Welcome to September, Rangers Fans

Matt Harrison vs. John Lackey

A huge Sunday night matchup awaits the Rangers in their latest conclusion to a series at Fenway. After a rough 4th inning, in which three Ranger’s pitchers gave up 8 runs and 11 hits, a good sense of pride was shown when the offense came alive and made the score respectable again. The team must show that attitude from here on out, because with an offense as prolific as theirs a game is never out of reach. Matt Harrison gets the start for tonight’s rubber game, and he needs to be much more productive than he was in his last start. Harrison gave up 11 hits and 7 earned runs in his last start, which, coincidentally, also came against the Red Sox. After his next start was scratched, Harrison worked with pitching coach Mike Maddux in a side bullpen session to get his confidence back. Appearing in a game on Wednesday, he shut down the 6 batters he faced and appeared to have his swagger back. Harrison must show that he can shut down lefties, as the Red Sox lineup is loaded with production-craving lefties in Ellsbury, A-Gon, Ortiz, and Carl Crawford. Harrison has had a very good year thus far, but is faltering down the stretch, as many starting pitchers tend to do. A victory in this game will give the squad a confidence boost that should carry over into a huge series with the Rays starting on Monday.

Injuries and Transactions

The Nelson Cruz injury is hurtful to the Rangers lineup, but, from the sounds of it, will only keep him sidelined for another 2 weeks. With Adrian Beltre finally returning for the first time since July, the loss of Cruz is cushioned a bit. If Beltre can provide a similar punch to what he had shown over the first half of the year, the Rangers will be very pleased. He needs to limit his strikeout rate at the plate, and try not to do too much with each at-bat. He has plenty of firepower surrounding him in the middle of the lineup, and needs to realize that a homer is not always necessary with so many clutch hitters around him. Additionally, the call-up of Leonys Martin was expected and he should be able to provide great fielding and speed as a late-inning replacement. He has shown great ability to hit for average at the AA-level this season, hitting .348 for the Frisco RoughRiders. He propelled through the minor league system at a very rapid pace and will likely compete for a larger role next season.

Starting Rotation Merry Go-Round

Ron Washington has been very adamant on keeping his starters well rested during the final stretch of the season, scratching the fatigued pitchers and pushing them to a later date. Keeping his pitchers rested is fine, but winning the division should be the ultimate goal and sacrifices need to be made to win. The pitchers need to keep grinding and producing quality starts. With the recent addition of Mike Gonzalez, Washington has plenty of tools in the bullpen to close out a game. Alexi Ogando has been scratched from Monday’s start versus the Rays in favor of Scott Feldman. Ogando will then start on September 10th. Harrison will start again on the 13th of September after today’s start.

Tough Schedule Puts Pressure on in Crunch Time

The next week of games will be very difficult for the Rangers as they face six above-average pitchers on the opposing teams. After Lackey today, the Rangers will face off against James Shields, Jeff Niemann, David Price, Brandon McCarthy, and Trevor Cahill. The Angels, on the other hand, have a much easier schedule to finish the season. Ron Washington needs to plan his pitcher-resting scheme correctly or the pressure will continue to rise in Arlington.

Martin Perez Update

The 20-year old Venezuelan phenom has struggled tremendously since being promoted to Triple-A Round Rock. After striking out batters at a high rate since being signed by the Rangers, he has struck out only 37 batters in 49 innings for Round Rock. Even more alarming than his 6.43 ERA is the fact that he is giving up nearly 2 hits per strikeout, after hovering near the 1:1 ratio his whole minor league career. He possesses the talent to succeed at any level, but must gain the command to dominate the ballgame and take advantage of his ridiculous stuff. A lefty pitcher with a overpowering mid to high-90’s fastball, and a knee-buckling curveball should show more production than he has in the minors. Still only 20, the Rangers should continue to nurture the South American. Look for him to make an impact on the team during next year’s pennant run.

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