Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, August 10, 2012 at 1:00 AM
Before the season started, it was assumed that Texas and Detroit would be on the very short list of probable American League champions. The Rangers were two-time defending league champs themselves. Detroit and the LA Angels had made offseason acquisitions that suggested they had improved enough to make serious runs at the top.
In the first half of the 2012 season, Detroit was a big disappointment. They didn’t completely fall off the map the same way somebody like Philadelphia did. But, they were like Boston, Tampa Bay, and a few others in the set of teams who were just kind of treading water as the season passed them by at a surprising rate. They weren’t out of the picture yet…but others like Oakland and the Chicago White Sox were getting their tuxedos ready.
After bottoming out at 26-32 in the first game of an Interleague series in Cincinnati back in early June, Detroit:
*Went 7-2 over their next nine games to get within inches of the .500 mark…
*Treaded water for awhile longer before catching fire after stumbling to 39-42, with two wins over Minnesota, three wins over Kansas City, two of three against Baltimore, three of four against LAA, then three straight against the Chicago White Sox. That was 13-3 over 16 games…with a 6-1 mark against the previously hot Angels and Chisox!
*After the inevitable cool-off that saw disappointing struggles against the likes of Cleveland, Toronto, and Boston, the Tigers got hot again…sweeping the Tribe before settling for a disappointing 2-2 split against the powerful Yankees (losing the last two after winning the first two).
That leaves Texas at 60-52 entering the Rangers series. They’re now knocking at the door of the AL Central race (while looking much better than CWS under pennant race pressure). And, they’re in the thick of the Wildcard race when it looked like Oakland and LAA were in position to run away from the field a couple of weeks ago.
On the other end of the spectrum, Texas has been dealing with concerns that they may have peaked early. They were a true juggernaut in the first third of the season…with strong pitching and a potent attack. Then, Josh Hamilton stopped hitting…FOR TWO MONTHS! Pitchers started developing arm troubles. Guys brought in to replace those pitchers either struggled or pulled up lame. This is still a good team. But, they’ve lacked the consistency in recent weeks to be considered a GREAT team any more. They’re a great team when Hamilton is an offensive force. They’re just another team with their name in the hat if he’s going to be mortal through the rest of the campaign.
That sets the stage for this monster series. It might be a playoff preview…it might even be an ALCS preview. And, it’s worth noting that the team with the better record in the standings may not even be the better team right now! Let’s see how the projected pitching matchups shape up…
Detroit: Scherzer (10-6, 4.72 ERA, 1.41 WHIP)
Texas: Feldman (6-6, 4.52 ERA, 1.30 WHIP)
Feldman gets the nod here in terms of full season stats. It’s much more impressive to post a 4.52 ERA while throwing your home games in Arlington than it is to post a 4.72 ERA while throwing your home game in Detroit. Though, Scherzer always has the capability of blowing hitters away…and this ballpark can be an equalizer in some conditions because NOBODY can get anyone out. You saw that last week when Ryan Dempster made his debut start for the Rangers after coming over from the Cubs. Remember here that Detroit is flying in without a day off after finishing up their series with the Yankees Thursday afternoon. Texas had a day off after playing in Boston back on Wednesday.
SATURDAY (on MLB Network)
Detroit: Verlander (12-7, 2.51 ERA, 0.98 WHIP)
Texas: Holland (7-6, 5.18 ERA, 1.28 WHIP)
Verlander is having a Cy Young season, and will be the clear favorite in this spot. It’s always great to see the true elite pitchers try to deal with great hitting parks. That’s true here in Arlington, up in Boston, in Chicago when the wind is blowing out, and even in Colorado at altitude in the years that the Rockies have an actual team. If Verlander has his electric stuff, then nobody’s going to hit him anywhere. He’s been showing some signs of mortality every so often lately though…which could open the door for the hosts. Note that Holland’s ERA is bigger than you’d expect for that WHIP. Opponents have been doing damage with big blows…which is really bad news if you’re facing Detroit’s offense in a great hitting environment.
Detroit: Porcello (9-6, 4.62 ERA, 1.51 WHIP)
Texas: Darvish (11-8, 4.57 ERA, 1.46 WHIP)
All sorts of potential here. Porcello pitches to contact, which can be a disaster in hitters’ parks. But, he’s shown us in the past that his craftiness can make it tough for opponents to hit him hard. Darvish has been getting hit hard by seemingly everyone lately. He may be getting tired from a summer in the Texas heat. Opponents may be getting a read on him after dealing with the element of surprise at first. Or, maybe this is just a brief slump that will go away by playoff time. Right now, the Rangers are worried about Darvish and the consistency of their whole staff. This one game will go a long way toward determining their mindset over the final quarter of the regular season. We’ll be thinking about either Detroit or the Over in this one depending on game conditions and the texture of the series through the first two.
JIM HURLEY is likely to have at least one major play in this series this weekend, and could conceivably be stepping out at least twice given the pitching matchups and information that may come in from our on site sources. Other matchups of note in the baseball Friday-Sunday:
Oakland at Chicago White Sox (Sunday’s game on TBS)
Washington at Arizona
Hey, it wasn’t exactly brain surgery picking out the showcase series this weekend! Most of the contenders are playing non-contenders. But, those games present challenges of their own as you learned earlier this week. Cincinnati got swept by Milwaukee. The Chicago White Sox ran into trouble against the slumping Kansas City Royals. YOU don’t want to be zigging with favorites when you’re supposed to be zagging with underdogs!
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There are six games in the NFL we’re looking at Friday Night, including NY Jets/Cincinnati on the NFL Network, Tampa Bay/Miami in a big rivalry game, and NY Giants/Jacksonville as the defending Super Bowl champions take the field for the first time.
Whether it’s baseball or football amidst this August heat…you’re going to GET ALL THE MONEY WITH JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!
We continue our summer series of college football conference previews this weekend with the Big 12 (Saturday) and the Big East (Sunday). Then our NFL divisional previews continue Monday-Thursday with the four NFC groups. If you’re just joining us today after a summer layoff, please check this week’s archives for our four AFC divisional previews…and for the weekend reports about the colleges that have been running since early July. If you missed them when they first ran, you should STILL print them out so you have them handy for the start of the regular season. It will be here before you know it!
FOOTBALL SEASON IS HERE…GET TO WORK!