Rangers at Tigers: Series Preview
The Rangers completed an 8-0 home stand with a blowout victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday afternoon. The team has now won nine straight games—their fourth-longest winning streak in team history and their longest since 2011. Two weeks ago, the Rangers began a 5-series run of games against teams either at or below .500. This stretch had the potential to make or break the Rangers season, and so far they have succeeded by going 12-3, which has helped them rise above .500 for the first time all year. This weekend series against the Tigers marks the last in that all-important stretch before their schedule gets exponentially tougher.
While the Tigers haven’t been great this year, they have a respectable record and trail the Minnesota Twins by just one game in the AL Central. They are also coming off an impressive series in which they beat the Baltimore Orioles in two of three games. The Tigers now have an 11-8 record at home and will be facing off against a Rangers team that has struggled on the road thus far in 2017. While the Rangers have won nine in a row, eight of those came at home. If they are going to be successful in Detroit, they will have to improve upon their 6-12 road record thus far. The good thing for the Rangers is that the last time they came to Detroit they swept the Tigers outscoring them by a total of 23-9.
The Rangers may also be catching a break in that Miguel Cabrera was just placed on the DL with an oblique strain. While he is said to be day-to-day, it would not be surprising if he doesn’t play this weekend against the Rangers.
Rangers: 22-20—2nd in AL West
Tigers: 20-19—2nd in AL Central
Rangers projected starters
Tigers projected starters
Rangers’ pitcher to watch
A.J. Griffin: Griffin is off to a fantastic start in 2017 and has been one of the best starting pitchers in the Rangers starting rotation. After a run of strong starts, Griffin had perhaps his worst start of the season on Sunday against the Athletics. Griffin went just fifth innings and gave up a season high in hits, walks, and runs. There is no reason to believe that Griffin will repeat Sunday’s performance, but it is still important to see how he responds.
In his two starts against Detroit last season, Griffin was not very good. In those two starts combined he pitched just 9.1 innings and gave up nine earned runs. In addition to that, he allowed three home runs and four walks. Griffin will have to improve greatly upon those numbers if the Rangers are going to have a chance in his start on Saturday night especially considering that Justin Verlander will be on the mound opposing him.
Tigers pitcher to watch
Justin Verlander: Justin Verlander has not gotten off to a great start in 2017 but considering he is facing the Rangers, that doesn’t exactly mean much. Verlander has always pitched well against the Rangers. In his last three starts against them, Verlander has pitched 20 innings and given up just two earned runs combined. Ironically, Verlander only won one of those starts but the fact remains that he handles the Rangers very well.
In 2017, Verlander’s biggest struggle has been with walks as he has now walked 25 batters in just over 48 innings. This weakness for Verlander could play right into the Rangers favor as they have been increasingly good at drawing walks during their nine game winning streak. In those nine games, the Rangers have walked a total of 38 times—which equates to just over four walks per game. Coincidentally, Verlander walks just over three batters a game. If the Rangers are going to have success against him, they will need to have patient at-bats—something they have been doing very well of late.
Rangers’ hitter to watch
Jared Hoying: Jared Hoying has been with the team for just three games and he has started all of them. Hoying is the Rangers best defensive option in center field to fill in for Carlos Gomez, so it is imperative that he hits well enough to stay in the lineup. So far, Hoying has collected hits in two of three games played, including a 4-for-4 game on Wednesday night.
Hoying has never faced Detroit and has only appeared in just over 40 Major League game over all. How he performs against Detroit will go a long ways toward defining what his role looks like during his time with the big league club.
Tigers’ hitter to watch
J.D. Martinez: Martinez has only played in five games so far in 2017 and all have come in the past week. Martinez spent the early part of 2017 on the DL due to a foot injury and has come back with a vengeance. In those five games Martinez has seven hits in fifteen at-bats, four of which were home runs. Martinez has also contributed eight RBIs and fout walks as well.
In many ways, Martinez is simply picking up where he left on in 2016. For the year, Martinez hit .307 with 22 home runs and 68 RBIs with an OBP in the .370s and an OPS over .900.
While Martinez is not going to maintain his torrid pace, it will be up to the Rangers to slow down his hot start which is something the Angels and Orioles could not do.
Game Times (all Central Time)