Jun 022012
 

Out with the Old and in with the Yu: Darvish and C.J. Wilson set to Battle for AL West SupremacyIt is often said that the truly great baseball players have an ability to “slow the game down.” They don’t get too far ahead of themselves, they take things pitch-by-pitch and inning-by-inning.

I feel that the same can be said of great baseball teams.

And for the Texas Rangers (31-21), currently mired in a three-game skid, perhaps this day-by-day philosophy is exactly what they need. Carpe Diem, Texas Rangers.

Even after last night’s gut-wrenching loss to the Los Angeles Angels (27-26), the Rangers are still sitting pretty atop the AL West, 4 1/2 games up.

That being said, tonight’s game can easily be viewed as the most important game of the season thus far. It’s fitting that the Rangers will turn to their team leader in wins, electric young right-hander Yu Darvish.

Tonight’s Matchup:

RH Yu Darvish (7-2, 3.45 ERA, WHIP: 1.46 K/9: 9.7 ) vs. LH C.J. Wilson (6-4, 2.77 ERA, WHIP: 1.11 K/9: 8.2 )

Darvish

Despite a touch of the stomach flu, Darvish pitched well enough to earn his seventh victory of the season in his last start. He held the Blue Jays to three runs on seven hits during his five innings of work. Darvish struck out three and walked three.

Against the Angels, Darvish has a 5.06 ERA despite allowing just a .158 batting average. Much of the damage in his initial meeting with the Angels in Arlington last month was due to the two home runs (Trout and Hunter) he surrendered.

Tonight’s game in Anaheim will be Darvish’s first time to pitch in the “Big A.”

Loves to face: Mark Trumbo (.000, 2 Ks), Maicer Izturis, Albert Pujols, Erik Aybar and Howie Kendrick are a combined 1-for-10 (.100 BA) against Darvish.

He has yet to face Peter Bourjos, Alberto Callaspo, John Hester, or Kendrys Morales.

Hates to face: Mike Trout. Don’t we all? Against Darvish, Trout is batting .500 with 1 HR and 2 RBI.

Torii Hunter has only managed one hit against Darvish, but it was of the long ball variety.

Wilson

C.J.’s most recent start came against the Seattle Mariners. He was able to earn his sixth win of the season despite battling a blister on his throwing hand. He surrendered just two hits over his six innings of work—complemented by five strikeouts. Wilson walked two.

Against the Texas Rangers last month, Wilson had the dubious distinction of starting two consecutive games.

Thanks to inclement weather coupled with an inability to get more than one out, Wilson lasted just 1/3 of an inning and surrendered four runs, all of which were earned. The loss dropped him to 4-3.

The very next night he pitched better, going 5 2/3 innings, striking out four while walking three.

The Texas Rangers are batting .333 against Wilson. He has a 5-5 career mark with a 3.57 ERA while pitching in Anaheim.

Loves to face: Mike Napoli (.211, 5 Ks), Ian Kinsler (.000, 2 Ks).

Hates to face: Adrain Beltre (.391, 1 HR, 4 RBI). Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Craig Gentry, and Brandon Snyder are a combined 6-for-11 (.545) against “Ceej.”

He has never faced David Murphy or Mitch Moreland. Due to their ineffectiveness against left-handers, Wilson will probably not see them tonight either.

Keys to victory for the Rangers:

Although the Angels and Rangers are very different in terms of personnel, they are quite close in regards to talent. Tonight’s game will be largely dictated by the effectiveness of each starter.

Both teams have the ability to shorten the game due to a strong bullpen. The Angels’ newest closer, Frieri, has yet to surrender a hit over 13 innings of work this season.

The Rangers’ Joe Nathan has been nearly invincible since some early-season hiccups.

Of key importance for the Rangers will be for Yu Darvish to establish command by getting ahead in the count. This will be dictated by his fastball command. Also, the defense needs to tighten up. At times over the last few weeks it seems as though the team has lost focus—particularly in the field.

Prediction time:

It almost seems that when Darvish doesn’t have his best stuff he is more effective. Regardless, he needs to establish command early. If he can stay ahead in the count then the rest will take care of itself.

I look for the Rangers to roll tonight, stop their skid, and boost their lead back up to 5 1/2 games over the Angels in the AL West.

Rangers win 6-3.

Go Rangers!

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