Like a real idiot, when I previewed the Oakland series I said it'd be "nice" if the Rangers could win two out of three, but that winning only one "wouldn't kill them." Psst. Stupid. In a series that felt like Texas was losing the entire time, somehow they scraped together an 8th inning run to win the opener 4-3, parlayed back-to-back run-scoring hits from Josh Wilson and Michael Choice with two outs in the 9th to win the middle game, and Martín Perez displayed something wonderful on Wednesday to seal the sweep.
Over a three-day span, the Rangers basically did to the Athletics what the Athletics do to the rest of the humanity on a regular basis. And it was beautiful.
Winners of 8 out of their last 9, Texas looks to carry their good fortune into Seattle this weekend as they square off with the hapless Mariners:
All the king's men
Friday -- Robbie Ross (1-1, 2.31 ERA, 3.62 xFIP) vs. Roenis Elias (1-2, 3.22 ERA, 4.51 xFIP)
Ross has held his own out of the rotation so far; though he's been over-achieving, his 21% strikeout rate can definitely play on a contending rotation. Will he keep it up? I'm skeptical, always, but if his 62.7% ground ball rate doesn't absolutely fall off of a cliff, and if he starts limiting his home runs a bit (15.8% HR/FB%), he should be an effective enough starter for the Rangers to keep around until Derek Holland returns. (Author's note: Who the hell else would the Rangers go to?)
I've not seen much of Elias, so there isn't much to say about him. Apparently he's 25, left-handed, and his peripherals (16.3% K%, 12.0% BB%) appear pretty bland. He did beat the Rangers the first time he faced them this year, but I must've been at work because I missed it.
Saturday -- Colby Lewis (1-1, 4.22 ERA, 3.73 xFIP) vs. Felix Hernandez (3-1, 2.04 ERA, 2.29 xFIP)
It's been awesome having Colby Lewis back in the rotation. Now that he's back -- since I'm greedy -- I want him to be effective. At this stage of the season we all just want to see him get his six innings in, feel good, stay healthy, all that jazz. There's a decent chance this is Colby's last real chance in the major leagues, at least as far as World Series' go. He's come a long way -- multiple times -- rehabbing through injury to get back to the point where he can make a difference. He deserves this more than just about anyone.
Unfortunately for Texas, any game Felix Hernandez is slated to be on the hill, all I see in my head is his final pitching line being: 9.0 innings, 0 runs, 4 hits (all singles), 0 walks, 10 strikeouts. Usually I'm way off, because the Rangers have had better success off Hernandez than any other American League squad. With Adrian Beltre returning on Friday, meaning he'll more than likely be in the lineup Saturday, we should expect some GIF-worthy material between the two future Hall-of-Famers.
Sunday -- Matt Harrison vs. Brandon Mauer (4.1 IP)
Brandon Mauer is cool and everything, but Matt Harrison is returning from the DL, so I'm not going to talk about Brandon Mauer.
Harrison hasn't started a game in the major leagues in over a year. Last week in his final rehab start at Double-A Frisco, Matt threw 8 shutout innings, allowing 3 hits while striking out 5. It's excellent news for the Rangers that he's back, but a lot like Colby Lewis, and, really, anyone who has missed such a significant amount of time due to injury, staying healthy is priority #1 out of the chute.
In his last two full seasons, Matt Harrison has excelled, posting numbers reflective of a #2 starter. Assuming health is always a tricky proposition for pitchers, but if Matt recaptures some semblance of his former self, it gives the Rangers a third pitcher -- along with Yu Darvish and Martín Perez -- capable of shutting down any opposing offense. There are not many teams out there that can say that.
As always, a series win would be much appreciated. Since their 5-2 start, the Mariners have lost 11 of their last 14 contests the last two weeks, hitting an anemic .218/.258/.329 (60 wRC+) in the process. Signing Robinson Cano in the offseason was a bold statement from a franchise that's essentially been dormant in recent memory, but aside from his star power and the occasional homer from Corey Hart, it's still an offense without an identity. It looks like the Mariners are just going to be the Mariners all over again.
The Rangers, meanwhile, are getting healthier. Adrian Beltre returns tonight (at the expense of Kevin Kouzmanoff who is likely heading to the DL), Shin-Soo Choo could return at some point this weekend, and Matt Harrison will make his first start on Sunday. Baseball has been bright lately for the Rangers, but it could be getting even brighter.
Two out of three this weekend. Let's do it again.