Who would have thought the Rangers' series against the Blue Jays this weekend would have little to no hype? Toronto was built up to be one of the perennial powerhouses of the AL East this year, but it has instead struggled to a 25-34 record. While Texas is one of the best teams in the league right now, this series could be much bigger if Toronto lived up to its preseason expectations.
Texas will look to rebound against the Blue Jays after dropping two of three games to the Red Sox this week. The Rangers lost their first game against Boston by a score of 17-5, which set the tone for most of the series. Here are some things to watch this weekend when the Rangers go on the road to face Toronto.
Rangers Limiting Walks
If there is one stat that jumps out from the Rangers' series against the Red Sox, it was the amount of walks they surrendered. Texas' pitchers walked a total of 17 batters over the three-game series, giving Boston multiples chances to put runs on the board.
The Sox managed to score 22 earned runs off the Rangers and 25 total runs by the time the series came to a close. Texas' pitchers will need to limit the amount of walks they give up to the Blue Jays in what will still be a difficult road series. Toronto still has great hitters like Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and J.P. Arencibia, so giving them fewer opportunities to drive in runs is crucial.
The Rangers have done a nice job limiting the amount of walks they surrender for most of the season. Look for their staff to bounce back this weekend.
How Texas Overcomes the Loss of Mitch Moreland
The Rangers lost first baseman Mitch Moreland in the second game of the Boston series after he came up gimpy-legging out a double. Lance Berkman played first base in the final game of the series against Boston, but the team also has Jeff Baker and Chris McGuiness who could take Moreland's spot.
Baker has been a solid hitter when given an opportunity to play so far. The 32-year-old infielder is hitting .333 on the season and has seven home runs to go along with 13 RBI. He had a big series against Boston too, hitting two home runs in nine at-bats while driving in four runs.
The Rangers will go with Baker and McGuiness for the first game of this series, but Berkman could see some time at first base this weekend as well.
Yu Darvish's Strikeout Pace
Yu Darvish will toe the mound for Texas in Saturday's matchup as he looks to continue his climb up the strikeout leaderboard. If you haven't heard, Darvish is striking out batters at a blistering pace, having recorded 111 punchouts in just 12 starts.
Last seasonm Darvish struck out Toronto hitters 22 times in 69 plate appearances while holding them to a .204 batting average. Strikeouts aside, the Rangers ace has had a remarkable season thus far, posting a 7-2 record with a 2.77 ERA.
Speculation has begun to swirl over whether or not Darvish can achieve 300 strikeouts this season. Keep an eye on him this weekend against Toronto, and for the rest of the season, to see if he can keep pace in his race for a 300-strikeout season.
Note: Stats and info courtesy of MLB.com, NBCSports.com, Baseball-Reference.com, ESPN.com and Twitter.com unless otherwise noted.
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