Breaking Down Rangers' Remaining Games in Chase for Wild Card Berth
Texas sure has taken a step back from their performance in the month of August, when they went 20-7, scoring more runs than any team in the league. This month the Rangers have struggled to the tune of a 7-15 record, scoring just 82 runs over that span, an average of 3.72 runs per game.
With five games remaining on their schedule, here is a look at how the Rangers could fare as they push to the playoffs.
All stats and info courtesy of MLB.com, Baseball-Reference.com, latimes.com, ESPN.com and SportsIllustrated.CNN.com.
All projected pitching matchups found on TexasRangers.com.
Follow Zachary on Twitter at @ZacharyKrueger
September 25 vs. Houston Astros
Pitching Matchup: Dallas Keuchel (6-9, 4.99 ERA) vs. Martin Perez (9-5, 3.54 ERA)
Texas has the fortune of playing their final five games at home. After defeating the Houston Astros 12-0 in their first game of this season's series finale, the Rangers beat the Astros 3-2 on Tuesday night.
With Tuesday's win, the Rangers moved within one game of the second wild card spot, trailing the Cleveland Indians and the Tampa Bay Rays. Texas has a legitimate shot to climb into the second slot by the time Wednesday is over, as they look to sweep Houston in the three game series.
Dallas Keuchel is in line to toe the mound for Houston in this game, and like most of their pitchers, Keuchel has struggled this season.
The 25-year-old lefty has posted a 6-9 record this season with a 4.99 ERA. This will be Keuchel's fourth matchup against the Rangers on the season, and it could prove to be favorable for them.
In his first three games against the Rangers, Keuchel has gone a total of 19.2 innings, giving up a total of nine earned runs, posting a 4.22 ERA against Texas while surrendering 19 hits and striking out 15. Texas' runs per game average this month could pose a little bit of doubt regarding the success they should have against Keuchel, but they're no stranger to him.
His last outing against Texas was ironically his longest outing of the season, but also his worst against them. Keuchel went 8.2 innings but gave up eight hits and five earned runs, earning his only loss to the Rangers this season. They've likely figured him out by now and know what to expect out of him, which could lead to another outing similar to the last time they faced him.
Martin Perez has been a pleasant surprise for Texas this season, and posted his only complete game of the season against the Astros on August 11. Perez allowed just four hits and one earned while striking out a season high eight batters.
With a 51-107 record, Houston is the worst team in all of baseball. Expect a win from the Rangers in a game that they should be favored to win, and in a game they must win in effort to make the postseason.
Projected Score: Texas 6 Houston 3
September 26 vs. Los Angeles Angels
Pitching Matchup: Jerome Williams (9-10, 4.55 ERA) vs. Matt Garza (4-5, 4.56 ERA w/ Texas)
The Rangers close out the season with another winnable series against the Los Angeles Angels. They have already faced the Angels 15 times this year, going 11-4 against a team that was viewed as a perennial playoff threat to start the season.
Angels' starter Jerome Williams will take the mound against Texas to open the series. It will be his fifth time facing Texas this year, and his third time starting against them.
Against the Rangers this year, Williams has posted a 3.00 ERA against Texas this season, but surrendered five earned runs in 5.1 innings pitched the last time he faced them.
Matt Garza will oppose Williams on the mound for Texas, and is still looking to prove he's worth the price that Texas paid to acquire him from the Cubs in July. Garza has been a huge disappointment since Texas acquired him.
The veteran righty has posted a mediocre 4-5 record and 4.56 ERA since joining the Rangers, and has allowed four or more runs in seven of his 12 starts with the team. While a win here wouldn't necessarily raise expectations for Garza should the Rangers make the postseason, it would be nice to see him perform well in a crucial game.
Garza will be facing former Ranger Josh Hamilton, who will make his final 2013 appearance in Arlington this week. The last time the Angels visited the Rangers, Hamilton went 5-for-11 in the series, hitting one homer while driving in seven RBI and drawing three walks. Even with Los Angeles being eliminated from the playoffs, there's no doubt Hamilton would love to stick it to his former team in an attempt to knock them from contention as well.
I'm not completely sold on Garza in this matchup, and I'm not completely sold on Texas' ability to post enough runs to support him should he struggle. With three losses already this month, don't be surprised to see Garza drop his fourth game in September.
Projected Score: Angels 7 Rangers 5
September 27 vs. Los Angeles Angels
Pitching Matchup: C.J. Wilson (17-7, 3.36 ERA) vs. Alexi Ogando (7-4, 2.93 ERA)
The second game of the series with the Angels could feature the best pitching matchup of the series. Another former Ranger, C.J. Wilson will take the mound for Los Angeles, looking to post his 18th win of the season, while Alexi Ogando will look to improve on his own solid numbers.
The Rangers have faced C.J. Wilson twice this season, and their offense has been unkind to him to say the least. In his two starts against the Rangers, Wilson has gone just 11.2 innings while surrendering 10 runs, leveling out to a 8.04 ERA. He managed to win his last game against them, as the Angels defeated the Rangers 6-5 on September 6, but Wilson was average at best.
Alexi Ogando's season has been one of ups and downs, but when healthy he has been very good for Texas. Since returning from his last stint on the disabled list, Ogando has dominated. The fourth year veteran has held opposing hitters to a remarkable .091 batting average, allowing just one run in 18 innings in September.
Ogando received a no decision in his last start against the Kansas City Royals, but he pitched well enough to deserve the win. The Rangers dropped that game 4-0 as Ogando went seven strong innings, allowing just two hits while striking out eight batters.
It won't be an easy matchup, Texas will have to hope their bats can come alive in this one, something they've struggled to do for most of September. In a game that could easily go either way, Ogando has the stuff to lead Texas to a win in this matchup.
Projected Score: Texas 4 Angels 2
September 28 vs. Los Angeles Angels
Pitching Matchup: Garrett Richards (7-7, 4.09 ERA) vs. Derek Holland (10-9, 3.33 ERA)
Derek Holland has been solid for Texas most of the season. Unfortunately, the lefty has dropped three of his five starts in September, but has a chance to redeem himself in his last regular season start.
September has been a month that Holland would like to forget. With a 1-3 record this month, Holland has posted a 5.40 ERA, giving up 17 earned runs in 28.1 innings of work while allowing six homers. In addition to his poor ERA this month, opposing hitters have hit .298 off him, 42 points higher than his season average of .256.
Holland did manage to turn things around however in his last start against the hapless Astros. He was the starting pitcher on September 23 when the Rangers posted a 12-0 victory against Houston. Holland pitched a complete game while giving up just six hits and striking out nine.
It was a good win for Texas, and it couldn't have come at a better time. Now Holland needs to go out and replicate that performance one more time this season when he faces Los Angeles in the third game of the series.
Garrett Richards looks to be another pitcher hopeful of ruining Texas' playoff push. While he has a season ERA of 4.09, Richards has been solid in his two starts against Texas.
Richards has a 2.77 ERA against Texas in his two starts against them this year, and won his last matchup against them by a score of 8-3. He went seven strong innings that game, allowing just one earned one and six hits.
Holland's win against Houston was a much needed boost to the team's morale heading into this final week. Should he pitch well, I can't imagine Texas dropping the game in which Holland starts.
Projected Score: Texas 5 Los Angeles 3
September 29 vs. Los Angeles Angels
Projected Matchup: Jason Vargas (9-7, 4.01 ERA) vs. Yu Darvish (13-9, 2.82 ERA)
There is nobody who the Rangers would rather have on the mound than starting pitcher Yu Darvish in a game that could ultimately seal their playoff hopes.
He won't be going for 300 strikeouts on the season, as he has just 269 this year, but he still has a chance to help propel his team into the playoffs. The story for Darvish this September has been his inability to win games despite stellar performances.
Darvish has a 1-3 record this month, but a look at his record can be deceiving. His record should actually be the exact opposite of what it is, but twice this month the Rangers lost 1-0 in games Darvish started. He continues to be as phenomenal now as he has been all season long, and I expect nothing less in Texas' final regular season game.
He is 3-0 against the Angels this year with an ERA of 3.00. He has given up just 17 hits to the Angels in 18 innings pitched, striking out a total of 23 batters over that span.
Jason Vargas will take the mound for Los Angeles in the final game of the season, and will look to post his first win against the Rangers in his fourth start against them. Vargas has been surprisingly strong against Texas this season.
The veteran lefty has an ERA of 2.97 against Texas this season, and hasn't given up any more than three runs in any of his outings. He received a no decision in each of his three starts against Texas this year, but that's what happens when your team doesn't give you any run support.
By no means do I expect Vargas and the Angels to knockoff Darvish and the Rangers in a game that their postseason berth could hinge on. It would only be fitting for the Rangers to secure the win for Darvish in shutout fashion, after losing twice this month on shutout performances from opposing pitchers.
Predicted Score: Texas 4 Angels 0