The Washington Nationals (25-27) would do well to take a page out of the Texas Rangers’ (28-26) book on offense.
The Nationals, whose offense has averaged just 3.2 runs per game in May, have not lacked hits or hard-hit balls, but have failed to employ them to a winning advantage.
The Rangers are a different story. They average 4.6 runs per game, with an average of 4.5 in May. Their team slash line of .268/.332/.391 ranks third, third and 15th among major league teams. An interesting note about their impressive slash line is that the team has walked only 162 times, which ranks 15th, and has hit just 34 home runs, which ranks 28th out of 30 teams. The hitters are reaching base — a lot — but mostly because they are putting the ball in play, and are executing small ball instead of relying on the long ball.
The Rangers also own the strange distinction of being caught stealing the most of any team, 23 times, but have succeeded 39 times, which ranks sixth.
Texas’ offense has helped them keep pace with the surging Oakland Athletics in the AL-West. The Tigers are four games behind first-place Oakland in third place, and have won seven of their last 10 games. The Nationals have the opposite recent record, winning three of their last 10, though they also sit in third place in their division.
The key for the Nationals in their first meeting with the Rangers since 2008 will be pitching. The Rangers have a 4.22 team ERA and a negative 10 run differential, meaning their pitching isn’t great at keeping their opponents from scoring more runs than their offense, no matter how big that numbers is.
The Nationals, though, have a 3.30 team ERA, which is fourth best in baseball. Despite that distinction, the starting pitchers have been performing below the ability Nationals followers have seen from them. During this meeting with the offense-heavy Rangers would be a great time for those starters to pitch like themselves and for the offense to take advantage of the hitting opportunities that the Rangers’ pitchers will provide.
Lone Star Stars
A strong contributor to Texas’ offense will be conspicuously absent from the Rangers’ lineup when they travel to Washington. Prince Fielder opted to have season-ending surgery for cervical fusion of two disks in his neck, which will send him to the DL for the first time in his 10-year career. He played in just 42 of 54 games for the Rangers, which is uncharacteristic of him after playing in at least 161 games over the last five seasons.
Fielder was hitting .247/.360/.360 with three home runs and 16 RBIs in his first season with Texas. The three-time Silver Slugger and five-time Home Run Derby participant saw a sap in his power this year, likely due to his nagging injury, but a lineup without Fielder in it is no doubt a blow to the Rangers.
One Texas force the Nationals will not miss — unfortunately for them – is Yu Darvish. He was scratched from his last start against the Minnesota Twins with neck stiffness, but is slated to make his next scheduled start on Sunday against the Nationals after an MRI revealed no damage. Darvish started the season on the DL with the same problem, but since then has pitched solidly, putting up a 2.35 ERA with 71 strikeouts, which rank fourth and seventh in the AL.
In The Zone
Wilson Ramos (C) .333 AVG, .368 OBP, .556 SLG, 1 HR, 2 RBI (last four games)
Alex Rios (RF) .452 AVG, .469 OBP, .677 SLG, 2 3B, 3 2B, 2 SB (last seven games)
Rougned Odor (2B) .391 AVG, .375 OBP, .652 SLG, 2 3B, 2 2B (last seven games)
Shin-Soo Choo (LF) .222 AVG, .344 OBP, .259 SLG, 4 BB, 3 SO (last seven games)
Mitch Moreland (1B) .250 AVG, .273 OBP, .344 SLG, 1 BB, 7 SO (last seven games)
5/30, Stephen Strasburg (3-4, 3.42 ERA, .266 BAA, 81 SO, 18 BB) vs. Colby Lewis (4-3, 5.10 ERA, .337 BAA, 37 SO, 15 BB)
5/31, Doug Fister (2-1, 3.42 ERA, .271 BAA, 17 SO, 1 BB) vs. Nick Tepesch (2-0, 2.95 ERA, .209 BAA, 16 SO, 5 BB)
6/1, Tanner Roark (3-3, 3.47 ERA, .229 BAA, 46 SO, 16 BB) vs. Yu Darvish (4-2, 2.35 ERA, .215 BAA, 71 SO, 19 BB)