After winning their 3rd game in a row, and 2nd series in a row, the Rangers find themselves sitting at 9-7, and will look to add to their win total in a weekend series against the Chicago White Sox.
The Rangers caught a bit of scheduling fortune with the timing of this series, as Chris Sale pitched last night against Boston, and thus the Rangers won't have to face him. So, what should we expect to see this weekend?
Pitcher to Watch:
Martin Perez comes into tonights matchup against Felipe Paulino with a 2-0 record and a shiny 2.70 ERA. Perez has been a ground ball machine in his first, inducing 9 double-play groundouts in his first three starts. If Perez can keep the ball down and induce anywhere close to the 58.2% ground ball rate he's had so far, he just may be able to keep Chicago hitters Alexei Ramirez and Jose Abreu off-balance.
Coming into today, Alexei Ramirez leads the AL in hits, with 24. He's hit 4 home runs on the season, but having never been a big power guy, it wouldn't surprise me to see that taper off just a bit as the season progresses. A BABIP of .385 also might suggest that he's due for some regression, although it remains to be seen if he'll continue hitting a career pace ot not.
Jose Abreu has hit 4 home runs of his own. While his average doesn't look as impressive, an OPS of .811 isn't exactly something to thumb your nose at. Unlike Ramirez above, Abreu has had a bit of bad BABIP fortune, to the tune of .200. I'd expect that to tick up a bit, and he could be the hitter the Rangers should be most careful in pitching to in Arlington.
Rangers Hitter to Watch:
I feel like a broken record by mentioning him over and over, but Prince Fielder is due for some sort of breakout at any point now. He's still got a .180 BABIP, and he's been hitting the ball hard enough lately to suggest that perhaps the bat speed is still there.
It's difficult to tell if we'll get the elite Prince Fielder we were hoping for -- the sample size is still too enormously small to make sweeping generalizations with -- but at this point, solid to above-average would be fantastic for a team that's still a week away from getting Adrian Beltre back into the lineup.
Felipe Paulino with provide a right-lefty matchup for tonight's game, so I wouldn't be surprised if Prince gets going a bit this evening, especially considering that Paulino has given up 6 earned runs in each of his last two starts. Jose Quintana might be the pitcher that gives the Rangers the most trouble this weekend, but I've got the Rangers taking at least two of the weekend's games before heading to Oakland for the first series of the year against their division rivals.
Also noteworthy is that White Sox relievers have the worst ERA in baseball at 6.48. The Rangers are currently in the middle of the pack at 3.73.