Somehow the Texas Rangers and Red Sox have never played a postseason series before — partly because the Rangers’ first playoff appearance wasn’t until 1996. So, the only way Boston sees the Rangers before next season after this weekend’s three-game set at Globe Life Park in Arlington would be this October. It’s a distinct possibility.
The Rangers missed the playoffs last year for the first time since 2009, but won at least 90 games for a fourth straight season. Once fully healthy they might be the team to beat in the AL West if a few current struggling hitters can turn things around. Texas is the +200 second-favorite to Oakland (+110) in the division on baseball odds at Bovada.
Texas was very active this season in beefing up its lineup. The Rangers signed Shin-Soo Choo, considered the second-best free-agent outfielder behind former Sox Jacoby Ellsbury, and traded for Detroit slugging first baseman Prince Fielder. The lineup has been good, ranking in the top-10 in runs, batting average and on-base percentage. Choo leads the American League in hitting.
Where the Rangers have been lacking is power. Fielder was supposed to solve that considering he has six 30-home run seasons in his career, but he entered Tuesday hitting .211 with only two home runs. The Rangers have been without two projected starters all season in second baseman Jurickson Profar and catcher Geovany Soto. Neither is likely to return before late June.
The pitching staff has been the main problem in the Rangers’ uneven start. The team ERA is 25th in the majors, but the rotation is improving. While projected No. 2 starter Derek Holland could be out until the All-Star Break, Matt Harrison recently made his season debut. If Holland can make it back and be as good as he was last year (10 wins, 3.42 ERA), he could form a very dangerous trio for the playoffs along with ace Yu Darvish — 15-2 to win Cy Young Award on most recent odds — and rising youngster Martin Perez.
Texas is 8-1 to win the AL pennant and 16-1 to win its first World Series. The Sox are just ahead at 15-2 and 14-1 respectively.
Boston is scheduled to face Darvish on Friday and Perez on Saturday. When the Rangers lost two of three at Fenway from April 7-9, Darvish (2-1, 2.87) didn’t pitch. Texas has won five of his six starts and will be a solid betting favorite behind him. Darvish doesn’t have much history against Red Sox hitters, but Dustin Pedroia is 4-for-7 with three doubles off him.
Perez (4-2, 3.59) had one stretch of 26 straight scoreless innings, and Texas had won his first five starts. That includes April 8 at Fenway when he allowed four runs over 6 1/3 innings. Perez has been roughed up in losing his past two, allowing 13 runs and 15 hits over 9 2/3 innings. Mike Napoli is 3-for-3 career off Perez.
In that first series, Choo hit .556 with three extra-base hits against the Sox, while Adrian Beltre batted .429 with two RBI. A.J. Pierzynski led Sox hitters with seven hits in nine at-bats, scoring four runs. Jackie Bradley Jr. hit .625 with four runs and four RBIs.
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