As the Boston Red Sox come to Arlington, the Rangers face a few additional challenges and will have some moving parts in the lineup due to pitching matchups.
Tonight's matchup will pit Boston's ace, David Price, against occasional Rangers starter Nick Martinez, who gets the call to fill in to the slot expected to be filled by Yu Darvish, who is scheduled to have his first bullpen session tomorrow since hitting the disabled list. Boston will then throw possible All Star game starter Stephen Wright on Saturday against AJ Griffin. For Wright, he will bring his knuckle ball to Texas for the first time, carrying a 2.01 ERA and 1.10 WHIP with him. For Griffin, it will be his first start since hitting the disabled list six weeks ago following a surprisingly strong start.
Although the pitching matchups for the first two games seem uneven, the Rangers are playing the hottest baseball in the league, going 16-4 over their last 20 games. In addition to the hot streak, the Rangers have always handled Price very well, with the current Texas roster sporting a .311 BAA and a .802 OPS. Facing Price today is a far better option for the Rangers than having to face him after a day of attempting to figure out Wright's knuckleball.
Friday night's lineup is as follows:
1- Choo- RF
2- Desmond- CF
3- Beltre- 3B
4- Rua- LF
5- Fielder- DH
6- Andrus- SS
7- Odor- 2B
8- Profar- 1B
9- Wilson- C
Chirinos was originally slated to catch this evening, but was scratched following BP due to forearm soreness from his HPB in St Louis. After that, a number of questions abound.
Nomar Mazara and Mitch Moreland are both out of the lineup tonight following an off day, with the explanation being loading the lineup with righties to face left-handed David Price. Moreland's splits against LHP have been horrible this season and I completely understand the idea of giving Mazara an extra day off following his recent struggles, which seem to be just the typical ebb and flow cold streaks that come with being a rookie.
However, the oddity comes in avoiding lefty bats against Price, then insisting on plugging in Prince Fielder in the 5-hole even though he is hitting .194 against LHP this season (which is not far off from his .205 average overall). If this was truly about getting more right handed bats into the lineup, this seems as if if would be an excellent evening to give Holaday the start at DH, who is hitting .241 against lefties, or even stick with Mazara, who despite his recent struggles, is still hitting .247 against lefties and has been the best offensive player not named Ian Desmond this season.
If Banister was not comfortable having Holaday in the lineup in case he has to catch tonight and Chirinos being unavailable, I would completely understand that as well. However, that is not the case, because Chirinos was listed in the original lineup that already included Prince Fielder before Robinson was scratched.
If Prince must be in the lineup, it makes even less sense to bat him in a high leverage position designed to get him more at bats than current hot hitter Jurickson Profar and having a career year at the plate Elvis Andrus, or even constant spark plug Rougie Odor.
I sincerely hope that Prince goes out and hits three homers tonight and stops each time he touches home plate to look into the camera, flick me off, and tell me to shut up. I hope the guy proves me wrong and I hope that he catches fire and returns to being even half of the player he once was. But, as Dave Schoenfield pointed out today, the Rangers have reached a point where they must decide what is more important: loyalty to a player and to money spent or putting the best possible lineup on the field as much as possible. Take a moment to read Schoenfield's piece, he has some excellent in depth material here:
Yes, the Rangers have the best record in the AL. Yes, this team feels like it is something special. Yes, Prince Fielder was once a great player. I hear your thoughts each time I question something that Banister does. I get that. I love Banny. I think he is the best man for the job and I am beyond happy to have him in a Texas Rangers uniform.
But I, much like every player in the locker room, want more than just another pretty good season. This season has potential to be the greatest in franchise history, and to ensure this team reaches the Promised Land, some difficult decisions may have to be made along the way.
One of those decisions may be reaching its precipice very soon.