Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, August 2, 2013 at 7:00 AM
It’s way too early to say that the AL West race will be determined by what happens in the first weekend of August when the second-place Texas Rangers visit the division leading Oakland A’s for three games Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. But, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the race will be shaped by what happens over the next 72 hours.
*Oakland has a four-game lead at the moment, and could lift that all the way up to seven with a sweep.
*Texas has picked up a couple of games already this week on what had been a six-game deficit. They could cut it all the way to ONE by engineering a road sweep.
*Oakland can at least solidify its current advantage by taking two of three, putting Texas further behind the eight-ball than they already are.
Now…there’s more than just a division at stake here. Texas is smack dab in the middle of a Wildcard race that’s gotten very tricky. Let’s assume for now that one of the two Wildcard spots will go to either Tampa Bay or Boston…whichever AL East power fails to win that division. That leaves one last playoff spot available for:
*The AL West runner-up
*The NY Yankees
*Conceivably Kansas City if they stay hot
Before scoring a string of near-miracle wins against the fading Los Angeles Angels…the Rangers had been in a bad slump that brought them back to the pack. Worse, some of the slump happened in Cleveland, which helped launch the Tribe PAST the Rangers in the standings. Now that they aren’t facing the Angels’ bullpen every day in great home run conditions, can the Rangers re-establish themselves as a legitimate danger?
One more quick note. These teams play in extreme home parks. And, this year, those extremes have tricked the media into false storylines. The Oakland A’s are being falsely billed as a poor-hitting team that’s getting bailed out by great pitching. Once you adjust for the extreme ballpark effects, this is an above average offense and an inconsistent by slightly above average pitching staff. The Texas Rangers have been HORRIBLE offensively during long stretches this season, but have gathered some very strong arms for their staff. Keeping those arms fresh and healthy is another matter. Be sure you know how to read through the stat pollution for these teams.
The projected pitching matchups…
Texas…Ogando: 4-3, 3.05 ERA, 1.26 WHIP
Oakland…Milone: 9-8, 4.10 ERA, 1.26 WHIP
The Rangers have been stingy with pitch counts in the two starts Ogando’s made since returning from injury. They really want him to be available for the playoffs…but now they have to sweat actually reaching the playoffs. He’s not pitching as well as those full season numbers would suggest right now because he’s working his way back into form.
Milone’s ERA has gradually been rising in recent weeks, though he is capable of throwing a gem. If he’s facing s struggling offense in a pitcher’s park, he should be good to go. How do you rate the Rangers…who had struggled for several days before finally hitting some homers against the Angels beleaguered bullpen?
Texas…Garza: 7-1, 2.95 ERA, 1.10 WHIP
Oakland…Parker: 6-6, 4.07 ERA, 1.23 WHIP
Garza’s having a terrific season. That was helped by playing in the inferior National League. But, he has more than held his own so far in two AL appearances for the Rangers. They’re desperately hoping his solid form continues. Interesting test having to face the above-average A’s offense in a pitcher’s park.
Those aren’t good numbers for Parker in context…particularly going 6-6 for a World Series contender while posting an ERA over 4.00 while throwing home games in a pitcher’s park. But, he had been trending in the right direction for several weeks before getting hit hard by the Angels last time out. This A’s staff is so tricky to deal with. The guys outside of Colon don’t have stellar numbers…but the team keeps right on winning anyway.
Texas…Holland: 8-6, 3.18 ERA, 1.28 WHIP
Oakland…Griffin: 10-7, 3.90 ERA, 1.11 WHIP
Great numbers for Holland, considering his home games are played in a launching pad. If he had any kind of run support he’d have a much better won-lost record. Not far from Darvish in terms of delivering ace caliber material to the Rangers.
Kind of a grinder season for Griffin…who’s thrown some absolute gems, but is more likely to allow a couple or a few runs while lasting deep enough to help you. This A’s staff is less-consistent than you’d expect for a strong team…but more consistent than “mediocre” if that makes sense. Pretty good can do a lot of damage these days. Will it be enough to win this series and put a stranglehold on the Western title?
JIM HURLEY will likely have at least one big play in this series. He’s also looking at St. Louis/Cincinnati, LA Dodgers/Chicago Cubs, Arizona/Boston, and NY Yankees/San Diego. You can purchase daily baseball right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.
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