Oct 092012
 
Will Napoli be back in Texas in 2013?

Mike Napoli: Should The Texas Rangers Re Sign The Slugging Catcher?The Texas Rangers’ Josh Hamilton is the biggest name in this winter’s MLB Free Agent sweepstakes. So big a name is Hamilton, that another key offensive weapon in Texas is often overlooked. Mike Napoli, despite a precipitous decline from the previous season’s offensive production, provided 24 home runs and has been the team’s most productive catcher since Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez.

And like Hamilton, Napoli could seek a new suitor this winter. Should Napoli follow Hamilton, the Rangers could find themselves scrambling to replace a combined 67 HRs and 184 RBI from last season.

It’s funny to think that the Rangers wouldn’t re-sign Mike Napoli. After all, 2011—Napoli’s first season in Texas—might be best remembered as “The Year of the Napoli.”

For the better part of 2011, Napoli crushed every offering headed his way. His second-half frenzy and subsequent postseason romp—coupled with Nelson Cruz’s October power surge—helped drive the Rangers towards their second-straight American League Pennant. Tampa Bay’s manager, Joe Maddon—whose team was the first victim of Napoli and company—coined 2011 as “The Year of the Napoli,” a catchphrase that reverberated throughout the postseason as Rangers fans fervently chanted his name: “Nap-O-Li!! Nap-O-Li!!!” Few were the times that Napoli didn’t capitalize on his fan’s chants or the opposition’s pitches. However, as 2012 would attest, it was a good thing the Rangers were patient in signing him to a long-term deal.

The Rangers’ Patience Paid Off

By signing Napoli to a one-year $9.4M deal last February, the Rangers avoided arbitration and skirted a long-term commitment. Granted, there were those—present company included—that clamored to extend Napoli on a multi-year deal. 2011’s magical run proved a strong spell. As it turned out, not committing to Napoli long-term was a shrewd move. Since the Rangers decided to wait it out, they now have tangible proof that 2011 was more hot streak than a sustainable run of promised potential. Granted, since Napoli is one of  the premier power-hitting catchers in baseball, his average annual salary should exceed last year’s one-year deal. A three-year, $36M contract would probably land “Nap-O-Li!!!” back in Arlington for the remaining years of his prime.

Despite last season’s statistical letdown, Mike Napoli—who has averaged 27 HRs per season while in Texas—has been the Rangers’ best offensive catcher since the iconic Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez.

Down on the Farm: Help at Catcher?

Mike Napoli: Should The Texas Rangers Re Sign The Slugging Catcher?

If there is a glaring weakness in the Texas Rangers’ farm system—a system  ranked as one of MLB’s finest—then it is a lack of depth at the catching position. Former 2010 first round pick, Kellin Deglan is an intriguing prospect. Deglan flashed some power with Hickory of the South Atlantic League (SAL) in 2012, as he hit 12 home runs. Deglan, a career .225 hitter in the bush leagues, is athletic, but raw. Fangraph’s Mike Newman ranks fellow SAL luminary Jorge Alfaro slightly ahead of Deglan, with a high-ceiling and nearly non-existent floor. Like Deglan, the 19-year-old Alfaro is at least three years away from the big leagues.

Geovany Soto and Other FA Catchers (Been there, done that)

Geovany Soto is one option to replace Mike Napoli. Soto was acquired in the trade that netted the Rangers his former Chicago Cubs battery mate, Ryan Dempster, to boot. While with Texas, Soto, the 2008 NL ROY, flashed moments of greatness but was largely a letdown. Ironically enough, most of the free agent catchers available are former Rangers. Gerald Laird, Rod Barajas, Matt Treanor, and Yorvit Torrealba have all played in Arlington with varying degrees of success and failure. Philadelphia’s Carlos Ruiz, and Atlanta’s Brian McCann, are technically free agents, but both have 2013 club options that their teams are likely to exercise.

So, What do you think? Should the Texas Rangers re-sign Mike Napoli? I’d love to hear your feedback, just respond with your thoughts in our comments section below.

Mike Napoli: Should The Texas Rangers Re Sign The Slugging Catcher?

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Oct 082012
 
Josh Hamilton is an awesome baseball player, when he wants to be.

Replacing Josh Hamilton: Do The Texas Rangers Have In House Options?Today is the first Monday of the Texas Rangers off-season. Once the 2012 postseason has come to an end, Josh Hamilton will likely saunter off from Arlington and make a beeline towards financially greener pastures. With him, Hamilton will take his immeasurable baseball talents, as well as his various psychological, ocular, and assorted addiction issues.

But not to worry, Josh Hamilton has said that he’ll give the Rangers first crack at re-signing him…Well aw-shucks, and gosh golly all-to-pieces, that sure is mighty kind of you, Josh.

All personal cynicism aside, what this really means is that the Texas Rangers have first shot to politely decline the offer he and his agent deem necessary. If you are a Texas Rangers fan—not solely a Josh Hamilton fan—then you understand that not giving him the contract he wants is best for the team. Hami wants a lengthy deal. When discussing a long-term contract—in this case, longer than four years—you have to consider: age, injury-issues, and, with Hamilton, a history of alcohol abuse, caffeine dependency, severe dry eye, and, oh yeah, an apparent lack of focus during the most important game of 2012.

Unless Hambone decides to sign a four-year (better yet, three-year) deal, then the Rangers are no longer a viable option. Besides, Hamilton and his wife, Katie, have far too many impoverished people to help for the measly makings of such a short-term deal.

In-House Options: Craig Gentry, Leonys Martin?

Replacing 43 home runs and 128 RBI is even more difficult than it sounds. Neither Craig Gentry nor Leonys Martin is ever going to be a three-hole hitter. However, Gentry supplies plus-defensive and explosive speed, whereas Martin has an upside high enough that the Rangers were willing to dish out the dough to harangue the Cuban into coming to Texas in May of 2011.

Replacing Josh Hamilton: Do The Texas Rangers Have In House Options?

More Craig Gentry. It’s what the people want.

The Problem: Defensively, Gentry and Martin are HUGE improvements over Hamilton. Offensively, not so much. Despite Gentry’s breakout 2012 campaign, he is best suited as a fourth outfielder; speed off the bench if you will. Martin, who will be just 25-years-old at the start of 2013, needs to prove that he can hit at the big league level, and thusly might be a click behind Gentry on the depth chart.

How To Fill the Offensive Void—Rookies to the Rescue?

Prized prospects Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar now have a few major league at-bats under their belts, and could plug the Hami-hole in 2013, should they ascend to their sky-high ceilings offensively.

The problem: The Rangers’ best player, Adrian Beltre, blocks Olt, a natural third baseman. Jurickson Profar has Elvis Andrus well ahead of him at shortstop, and the recently re-upped Ian Kinsler at second. Although Olt has seen some big league time in right, Profar’s skill set is more suitable for the outfield, should the Rangers decide to re-position the two.

The Free Agent Market

Naturally, the Texas Rangers will be looking at other available free agent talent. B.J. Upton and Nick Swisher come to mind. Although Swisher is better suited for right field, both he and Upton would provide an immediate offensive upgrade over Gentry and Martin. An Upton or Swisher signing would also provide the Rangers time to let Profar and Olt get consistent playing time in Triple-A for the 2013 season.

@TMurrayHowell

Replacing Josh Hamilton: Do The Texas Rangers Have In House Options?

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Oct 062012
 
FailurePic2

That’s the way baseball go.

Baseball is a game of failure...Baseball is a game of failure.  Baseball is a game that the majority of us played all the time growing up, whether it was on an organized team or whiffle ball in the backyard with our siblings.  We love baseball, but it’s a game that can break your heart, and as Rangers fans, we’ve become all too familiar with that feeling over the past three years.

Twenty twelve was a no-win situation for this team as far as the part the fans would play.  The expectation of a World Series title and nothing less was rooted in the brains of fans since the devastating loss in Game Six last year.  Our team has been set up to fail since the beginning.

Fans were never happy.  If we are winning, someone is slumping and not contributing.  If we are losing, so-and-so sucks and we need to trade for new players or put in the rookies.  The Twitter-verse is plagued by negativity and full of what I’ve deemed “couch coaches” that feel they have all the answers.  That it’s all so simple.

Baseball is a game of failure...Nothing is ever that simple.  Otherwise, every team would be capable of winning a World Series title EVERY SINGLE YEAR.  I realize my upbringing and my profession enable me to carry a different viewpoint of the sports world, and for that I am thankful.  I constantly deal with unhappy parents that feel they would be so much better at my job than I am.  These parents have coached their kids in little league or their select team and they know the formula for success.  I say the same to them that I’d say to a lot of the critical, negative, angry Rangers fans:  Critics are plentiful in this world, but professionals are scarce.  Take it for what it’s worth.

The loss last night was painful for me.  It’s disheartening, frustrating, disappointing, sad…the list could go on and on.  But for me, the worst part wasn’t the loss.  The worst part was that I made the mistake of opening up my Twitter account and reading the posts from “fans” of this team that I love so much.

It’s fine to be upset, even angry I suppose, but the end of this season did not come because of something one person did, not because of something two people did, but because as a TEAM, the Rangers simply did not get it done this year.  The heart, the drive, the camaraderie, the hunger for success was non-existent.  We aren’t used to that.  And clearly, we as fans don’t know how to handle it.

Sure, it’s easy to play the blame game.  I’d be lying if I said these thoughts didn’t creep through my mind toward the end of the season.  “Josh Hamilton gave up…Hamilton isn’t trying anymore…Josh just doesn’t care…”  So let’s boo him.  Let’s all give him the finger on what was most likely his last at-bat ever in the Ballpark in a Rangers uniform.  And let’s do it in front of a young team filled with ex-Rangers that looked up to him while they were here.  How disgraceful, tasteless and embarrassing for those of us who truly care about this team.

Baseball is a game of failure...

Was this farewell?

I will readily admit to being biased toward Josh Hamilton over the past five years.  I think his story is amazing, and having close ties to people with drug and alcohol problems I’m astounded by the mere fact that he was able to turn his life around and accomplish something extraordinary.  That being said, I’m not naive enough to believe something hasn’t changed with him this year.

Josh is different.  Something is not right.  Knowing that, and hating that, he’s still a member of the Texas Rangers Organization and he has busted his ass for this team for the past 5 years.  He’s contributed in ways that some guys will only ever dream about.  Remember the 4 home run game?  Nobody was booing him then.  Everybody LOVED him.

Josh Hamilton has been a primary factor in helping this team reach milestones of success over the past 3 years.

To boo him because we didn’t get our way?  To boo him because we believe we’ve “earned that right” based on the amount of money we spend to watch this team play and fail?  To boo him because you think he’s not trying?

Once again, it’s a game of failure.  We would not have been in the position we were in without his 128 RBI and 43 home runs   How easily we forget the good things when the game turns and is no longer going our way.

Booing is fair-weather fans at their best.  A fair-weather fan loves the team when they’re doing well and throws them to the wolves when they’re not.

Baseball is a game of failure...That sense of entitlement some people have as “fans” to ridicule and criticize these athletes because they’re unable to always perform at their highest potential is astounding.  I said the same thing when “fans” booed CJ while he wore a Rangers uniform.  Did I like him?  Um, no.  Did I support him because he was a member of this TEAM?  Absolutely.  Was it always easy?  NO.  But that’s the beauty of being a fan.  Win or lose, my friends, good times and the bad.

The expense we take on as fans shouldn’t be because we expect something in return.  Those of you calling yourselves “true fans” because of all the money you spend on tickets and beer and parking need to stop spending all that money on those things if you’re going to “retaliate” when the team doesn’t succeed at the highest level.

True fans do it for the love of the game, and for the love of their team, win or lose.  This is baseball.  It’s unpredictable.  That’s why it’s called a game, and that’s why it has to be played.  As my dad always says, “anything can happen on any given day.”  Remember when the Mariners beat us 21-8?  What are the odds something like that would happen to the (at the time) number one team in the division by the last place team?  Unpredictable.  Wash says it best: That’s the way baseball go.

Baseball is a game of failure...Yes, losing sucks.  Getting beat by a team chock-full of ex-Rangers that were shipped off in an effort to get something “better” in return REALLY sucks.  Things don’t always go as planned.  It’s life.  But as supporters of this team, we need to be the “true fans” we claim to be.  That means SUPPORTING our players, managers, coaches, front office staff, and everyone else involved in the organization.

You don’t always have to agree with every decision that is made, but just as we all have jobs, their job is baseball.  They are qualified to do what they’re doing.  We are fans, bystanders, excited on-lookers that this team needs in order to find success.

And next year, I hope our fans are better at just being fans.

by Jennifer Cobb
www.rangerstalkers.com 

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Oct 052012
 
Bud Selig's Frankenstein's monster, the additional wild card game, debuts tonight.

The Yu Darvish Ace Audition: Baltimore/Texas “Playoff” Matchup Bud Selig’s bouncing baby—the “extra” Wild Card Game—springs to life tonight for the Texas Rangers at 7:30 PM CDT. Here are some thoughts prior to the Rangers’ possible pilgrimage to the ALDS for a third-consecutive season.

The Yu Darvish Factor

Yu Darvish essentially has his “ace” test tonight. If he wins, he’s an ace, end of story. Should the Rangers win, and he pitches poorly, he’s still a number one. Should he pitch poorly and the Rangers lose, well, he’s still a helluva lot better than the Ceej.

• This is the first time that Yu Darvish will face the Baltimore Orioles. In first-time starts, The Yu is 11-3 with a 3.12 ERA. Pretty impressive, more so if you consider that the majority of those decisions came prior to Darvish’s return-to-Japanese-League-Super-Awesome-Pitcher-of-Extraordinary-Magnitude-form.

• If Wednesday’s nearly-unmentionable 12-5 O-town debacle has left you skeptical not only about the Rangers, but of Yu Darvish as well, then consider this, cynical Sally: The Baltimore Orioles are a team that succumbs to strikeouts, and Yu Darvish is their worst freaking nightmare. Also, Captain contempt, C.J. Wilson ain’t starting tonight.

Joe Saunders “Factor”

• The greatness of The Yu is matched only by the awfulness of Joe Saunders. Joe freaking Saunders, man! My only concern: Joe Saunders pitches from the port side and can’t break glass with his heater. Two things the Rangers’ bats tend to struggle with.

Playoff Or Game 163?

• It’s goofy, but tonight’s game actually would have gone down even without the new Wild Card format since the Rangers and Orioles have identical records, it makes it hard to get too excited. In many ways, it’s just game 163, the baseball game equivalent of going to junior college right out of high school, and enjoying the heck out of a “bonus year.” Or what I used to enthusiastically refer to as “12th Grade Redux.” I mean, isn’t that exactly what the Orioles are—our JV discards?

Buck Showalter

• He could never consistently win as a Texas Rangers manager so why should he now? Sure, that’s an irrational thought. The Baltimore Orioles are essentially built from a Rangers’ scrapheap of prospects, pitchers, and Adam “Not Pacman” Jones. Personally, I think that says far more about the level of talent that the Rangers possess than the excellent job Showalter has done in Baltimore. Regardless, the 2012 Orioles are a far better team than anything that Buck Showalter had to work with during his Texas tenure.

If/Then

Wednesday’s collapse sent me hurtling into a fetal position that only the promise of cheap beer and discount chicken wings could usher me out of. Yes, I was trapped in a childlike daze for hours after that 12-5 gut punch. So, in lieu of that, let’s take a trip into the excellent pre-adolescent game of “If/Then.” Why? Because it’s fun, and I’m sure as hades not going to “predict” anything…here goes:

If the Texas Rangers jump on the Baltimore Orioles early, and Yu Darvish continues to pitch the way he has, while once again destroying a first-time opponent, Then the Texas Rangers will win, and face the New York Yankees this Sunday in the ALDS.

If said Rangers win occurs, then I will still not buy this silly hat:

The Yu Darvish Ace Audition: Baltimore/Texas “Playoff” Matchup

However, if said hat should happen to come adorned with another particular logo—hint: the same one that’s been on there since 2010—then I will most definitely purchase one—and still bitch about the $38.99 price tag.

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Oct 052012
 
Yu Darvish

Baseball Do Post season Prep Podcast   Episode 19

The Rangers are playoff bound!  Are we excited or what?  The regular season didn’t quite shape up like we had hoped, but nonetheless, the post-season brings new hope!

Ok, was that a little too “rah-rah”?

How about this:

The Rangers are limping into the post-season with a one-game, all-or-nothing match-up against the Orioles tonight at the Ballpark.  While on paper, we should kill the Orioles tonight, we are hesitant to be too cocky based on the lifeless and uninspiring performance of the team over the last two weeks.

We discuss the collapse and what we expect to see from the Rangers during the post-season with a comparable level of lifelessness and lack of inspiration.

Who needs to step up for this team to have a chance?

If the Rangers get past Baltimore, do they stand a chance from there?

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Oct 032012
 
RangersAs

Here we are at game 162…

How the West was won...At no point this season, did I think it would come to this.  Even yesterday, I felt confident that Matt Harrison would get it done.  I felt confident that the bats would come to life just enough to claim victory in game 161 and wrap up the AL West title.

But that’s not the way it worked out…and here we are.

A small part of me is excited.  While I would have loved for the Rangers to have locked up the division a month ago, there is something to be said for this Game 7-like finality.

The more realistic and pessimistic side of me wants to puke.  The Rangers look like a deflated, uninterested, scared team and a meager shell of what we saw early in the season.  This side  of me is not confident that we can secure the division with a win today.  This side of me is not confident we can beat Baltimore in a one game Wild Card to get to the ALDS.  This is not my favorite side of me…

Let’s take a quick look at how the West was won….

AL West Division as of April 30th, 2012

Tm W L W-L% GB RS RA pythW-L%
TEX 17 6 .739 124 68 .750
SEA 11 13 .458 6.5 94 103 .458
OAK 11 13 .458 6.5 73 92 .396
LAA 8 15 .348 9.0 80 94 .427
Feeling good at this point.  The Angels were the bigger concern coming into the season, and Rangers fans were just as enthused about their poor start as they were the Rangers strong start.

AL West Division as of May 31st, 2012

Tm W L W-L% GB RS RA pythW-L%
TEX 31 20 .608 291 212 .641
LAA 26 26 .500 5.5 199 191 .519
SEA 23 30 .434 9.0 218 216 .504
OAK 22 29 .431 9.0 164 202 .406
That’s more like it.  Angels surged in late-April/May with the arrival of Mike Trout and the bottom feeders took their rightful spots – 9 games out close to 1/3 of the way through the season.

AL West Division as of June 30th, 2012

Tm W L W-L% GB RS RA pythW-L%
TEX 50 29 .633 426 324 .623
LAA 43 35 .551 6.5 337 297 .558
OAK 37 42 .468 13.0 297 301 .494
SEA 34 46 .425 16.5 315 344 .460
The Rangers continued to hold a nice lead in the division at 6.5 games over the Angels.  Oakland and Seattle continued to slide as expected.  It clearly looked like a two horse race as we approached the All-Star break.

AL West Division as of July 31st, 2012

Tm W L W-L% GB RS RA pythW-L%
TEX 59 43 .578 507 434 .571
LAA 57 47 .548 3.0 475 416 .560
OAK 56 47 .544 3.5 414 384 .534
SEA 49 57 .462 12.0 423 422 .501
What the hell happened here?  Rangers (9-14 in July) gave up some ground to the Angels (14-12 in July) and Oakland got HOT, posting a record of 19-5 during the month of July.  All of the sudden, there looked to be a third horse in the race.  While there July performance couldn’t be ignored, it was seen as a bit flukey and I think many questioned if they could sustain the pace through the end of the regular season.

AL West Division as of August 31st, 2012

Tm W L W-L% GB RS RA pythW-L%
TEX 78 53 .595 675 562 .583
OAK 74 57 .565 4.0 560 486 .564
LAA 70 62 .530 8.5 631 588 .532
SEA 64 69 .481 15.0 518 528 .491
The Angels faded during August and Oakland kept pace with the Rangers.  With a month to go, there was still a small fear of a Angels surge and most felt like Oakland was for real at this point.
Wild card for Oakland?  Sure.
AL West title for Oakland?  Seemed like a stretch.

AL West Division as of September 30th, 2012

Tm W L W-L% GB RS RA pythW-L%
TEX 93 66 .585 799 688 .568
OAK 91 68 .572 2.0 694 605 .562
LAA 88 71 .553 5.0 758 677 .552
SEA 73 86 .459 20.0 597 642 .467
This is where we stood Monday morning.  Headed to Oakland in complete control of the division and our post-season placement…and our DESTINY if you dig the emotional cheese.

AL West Division as of Today

Tm W L W-L% GB RS RA pythW-L%
TEX 93 68 .578 803 695 .566
OAK 93 68 .578 701 609 .564
LAA 89 72 .553 4.0 767 687 .550
SEA 74 87 .460 19.0 607 651 .468
Two games with Oakland.  Two losses.  Game 162 today at 2:30pm to determine:
  • The American League West Division Title
  • Post-season placement – Wild Card or #1/#2 seed (depending on Yanks outcome)
  • Another chapter in the Rangers History Book.

Will this team be looked back on as the team that came through when their backs were against the wall – or – will this be the team that cued up changes.  Changes in personnel, changes in approach and changes in how the team is perceived by the rest of the MLB community.

How the West was won...

Hey Dempster – need ya to be great today brother!

I want to be the guy that believes the Rangers can wrap this up today and play like I know they are capable of in the post-season.  I also want to be independently wealthy without actually working, but…

Love you all.  See you on the other side.

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Oct 012012
 
Martin Perez

The Rangers head out to Oakland for a three game series against the Swingin’ A’s, who are currently only 2 games back in the AL West.  While the Rangers are the in the driver’s seat and have locked up a position in the post-season, the division title is on the line; not to mention avoiding the craziness of a one game Wild Card game if the division is lost.

Jarrod Parker vs. Martin Perez

Can Perez lock up the division in Game 1 of the series?

With the season on the line, could we ask for anyone better to be on the mound tonight for the Rangers?  Yes.

October Baseball   AL West Title on the line in OaklandThat said, the young Perez is taking the mound whether we like it or not.

  • Perez has faced Oakland twice this season, both starts, and is 1-1 with a 10.50 ERA and a 2.167 WHIP across 6 innings of work.
  • Most recent start against the A’s was last Wednesday when he was quickly dispatched after giving up 5 runs on 6 hits after just 2/3 of an inning.
  • His other start against Oakland, came on June 30th (Baseball Do Field Trip!), where he got the win, giving up 2 earned runs over 5 1/3 innings.
  • His body of work is really too small to read into it too much….

We know Perez has the ability to be great.  We know he has the stuff to shut down the opposition.  We have seen glimpses, but nothing sustained.  Could he put it together for a solid 6 innings tonight against the A’s?  One can always hope.

  • Oakland’s team batting average over the last 14 days is .253, compared to .237 across all of 2012.
  • During that same 14 day span, Yoenis Cespedes has a 1.027 OPS and Coco Crisp has a 1.300 OPS.
  • Oakland’s team BABIP over that same span is .302 compared to .280 for the season.

The A’s are playing great baseball and seem to have a ton of momentum with just the right amount of lady luck mixed in.

Jarrod Parker hates you

October Baseball   AL West Title on the line in OaklandThe A’s counter the Rangers young left-hander with a youngster of their own in  23 year-old Jarrod Parker.  Parker enters tonight’s match-up with a 12-8 record on the season with a 3.44 ERA and 1.260 WHIP.

  • Parker is 3-1 with a 2.31 ERA over the last month of the season, striking out 27 and walking only 6 during the span.
  • Parker has two starts against the Rangers on the season, and has earned the victory in both of them, going 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA and a 0.857 WHIP.
  • 14 of Parker’s 28 starts have come at home, where he has proven to be more effective with a 2.49 ERA and a 1.170 WHIP.

It’s not all doom and gloom…he’s not untouchable…as proven by the Kansas City Royals, who beat his ass back on August 14th.  Rangers need to channel Alex Gordon and Alcides Escobar.

Parker faces a Rangers offense that we all know is capable of knocking any pitcher in baseball out early…but has been inconsistent throughout the large majority of the 2012 season.  Could the Rangers bats be on the verge of a post-season breakout?

  • Mike Napoli has posted a 1.130 OPS (compared to .818 on the season) over the last 14 days with 5 home runs.
  • Nelson Cruz is also experiencing a surge with a .940 OPS (compared to .786 on the season) over that same span.

Outside of one inning, the Rangers bats haven’t had much luck against Parker, but given the match-up tonight, that trend has to change.

If the Rangers are going to wrap up the AL West division tonight, it’s going to be a high-scoring affair.  Realistically, I just don’t see how Perez will be able to keep the Oakland bats completely at bay.  I do think the Rangers can get to Parker, but will it be enough to overcome?

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