It is apparently that year again where we face our rivals from Texas for one of those artificially created interleague rivalries by the MLB.
A lot of those interleague rivalries make a lot of sense. Like Mets and Yankees, Cubs and White Sox, the Florida teams, Dodgers and Angels or Orioles and Nationals. But some others might not attract the eye of the public, like Pirates and Tigers or Mariners and Padres. The Diamondbacks playing either Houston or the Rangers won’t ever pump us up either, I suppose, although this year the clash between the Rangers and Diamondbacks is probably an interesting one for any other reason but supposed geographic rivalry.
That is the term MLB has used to preview this two-game set at Arlington. While it is hardly a very original name to dub this match-up as such, MLB is right in describing the Diamondbacks and Rangers’ lead in their divisions that way.
The Diamondbacks’ lead is thin, but still remarkable, in a division where the Dodgers have ran away with the title the last years and the Padres have spent big to be contenders. The Rangers’ lead isn’t that big either, but might be even more impressive since they are 2 games ahead of last year’s World Series champion, who were dubbed an “All Time Team” or “Dynasty” by media outlets, like ESPN.
It is even more impressive what both teams have achieved thus far after ending at the back of their divisions in 2022.
Although Diamondbacks and Rangers might share some of the similarities named above, their path to today’s division lead has been very different. Where the Diamondbacks are leaning on their young core and talented players, the Rangers have chosen the path of big spenders, mainly because of that lack of talent breaking through their ranks these past few years.
The future of the Texas Rangers could be bright. Just a couple of years ago their farm system was bullocks, but in 2023 the Rangers are a consensus Top 10 rank on those sites that follow and rank prospects. In MLB Pipeline’s Pre-season Top 100 Texas was represented by 6 prospects. In 2023 and 2024 a flux of talent will pour into the Majors.
That crop will complement a Major League team that is loaded with big names. And big contracts.
The Texas Rangers have entered the Top 10 in MLB in total salary with a payroll of almost $200MM. They started that winning-by-paying strategy last year when they signed free agents Corey Seager ($325MM), Marcus Semien ($175MM) and Jon Gray ($56MM). This year they added more starting pitching, handing out bigger contracts to Andrew Heaney ($25MM), Nathan Eovaldi ($34MM) and Jacob DeGrom ($185MM).
One other acquisition they made was signing former Giants’ success manager Bruce Bochy.
Another important move was retaining star pitcher Martin Perez on a Qualifying Offer.
Rangers looking good.
The Rangers haven’t had the toughest schedule yet, playing 12 of 28 games against Royals, A’s and Reds. They won a series against the Astros and swept the (injury-riddled) Phillies, but lost series against the Cubs and Orioles. The Reds swept them last week. On the other hand, Texas welcomes the Diamondbacks on the heels of a 3-1 series win against the New York Yankees. So, while the Rangers might not be a lights out team, it is a rival that will be a tough team to face for the Diamondbacks and especially Arizona’s pitching.
The Rangers’ offence is 2nd in the MLB when looking at runs scored and OPS+, on a distance from the league’s first Tampa Bay Rays. They have a fierceful top of the lineup that consists out of the infielders Nate Lowe, Marcus Semien, Corey Seager, Rookie Josh Jung and catcher Jonah Heim. Texas has 3 top 3 positional rankings in Catcher, first base and second base.
Defensively the Texas Rangers aren’t very highly regarded, putting more stress on their pitching staff. It is probably one of the reasons why the Rangers have been looking for outside help on the mound. So far, the newly assembled pitching staff has been able to cope with that pressure very well.
The Texas Rangers’ pitching staff is currently top of the class in the MLB, with an ERA that is very close to their FIP. They have been very good in limiting homeruns, walks and hits. Their bullpen has been equally as good as the starting rotation, although they haven’t been forced to pitch in very stressful situations: closer Will Smith (who has continued the upward trend he started last season after being picked up by the Astros) has had only 3 saves thus far. Even Ian Kennedy looks less terrible than he has actually been with a 2.10 FIP.
If you ask me, I will sincerely respond that this Texas Rangers team doesn’t look like a team the Diamondbacks can beat: strong pitching that doesn’t allow many baserunners and offensive power that propels the team to outhit and outrun the opponent. I am not sure if our small-ball hit and run strategy will be successful against that, just like our thin line of pitching aces could get overmatched by one of their powerful hitters.
But there is hope:
- Star shortstop and slugger Corey Seager is on the IL since April 12 with a hamstring injury and will be out until at least mid May.
- Jacob DeGrom went on the IL again with an elbow inflammation and is at least out until mid May, and possibly a lot longer.
- Catcher Mitch Garver is no longer the mainstay behind the plate, but still a good back-up or even a DH. He is out until at least mid May with a knee injury.
- The Rangers also have had 4 pitchers on the 60-day IL since the beginning of the season, amongst them Jake Odorizzi, who will be out for the season.
And there is even more hope: the Diamondbacks will face the lesser pitchers of the Rangers’ rotation.
Game #1 Tue 05/02 5:05 PM MST, Zac Gallen (ARI) vs Jon Gray (TEX)
- Zac Gallen. 6 GS, 37.2 IP, 4 W-1 L, 2.15 ERA, 1.85 FIP, 0.77 WHIP, 10.20 K/BB.
- Jon Gray. 5 GS, 25.1 IP, 1 W-1 L, 3.91 ERA, 5.87 FIP, 1.34 WHIP, 1.31 K/BB.
Ask the question: when will Zac Gallen’s hitless streak come to an end? Good chance the streak will end in Arlington. But if there is a chance to win a game in Texas, then there is no better person to help the Diamondbacks with that than Zac Gallen, and even more in his matchup against Jon Gray who looks to be the weakest of the 5 starting pitchers (4 now with DeGrom on the IL) in Texas.
Jon Gray, the former Rockie, has been playing with fire this season, achieving just a 1.31 K/BB when his strong K/9 has always had that strong appeal on him. His velocity on the fastball is down but still sporting a healthy 95 mph, but he is only getting some good results on his slider at the moment. As a result, 3 of his 5 outings were without a decision and is a bit worrisome that he was struggling in his latest outings against weaker teams like the A’s and Reds.
This should be the game the Diamondbacks will have to take.
Game #2 Wed 05/03 11:05 AM MST, Merrill Kelly (ARI) vs Andrew Heaney (TEX)
- Merrill Kelly. 6 GS, 32.1 IP, 2 W-3 L, 3.06 ERA, 4.19 FIP, 1.30 WHIP, 1.67 K/BB.
- Andrew Heaney. 5 GS, 24.2 IP, 2 W-2 L, 4.38 ERA, 5.09 FIP, 1.22 WHIP, 2.60 K/BB.
Despite pitching for the Dodgers last year, Andrew Heaney has never faced the Diamondbacks in his career. The righty hasn’t been as sucessful in Texas as he was last year in Los Angeles, mainly due to the spike in walks this season. Heaney has always been somewhat homer prone so maybe we can get some big knocks in and count on Merrill to do well again this time, although you can’t really know with him this season. This game is basically a toss up and could be decided by which offence shows up best.
Give us your thought!
This poll is closed
Probably a split series.
Rangers beat us.