Red Sox May Be Series Underdogs for First Time in 2013 Against Texas Rangers

Elvis Andrus, Paul KonerkoThe Texas Rangers have been a very good team over the past four seasons, winning at least 87 games in all and reaching the playoffs in the past three. They also have had the Red Sox’ number in those four years, winning the season series in each. Boston visits Arlington for the only time this season starting Friday night, and the Sox will be series underdogs for the first time in weeks.

Texas is the 11-2 second-favorite to win the AL pennant for the third time in four years, just ahead of Boston (6-1). The Rangers lead the American League West and are big -140 favorites to take that division for the third time in four seasons — they led the West most of last year before coughing it up on the final day of the season to Oakland. The Rangers were then upset in the wild-card game by Baltimore.

Instead of giving injury-prone former AL MVP Josh Hamilton a massive contract, the Rangers watched him walk to the Angels, which is looking like a good non-signing by Texas these days. They didn’t do much to replace Hamilton’s bat, adding free agents A.J. Pierzynski and Lance Berkman. The Rangers are middle of the pack in the AL in runs after leading the league with 808 in 2012.

Texas leads the AL in ERA despite injuries to starters Matt Harrison, a 2012 All-Star, and Colby Lewis. The Rangers are scheduled to start lefty Derek Holland (1-2, 3.38 ERA) on Friday. He has four quality starts in five tries and an excellent 0.95 WHIP and .195 batting average against. Holland was 2-0 with a 3.07 ERA against Boston in 2012 as the Sox hit just .176 off him and struck out 14 times in 14.2 innings. Dustin Pedroia has the most career at-bats of any Boston player against Holland with 14 but is hitting .143. Right-handers are batting .187 this year against Holland.

On Saturday, righty Alexi Ogando (2-2, 3.38) gets the call. The Rangers have lost his last three starts, with the former reliever allowing 12 runs in 15.1 innings in that stretch. He was practically unhittable in his first three starts. Ogando pitched four innings of relief against Boston last year, allowing no runs and no hits while earning one victory. No Red Sox hitter has more than five career at-bats against Ogando. David Ortiz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia each have a homer.

In the finale, Texas starts Japanese ace Yu Darvish (5-1, 2.33), a top Cy Young contender. Darvish leads the majors with 58 strikeouts in just 38.2 innings and is 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA in his last three starts. Right-handers are hitting a scant .115 off Darvish this year with no homers in 61 at-bats.

Darvish faced Boston once last season as a rookie, getting rocked for six runs and 11 hits in 6 2/3 innings in a loss at Fenway. That 9-2 win on August 6 was notable for Boston as it reached .500 (55-55) for the final time in 2012. Texas won six of eight meetings last year, including two of three at home.

This post is presented by Bovada