A look at the four-game set down in Texas this weekend.
SB Nation Blog
The opponent in one sentence
Although there have been a handful of early-season surprises of teams projected to be bad topping their divisions, Texas has not been one of them as their season has gotten off to a bit of a rocky start.
Down. The Rangers did have a nice stretch in the middle of April in which they made some noise, but that time is now behind them and they are coming off a couple of rough series. Most recently, they dropped two of three at home against the Angels, a series loss that came directly after being swept on the road by the White Sox.
4/29: Martín Pérez vs. Kyle Gibson, 8:05 PM ET
It’s a Pérez day to start this series as the Red Sox lefty goes back to where his career began. Once a top prospect for the Rangers, Pérez has carved out a nice role as a back-end starter, and he’s serving that role in Boston right now. He’s been fine this year, although things haven’t been trending in the right direction. He has a chance to turn things around against a rebuilding Rangers team, although their problems are more on the pitching staff and less in the lineup. Pérez has pitched to a 5.71 ERA this year, struggling even more than usual with his control. Look for him to throw strikes and try to induce some weak contact down in Texas.
Gibson landed a three-year deal from the Rangers prior to last season, but he struggled mightily for them in the shortened season with an ERA over 5.00. Early on this season, things are going much better as he has clearly been the best pitcher on this staff. His control is back in check with fewer than three walks per nine innings, a 2.30 ERA and peripherals that almost exactly match that. Gibson won’t miss a ton of bats, but he does get a bunch of ground balls which can make for frustrating games. Look for the Red Sox to try and string together some hits rather than doing it all with one swing Thursday night. The righty will feature a sinker that sits in the 91-93 range along with a slider, a cutter and a four-seam, along with a few other occasional secondaries.
4/30: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Kohei Arihara, 8:05 PM ET
Eovaldi has, for the most part, been very good for the Red Sox this season, combining with Eduardo Rodriguez to give them a formidable one-two punch. That said, things went a bit sideways last time out as he allowed five runs (four earned) over just five innings of work. It was his second straight start with at least four runs crossing the plate. On the season his ERA is still 3.77, but he’s been giving up a bunch of hits lately. Look for him to get back to basics and try to induce some of that weak contact we saw in his first few starts of 2021.
Arihara was one of the bigger names to come over from Asia this past winter, leaving behind the NPB in search for a career in the majors. The 28-year-old landed a two-year pact in Texas, and the early returns have been just solid. He isn’t going to miss very many bats which makes him something of an anomaly in the modern era, but the righty has good command and can be tough to square up when he’s on. For the season, he has pitched to a 4.03 ERA through five starts, though some of the expected numbers suggest he’s in for the bad kind of regression at some point. Arihara will throw the kitchen sink at you, featuring a low-90s fastball, a slider, a cutter, a changeup, a sinker, a splitter and a curveball.
5/1: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Jordan Lyles, 7:05 PM ET (MLB Network for out-of-market)
There really isn’t a whole lot more to say about Rodriguez, who has stepped up in a big way through this first month of the season as the team’s ace. The lefty has pitched to a 3.52 ERA, which is good in its own right, but also has peripherals that are even better. Phil wrote up where this success is coming from in more detail.
Like Gibson above, Lyles got a multi-year deal from the Rangers prior to last season and did not perform up to par in the 2020 season. Unlike Gibson, he has yet to turn things around. It’s been another tough showing for the righty this summer, starting off his season with a 6.75 ERA (which is actually a bit better than last season). He’s had a few different issues, which is not surprising for a guy with an ERA approaching 7.00, but the biggest problem has been the long ball. After allowing 12 dingers in 12 appearances (nine starts and three relief appearances) last season, he’s allowed seven in five starts in 2021. The Red Sox have a chance to put him in an early hole on Saturday if they take advantage of mistakes. Lyles will feature a fastball that sits around 92-93, a slider and a curveball.
5/2: Garrett Richards vs. Mike Foltynewicz, 2:35 PM ET
For most of this season, Richards had been far and away the worst starter for the Red Sox, struggling mightily with his control. This buried him in a few starts, and while he had a couple where things got better as they went along, the start was bad enough to paint the whole picture as ugly. Then, his last start in Queens came around and he looked like a totally different guy. The command was on point with all of his pitches, and his curveball in particular was electric. He won’t necessarily be that good every start — he allowed one run over seven innings with ten strikeouts and no walks — but it will be interesting to see how he builds off that outing. I’ll be looking in particular at how he approaches things with his curveball.
It wasn’t all that long ago that Foltynewicz looked like he was going to carve out a long career as a major-league starter. The righty had a few solid seasons with the Braves before breaking out in a big way in 2018, posting a sub-3.00 ERA over a full season. Things quickly fell apart from there, to the point where he was available to everyone on waivers last year and no one bit. Now in Texas, he’s settled in to some extent this year, pitching to a 4.61 ERA which is certainly not good, but it’s also not disastrous. As with Lyles, the performance for Foltynewicz will come down almost entirely to his ability to keep the ball in the yard. The righty will feature a pair of mid-90s fastballs along with a slider, plus the occasional changeup and curveball.
Brock Holt is one of the great cult heroes in recent Red Sox history, building up a huge fanbase in Boston with his exciting play, community service and fun personality. The Red Sox opted to let him walk, though, and he’s now in Texas with a new mustache to boot. He does have something not too far off from an everyday role, though.
Notable Position Players
Joey Gallo is one of the most fearsome power hitters in baseball and is on the shortlist for the most raw power in the game. He will strike out a ton, but he more than makes up for it with patience and that aforementioned power. That power hasn’t really shown up yet this year, but he’s still putting up good numbers thanks in large part to a 22 percent walk rate.
Nick Solak has been one of the big surprises in baseball early on this season, hitting .319/.404/.582. The power has been the big surprise with seven home runs already, but he’s always been able to put the bat on the ball.
Nate Lowe is a former Rays first baseman who got squeezed out of playing time by Ji-Man Choi in Tampa. He’s another three true outcomes player, and while he’s been better than Gallo so far this season that should be expected to keep up.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa is an interesting player who started his career as a catcher, moved to third base and is now at shortstop. At the plate he’s struggled to get going with an aggressive approach that hasn’t resulted in enough hard contact.
Willie Calhoun is a former top prospect who doesn’t really have a defensive home but has some talent at the plate.
Adolis Garcia has been an all-or-nothing outfielder for Texas early this season, with a ton of strikeouts, not many walks, but also a whole lot of power.
David Dahl was a hot commodity among fans on the free agent market this winter, but his early season has been really disappointing with a 47 wRC+.
Holt, as I said, has been playing a bunch as a platoon infielder, and he’s been able to remain close to average thanks in large part to a huge walk rate.
Jose Trevino is the Rangers catcher and he has not provided much of anything offensively to this point.
Ian Kennedy has come out of nowhere in recent seasons as a really solid late-inning reliever, and he’s had a good start this year with solid strikeout stuff and really good control. In fact, if he walks anyone this weekend it will be a first for 2021.
Joely Rodriguez hasn’t had a ton of time this year and has been bit by the BABIP bug some, but he’s shown off great stuff and also hasn’t issued a walk to this point in the year.
José Leclerc looked like one of the game’s top young relievers just a few years ago, but injuries have hurt him. He’s rehabbing from Tommy John and will miss the entire season.
Khris Davis was traded to the Rangers this past winter but he’s been set back by hamstring issues. He’s starting his rehab up, though, so he could be back soon.
Ronald Guzmán hurt his knee early in the season and the injury was bad enough that it required season-ending surgery.
Joanthan Hernández is another Rangers reliever who will be out the rest of the year recovering from Tommy John.
Matt Bush is yet another Rangers reliever on the shelf, and while he won’t miss the whole season he’s not expected back for at least a couple more months.
Sam Huff underwent minor knee surgery earlier this month, and should be back at some point but the timeline is not totally clear.
Kyle Cody was just recently put on the IL with some shoulder inflammation.
The weather in Texas isn’t a huge deal since they now have a roof in Arlington. That will come in handy because it does look like there are thunderstorms in and out of the forecast all weekend.