Prior to Saturday’s loss to the Tigers, the Rangers had won a MLB-best 10 straight games, catapulting them from last place in the AL West into second place. Entering Sunday, though, they still find themselves 6.5 games behind the division-leading Astros, whose 29-14 record in the best in the majors.
During the 10-game winning streak, which was the Rangers’ longest since winning 12 in a row in 2011, the offense has picked up significantly. In April, the team’s .220 batting average was the third-lowest in the majors. In May through Saturday, which includes prior to the start of the winning streak, the team is closer to the middle of the pack at .251. Their 27 home runs are the seventh-most in MLB, and the team’s slugging percentage has risen from .392 to .427 since the calendar turned to May. The numbers over the last seven days are even more impressive, with the team hitting .300, third best in the majors, with a .449 slugging percentage. The pitching staff’s ERA has also improved, going from 3.89 in April to 3.75 so far this month.
One criticism people can point out about the team’s winning streak is that the bulk of it came against bad teams in the Padres, A’s and Phillies. They’ve split the first two games of this weekend’s series with the Tigers, and things won’t be as easy this week when the Rangers head to Fenway Park to take on the Red Sox. They then head to Toronto for a series with the struggling Blue Jays, with whom they’ve had bad blood in recent years.
The latest injury news involves two of the best hitters in the majors, with the more serious of the two being Braves 1B Freddie Freeman. He’s expected to miss eight to 10 weeks with a fractured wrist after being hit in the wrist by an Aaron Loup fastball during Wednesday’s game against the Blue Jays. At the time of the injury, his 14 home runs led the National League, and he was hitting .341 with a 1.209 OPS and a 2.5 WAR. The Braves traded for Cardinals 1B Matt Adams on Saturday, and he is expected to get the majority of the starts at the position while Freeman is out. While Freeman’s injury is a loss for the Braves, they likely be competitive for a playoff spot even without the injury, with an 18-22 record heading into Sunday.
Dodgers 3B Justin Turner was placed on the disabled list Saturday with a strained right hamstring. His .379 batting average is the best in the majors, putting a hole in the Dodgers’ lineup. Utilityman Chris Taylor should be the primary starter in Turner’s absence. Taylor is hitting .338, but he has been lucky in many of his 80 at-bats, as evidenced by his .423 BABIP. His career batting average is .256, and he should be expected to regress back toward that number as he gets more at-bats. The Dodgers are hopeful Turner won’t be out for long, though, with manager Dave Roberts putting out the possibility of him returning “in a couple of weeks.”
Other big names placed on the DL this week include Astros SP Dallas Keuchel, whose 1.84 ERA leads the majors. His injury doesn’t seem to be serious, and the team expects he will miss just one start with a pinched nerve in his neck. The DL move was retroactive to May 17, meaning he would be eligible to return to the team late in the week. The Mariners placed 2B Robinson Cano on the DL Tuesday with a right quad strain, with the move retroactive to the 13th. He is expected to come off the DL when eligible on Tuesday, missing the minimum amount of time.
Also on this week’s injury report: Giants OF Hunter Pence (hamstring), Blue Jays OFs Steve Pearce (calf) and Darrell Ceciliani (shoulder) and SP Aaron Sanchez (finger blister), Diamondbacks OF A.J. Pollock (groin), Indians OF Abraham Almonte (biceps), Mets SS Asdrubal Cabrera (thumb), Rangers OF Carlos Gomez (hamstring), Marlins RP Junichi Tazawa (ribs) and SP Tom Koehler (shoulder), Pirates OF Gregory Polanco (hamstring), Nationals RP Joe Blanton (shoulder), Padres SPs Trevor Cahill (shoulder) and Jered Weaver (hip), Rays 2B Brad Miller (abdominal strain) and Astros C Brian McCann (concussion).
The Week Ahead
Taking a look at the schedule for the week, the Orioles host the Twins for a three-game series starting Monday, which is the same day the Tigers head to Houston for four with the Astros. The Reds and Indians have their annual intrastate series, with two games in Cincinnati Monday and Tuesday followed by a couple in Cleveland on Wednesday and Thursday. The Red Sox start a three-game series with the Rangers at home on Tuesday, with a Cardinals-Dodgers series also getting underway that day in Los Angeles. In the second half of the week, the Orioles visit the Astros starting Friday, with the Cubs heading to Los Angeles to battle the Dodgers that weekend in a rematch of last year’s National League Championship Series. In a matchup of National League contenders, the Rockies host the Cardinals starting Friday.
Taking a look at some of this week’s notable pitching performances and matchups, Astros P Brad Peacock gets the start Monday, filling in for Keuchel, as he opposes Tigers SP Michael Fulmer. Tuesday’s game in Baltimore sees a matchup of pitchers with sub-3.00 ERAs when Twins SP Ervin Santana duels with Orioles SP Dylan Bundy. Giants SP Johnny Cuero goes on Tuesday against Cubs SP Kyle Hendricks. Blue Jays SP Marcus Stroman takes the mound Wednesday against Brewers SP Matt Garza, who has pitched surprisingly well so far this season, with a 2.43 ERA. That same day, Red Sox SP Chris Sale tries to become the first pitcher since 1913 to record at least 10 strikeouts in nine straight games; he’ll be opposed by Rangers SP Martin Perez. Pirates SP Ivan Nova looks to continue his streak of lasting at least six innings — he’s done it in all nine starts this season — Thursday as he takes on the Braves and ageless SP Bartolo Colon. Yankees SP Masahiro Tanaka also returns to the mound Thursday, against the Royals, as he looks to bounce back from two poor starts in a row.