Arizona Diamondbacks (40-42) @ Texas Rangers (41-42)
The D-Backs are coming off a series win against the Rockies where they had a chance for the sweep in the final game, but just fell 2 runs short. They went 4-3 on the 7 game homestand, still just chilling between 1 and 5 games below .500 like they have all season. If you had told me they'd do that at the beginning of the season, I'd take that without a doubt. The D-Backs are still quietly lurking in the division race, 5.5 games back of LA for first, 5 games out of a wild card spot. For these guys to make a run at a playoff spot, they're gonna need to go on a big streak soon.
The Rangers just had what was probably their worst series of the year, where the Angels swept them in 3 games, outscoring them 33-8. Probably was not the best baseball Texas has ever played. The series dropped the Rangers a game below .500, 6.5 games behind the Astros for first (still seems weird to use "Astros" and "first" in the same sentence), and just 2.5 games out of a wild card sport. The Rangers do a pretty good job of scoring runs, 10th in the majors in runs per game. The problem comes when you look at the pitching (in particular the bullpen, their 4.40 ERA ranks 2nd to last), ranking 23rd in opposing runs scored per game.
- Nick Ahmed is an offensive threat. In the last 30 days, his triple slash is .299/.351/.448, which puts him 2nd/4th/3rd on the team. The combination of his new found offensive ability and his fantastic defense makes him one of the most valuable guys on the team.
- In the last 30 days, the D-Backs bullpen has been fantastic with a 2.82 ERA. Both Brad Ziegler and Oliver Perez haven't allowed an earned run over that stretch.
- Adrian Beltre has not been good at all this year, batting .248 with 6 homers on the year. He isn't showing any sign of turning it around either, with a .158 average in July.
- With the disappointing seasons of Shin-Shoo Choo, Adrian Beltre, and Elvis Andrus, Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland have put the team on their backs. Together they are batting .324 with 50 XBHs including 27 homers.
- D-Backs starting pitching has been very bad lately, with a 5.82 ERA in the last 2 weeks. The offense can't do everything on its own.
Rangers pitcher Anthony Ranaudo probably won't pitch Tuesday after throwing 58 pitches in mop up work on Sunday. Other than that, both bullpens should be good to go due to the off day Monday.
Archie Bradley will not be back for this series, and it is unknown when he will be back. As of July 2, he was supposed to rest for 10 days, then work from there. We may see Ender Inciarte activated from the DL to play in this series. He took batting practice and ran on June 29, and Chip Hale has said he'd probably return about 18-20 days after the injury.
Only new report for the Rangers is that Josh Hamilton was not in the lineup over the weekend with "general soreness". Huh?
Game 1: Robbie Ray LHP (2-4, 2.55 ERA, 1.09 WHIP) vs Yovani Gallardo RHP (7-6, 2.56 ERA, 1.14 WHIP)
After a hot start to his year, Ray has cooled off a bit with a 4.58 ERA in his last 3 starts. Robbie has done a good job this year of keeping walks down (2.34 walks per 9) and balls in the park (2 homers allowed in 7 starts). If Ray does these two things well, he will continue to be a good pitcher. The question is if he can return to that great form we saw when he was called up.
Ex-Brewer Yovani Gallardo has dominated Diamondback teams of the past, but has very little experience against this team. Only Paul Goldschmidt, Wellington Castillo, and Aaron Hill have had more than 5 plate appearances against him. Now is definitely not the time you want to face Gallardo, who holds a 26.1 scoreless inning streak going into Tuesday's game. Yikes. Good news is that his only start against Arizona this year was one of his weaker ones, where he allowed 3 runs over 5 innings. The D-Backs will have a tough time getting to Gallardo in this one, and I give the advantage to Texas Tuesday.
Game 2: Jeremy Hellickson RHP (6-5, 5.06 ERA, 1.35 WHIP) vs Matt Harrison LHP (2014 stats: 1-1, 4.15 ERA, 1.85 WHIP)
Hellickson is coming off his best start of the season, where he allowed 1 run on 3 hits in 7 innings. After a bumpy start to the season, Jeremy has somewhat righted the ship with 7 out of his 9 last outings being quality starts. He needs to get to the point where he doesn't have those blow-up starts, and can consistently go 6 innings and allow 2 or 3 runs. If he can reduce the number of homers he allows, he can accomplish that consistency.
Matt Harrison is making his first start of the season after a spinal fusion surgery (which sounds like the most painful thing ever) in June of 2014. You've really gotta feel for the guy, who is just making his 7th appearance since his all-star year in 2012. Since he hasn't pitched in so long, your guess is as good as mine as to how he'll perform. Advantage D-Backs for this game.
For the D-Backs I'm going with A.J. Pollock. After going into a slump during early and mid June, he has really bounced back, batting .417 in 5 games in July. He is a key part of the offense, and needs to keep it going for the D-Backs to succeed.
For the Rangers I'm going with their team morale in general. They just got outscored 33-8 in 3 games against a division rival. Whether they let this bring them down or use it as motivation will play a part in this series.
I've got the D-Backs losing game 1, and winning game 2 for a split against the Rangers.