day before the All-Star break. The Rangers will not be happy that they have to run into the buzzsaw that is Sale because he is on some kind of run right now. The Red Sox ace has been great all year, but his last six starts in particular have been something absurd. In that span he has pitched to a 1.10 ERA over 41 innings of work with 66 strikeouts and 9 walks. Good lord. Sale allowed just one run in seven innings against the Rangers earlier this year with 12 strikeouts and just one walk.
Colon is 45 years old and somehow still pitching in the majors thanks to a totally revamped pitching style that includes very little in the way of stuff but plenty in the way of control and command. This style has worked to some extent for the righty this year as he has pitched to a 4.65 ERA this year. If he’s keeping the ball in the park he has generally been good this year, but that hasn’t happened a ton. The Red Sox scored four runs in seven innings off the veteran earlier this year. Colon will throw a pair of high-80s fastballs along with a changeup.
Colon is a former Red Sox pitcher, though he’s not as beloved in Boston as he is around the league since he just straight-up left the team back in 2008 without much explanation.
Adrian Beltre is a beloved former Red Sox despite spending just one season in Boston. The third baseman was amazing in 2010 and the team deciding not to keep him around is one of the great what-ifs in team history. Either way he’s continued to flourish since leaving and should be enshrined in Cooperstown one day.
Doug Fister was a surprise contributor to the Red Sox last season and was a quiet key to stabilizing the back of the rotation and helping propel them to a playoff berth. He hasn’t been able to replicate that this season, but we’ll always have 2017.
Notable Position Players
Beltre has spent some time on the disabled list this season, but when he’s been on the field he’s generally been good despite not hitting for the power he used to. He’ll be on base plenty this week.
Shin-Soo Choo has been the Rangers best player this season as the leadoff man is drawing a ton of walks while also hitting for big-time power atop Texas’ lineup. He’ll also provide
value on the bases, though not really via stolen bases.
Nomar Mazara is still looking to make the step into stardom, but in the meantime he is a good player with average-to-above-average production across the board without anything really standing out.
Joey Gallo has had an up-and-down year and is one of the game’s biggest examples of an all-or-nothing player. He will draw plenty of walks, but besides that it’s generally either a home run or a strikeout with him. Expect some extreme shifts against the lefty, too.
Elvis Andrus has been hurt for much of this year but he’s back now. Andrus provides great defense at shortstop and good contact skills, though the power hasn’t come around this season.
Jurickson Profar is a former number one prospect who is finally coming into his own this year. He’s not a star, but he can play all over the diamond while providing an all-around skillset at the plate.
Rougned Odor hasn’t lived up to his enormous potential at the plate as his poor contact skills have overshadowed his power.
Robinson Chirinos is a likely trade piece this summer and the power-hitting catcher will be an offensive upgrade behind the plate for most teams in the league.
Delino DeShields is not a very good hitter and has almost no power to speak of, but if/when he does reach base he will wreak havoc with his speed.
Keone Kela is the Rangers closer and a very talented young reliever. He’s still a bit erratic at times and that can lead to some blown saves late in games, but for the most part he is tough to square up and will get plenty of strikeouts.
Jake Diekman is the top setup man and the top lefty in the Rangers bullpen, and while he has some control issues he has been able to counteract that with strikeout stuff. The Red Sox will want to be patient against the southpaw.
Jose Leclerc is the top right-handed set-up option and has essentially the same profile as Diekman in terms of strikeouts and walks, just for the other arm.
Fister has been on the disabled list since early June with a knee injury and is not eligible to return until the middle of August.
Chris Martin has been one of the best Rangers relievers this year but he’s expected to be out until August with a groin injury.
Matt Bush has closed for this team in the past but right now he is out indefinitely with an elbow injury.
Martin Perez has been out of Texas’ rotation since late-April with an elbow injury but is expected to return very soon.
Tony Barnette strained a lat muscle and will be out for at least a month, if not longer.
Carlos Perez has been out with an ankle injury but could be back in his backup catcher role as soon as this series.
Clayton Blackburn underwent Tommy John surgery at the start of the year and will be out all season.
Ronald Herrera has been out all year with a shoulder injury and is hoping to be back at some point in the second half.
Joe Palumbo underwent Tommy John surgery last summer and is about to start working his way back.
It is going to be a nice summer week in Boston with daytime temperatures in the 90s for this series. Tuesday could be the only questionable game as there is plenty of humidity in the area and that could lead to some thunderstorms. It doesn’t appear we should expect any cancellations, though.