Rangers vs. Royals: Series Preview
The Rangers are heading home from their first extended west coast trip of the year, and it couldn’t have ended fast enough.
The trip started well enough, with a 2-1 series win against the Angels. After that, it was all downhill as the Rangers then proceeded to go 1-5 against the Mariners and A’s. The good guys now head home in last place in the AL West, desperately needing some positive momentum.
There is no magic formula that the Rangers need to follow in order to get back on track; they simply need to play good baseball. Being at home certainly helps but if they don’t pick up their play in all three phases of the game, their struggles are likely to continue.
The Royals come into this 4-game series on fire, having won 5 of their previous 6 contests. Their overwhelming strength in their recent run of success has been their pitching staff. In the last 6 games, the Royals have a staff ERA of 0.66. If you were hoping the Rangers were coming home to feast offensively on their next opponent, well, you may have to wait a little while longer. The Royals don’t give up a lot of runs, and it will take excellence across the board from the Rangers to beat them.
Royals: 7-7; 2nd in AL Central
Rangers: 5-10; 5th in AL West
Rangers projected starters:
Royals projected starters:
Rangers’ pitcher to watch:
A.J. Griffin: A.J. Griffin dazzled in his last start, going 6 scoreless innings against the Athletics with 8 strikeouts and just one free pass. Overall, Griffin is 2-0 for the year and the Rangers as a team are 3-0 when he starts a game.
After starting off the season with a rocky first start at home, Griffin has rebounded to go 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA. The keys to his success have been twofold. In his past 12 innings pitched, Griffin has given up just 2 walks and 1 home run. When Griffin is able to limit both those things, he is very good. When he puts men on base and gives up the long ball, he struggles.
The concern for Griffin is that both of his quality starts have come on the road this year. In his only home start, Griffin didn’t make it out of the 4th inning. In that one start, Griffin also gave up 2 walks and 2 home runs in just 3.1 innings. While this may seem worrisome, Griffin’s home and road splits since joining the Rangers don’t suggest that this is a trend that will hold.
If Griffin can control the zone and get ahead in the count, expect his recent run of success to continue Saturday night at home.
Royals’ pitcher to watch:
Danny Duffy: Last season was a career year for Duffy as he went 12-3 with a 3.51 ERA and a WHIP of 1.141. That success has carried over so far in 2017, as Duffy will enter his start on Thursday night with a 2-0 record and an ERA of 1.80. If there is any weakness Duffy has shown thus far in 2017, it would be his walk rate (just north of 3 per nine innings).
Pitching from the left side, Duffy will be facing a Rangers lineup that has struggled to get hits in the past week. Duffy doesn’t give up a ton of home runs, averaging 1 per 9 innings for his career and just under that (0.9) in 2017; therefore, the Rangers are going to have to find other ways to score.
In his one start versus the Rangers last season, Duffy went 6.2 innings while giving up just 1 run in a 3-1 win. The only run was a solo shot by Rougned Odor; besides that, the Rangers managed just 3 hits.
Duffy is not overpowering but does feature a pair of fastballs (2-seam and 4-seam), a slider and a changeup; he mixes the repetoire up, throwing around 25% of each pitch. His change and slider are his two best pitches; in 2017, opponents are hitting just .095 off his changeup with just 2 hits and 7 strikeouts. Against his slider, opponents don’t fare much better, hitting just .167 with 2 hits and 6 strikeouts.
The problem for the Rangers will be that he throws those two pitches 50% of the time. Traditionally the Rangers fare better against fastball pitchers, so they will have to find a way to either adjust to what Duffy is throwing or try and wear him down with patient at-bats.
Ranger’s hitter to watch:
Carlos Gomez: In the first game against the Athletics this week Carlos Gomez showed us a glimpse of the guy the Rangers saw last August and September. Gomez was on base three times Monday night and hit the ball hard three times in all. The key for Gomez was staying with pitches rather than coming out of his stance too early, which leads to swings and misses. That said, it was just a glimpse, as Gomez reverted back to some bad patterns on Tuesday and Wednesday. The hope holds, though, that Gomez is slowly rounding into form.
While he hasn’t hit for a great average, Gomez has provided some big hits for the Rangers. On the season, Gomez has 3 home runs with 6 RBIs and 9 runs scored. Gomez clearly is a producer and if he can sure-up his approach at the plate, look for his production to increase exponentially.
Royal’s hitters to watch:
Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas: The Royals have two players off to very powerful starts, one on each side of the plate. Batting from the right side, Salvador Perez is hitting .302 with 5 home runs and 8 RBIs, while Moustakas, from the left side, is hitting .300 with 5 home runs and 7 RBIs. That’s a combined .301 average with 10 home runs and 15 RBIs.
The reason these two present a problem for the Rangers is that they can hurt you no matter who is throwing. If it’s a lefty, Perez can hurt you. With a righty, Moustakas will have no problem depositing bombs into the short right field porch. If the Rangers are going to have success in this series, they will have to quiet this dynamic duo for the Royals.
Game Times: All Central Time