8:00 PM EST, ESPN – Money Line: Rangers -121, Run Line: 9 u 15
With the All-Star Break right around the corner, the true contenders are beginning to reveal themselves, with one of that number riding a wave of momentum as the streaking Boston Red Sox face off against the struggling Texas Rangers in the second meeting of a short three-game set from Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Winners of five straight contests and seven of their past eight, the Red Sox (48-35, 1st in AL East)very nearly saw their momentum halted last night, as they needed Extra Innings to take down the home side. Leading 5-4 in the Ninth Inning, Closer Craig Kimbrel (1.23 ERA, 23 SV) blew the Save when one swing of Mike Napoli’s bat tied the game at five all. However, after a scoreless Tenth, the visitors manufactured a lead, as a Tzu-Wei Lin (.286 BA) Walk followed by a Mookie Betts Double (.285 BA, 28 2B, 15 HR, 51 RBI) placed runners on Second and Third, before Dustin Padroia (.303 BA, 14 2B, 2 HR, 36 RBI), who at that point already had four hits and three RBI was intentionally walked to load the bases. With the proverbial table now set, Andrew Benintendi (.276 BA, 12 2B, 10 HR, 44 RBI) blooped a Single into Leftfield to drive home a pair of runs, granting John Farrell’s charges yet another victory, which widened their lad in the Division to three games. From the Bump, reigning Cy Young winner Rick Porcello (4-10, 5.01 ERA) continued to struggle mightily, giving up three runs on as many hits, including a pair of home runs in 6.1 innings of work, brining his total of dingers allowed to nineteen. Taking the mound tonight for the Red Sox is David Price (3-2, 4.61 ERA), who may finally be showing signs of returning to his All-Star form after returning from the Disabled List back on May 29th. Persistent injuries and battles with the Media aside, the veteran Lefthander holds the proverbial Keys to the Kingdom for Farrell and Co., for if he is able to recapture anything that resembles the form that earned him a Cy Young back in 2012, than Boston’s Rotation will go from being Chris Sale and a few other arms to being something far more formidable. In five of his last six starts, the 31-year old has permitted three or fewer runs, all the while posting a respectable 1.27 WHIP and averaging 7.9 Strikeouts per Nine Innings. Indeed, he gave the faithful at Fenway something to be optimistic about in his last start, relegating the Minnesota Twins to three runs on six hits, while fanning seven batters and walking none. Tonight’s meeting with the Rangers should provide a solid barometer as to where Price is both mentally and physically, for their powerful lineup always poses a threat. For his part, Texas hasn’t been the most accommodating of opponents, for from 2014 to 2016, the Lefty has 1-1 with a 6.04 ERA in four starts against them, despite, striking out twenty-five batters and walking a scant pair. Furthermore, in two starts at Globe Life Park, he’s been tagged for an 8.64 ERA, with seventeen hits and two home runs in just 8.1 innings of labor. Control has been the biggest issue here, for on the season Price has averaged 3.3 Walks per Nine Innings, a full 1.3 more than the figure he logged a year ago, and his highest mark since 2010, which was his third year in the Majors.
Meanwhile, the Rangers (40-43, 4th in AL West) are heading in the wrong direction, losing six out of their last eight outings, while falling further down the standings in the American League West, where they are now sixteen games out of First Place. They very nearly managed to stop the bleeding as Jeff Banister’s bats awoke late to rally back from a 5-2 hole at home against the Red Sox last night. In the seventh Inning, Carlos Gomez (.252 BA, 12 2B, 11 HR, 30 RBI) pelted his eleventh home run of the campaign, Sin-Soo Choo (.257 BA, 7 2b, 12 HR, 41 RBI) crossed home courtesy of a Nomar Mazara (.257 BA, 15 2B, 11 HR, 52 RBI) Single to Leftfield in the Eighth. While Boston turned to the aforementioned Kimbrel in the Ninth, Mike Napoli (.193 BA, 6 2b, 17 HR, 36 RBI) promptly homered to Left to tie the contest, and force Extras. However, that would be where the ride ended, as Reliever Ernesto Frieri (0-1, 5.14 ERA) collapsed in the Eleventh stanza, loading the bases for the aforementioned Benintendi to drive home a pair of runs and build a lead that they simply couldn’t overcome. Martin Perez (4-6, 4.60 ERA) made his sixteenth start of the season, but didn’t make it past the Sixth Inning, as he was battered for five runs (only two earned) on seven hits, while struggling with his control, walking four batters in comparison to striking out three. The Bullpen did a solid job for the most part in keeping the Red Sox bats at bay the rest of the way, but as has been the case far too often this season, Texas simply hasn’t gotten enough out of it’s Rotation. Perhaps that will change tonight, for heading to the mound for Banister and Co. is Yu Darvish (6-6, 3.11 ERA) who like his counterpart tonight in Boston, has made the long road back from an injury, though appears to be much farther along in the process. The Japanese International has been by far and away the most intimidating arm in the Rangers’ Rotation this season, and thanks to his team’s standing in the Division, will likely be the subject of many Trade Talks as the Deadline nears closer. After missing all of the 2015 campaign, and nearly half of last year’s, the 30-year old Righthander has strung together a number of Quality Starts, even though Texas has fallen in defeat in six of his last seven starts. Over the course of his last three appearances (all Rangers’ losses), Darvish has yielded just seven earned runs on seventeen hits, while racking up a scintillating twenty-two strikeouts in comparison to a mere two walks. In his last start, a 5-3 loss at Cleveland, he was hit early for three runs through the first three innings of place, but settled down to hold the Indians scoreless until being pulled after the Sixth frame, having tossed 101 pitches with his Triceps being the culprit. From 2014 to 2016, Darvish has only faced the Red Sox once, though it was quite a matchup; over eight innings of work, he rendered Boston scoreless on two hits, striking out a dozen batters and walking a pair.