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Texas Rangers series preview: The best in the West

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The reigning American League West Champs come to the K.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

On July 1, the Texas Rangers trailed only the Chicago Cubs for the best record in baseball, and that was only by percentage points as both were 13 games over .500. Since that point, the Rangers have dropped 12 of 15 games. Their 8.5 game lead in the American League West has shrunk to 3.5 games as the cross-state Houston Astros have charged back from their dismal start to the season.

After getting swept in Anaheim, the Rangers will try to get back to their winning ways in Kansas City.

*All stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference

Pitching match-ups

Game One - Friday, 7:15 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Yu Darvish 4 20.0 28 10 3.15 2.50 3.02 3.42 0.6 0.7
Danny Duffy (L) 28 88.0 101 18 3.27 3.44 3.51 3.11 1.7 1.9

While his recovery from Tommy John surgery saw its hiccups, Yu Darvish has been every bit as good as one would expect when healthy. Of course, the "when healthy" caveat means he's looked good four times. And in those four appearances, he has yet to finish the sixth inning. But his average fastball velocity is at its highest mark in his career, so it isn't as though something is amiss. Judging by his whopping 33.3 K%, something is definitely working right for Darvish. The Royals' hope in trying to get to Darvish will have to be that they get to the Rangers' pen early, a pen that isn't exactly filled with slouches, but none of them are Yu Darvish.

As for Duffy, he has been nothing short of sparkling in his return to the Royals' rotation, but he will have his work cut out for him with a Rangers lineup with plenty of power and that hits better against lefties than righties.

Game Two - Saturday, 6:15 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Cole Hamels (L) 19 120.0 116 47 3.00 4.32 4.05 4.10 1.4 3.2
Yordano Ventura 18 101.1 75 41 4.97 4.67 4.70 4.79 0.8 0.2

Historically Cole Hamels has outperformed his peripherals, posting a career ERA 0.24 better than his FIP. That gap does not explain how he has not been hurt by his abnormally high walk-rates or his highest HR/FB% of any season in his career. His 83.0 LOB% and his .280 BABIP start to though, and when taking into account his increasing reliance upon his cutter and the second-best ground-ball rate of his career, there are factors that help explain how he has done it thus far. Expecting his success in outperforming his FIP by this much to continue is probably foolhardy. That he's a southpaw facing a team with a 106 wRC+ against lefties means that some regression could come in Kansas City.

Ventura has put together back-to-back solid starts for what seems like the first time ever. He's yet to put together three straight solid starts this season. See if he can buck that trend.

Game Three - Sunday, 1:15 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
A.J. Griffin 11 57.0 50 24 4.26 4.59 4.96 4.67 0.8 0.8
Edinson Volquez 20 118.1 91 44 4.72 4.14 4.40 4.48 1.5 0.4

In the least exciting pitching matchup of the weekend, A.J. Griffin - a cromulent back-of-the-rotation arm - will hope to get his fastball that sits at 87.6 MPH this season to do his bidding and take care of the Royals. After missing all of the 2014 season and most of the 2015 season, Griffin's season has been a nice comeback story. He has taken advantage of an impressive 17.3 IFFB% to help his cause, meaning that there must be some rise and deception to his fastball, which along with his slow curve rates out as his best pitch.

Volquez is Volqueswagonesque.

The Batsmen

Name Pos PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Jurickson Profar (S) 1B 148 4 22 14 0 .304 .351 .435 .341 106 0.5 0.3
Ian Desmond CF 411 18 69 58 16 .319 .372 .535 .384 136 4.7 4.0
Rougned Odor (L) 2B 374 17 60 48 8 .272 .291 .481 .325 96 1.4 0.8
Adrian Beltre 3B 374 13 48 57 0 .273 .329 .440 .328 98 2.3 3.1
Mitch Moreland (L) DH 293 13 30 36 0 .235 .300 .433 .311 86 0.1 0.5
Ryan Rua LF 207 7 34 20 7 .268 .343 .432 .333 101 0.7 1.1
Elvis Andrus SS 347 4 44 45 13 .293 .347 .417 .329 99 1.1 1.5
Nomar Mazara (L) RF 359 11 38 37 0 .278 .331 .410 .320 92 1.1 0.7
Robinson Chirinos C 96 8 11 17 0 .212 .292 .541 .347 111 0.4 0.5
Bench Pos PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Bobby Wilson C 130 3 11 20 0 .246 .270 .347 .265 55 0.0 -0.3
Delino DeShields OF 121 2 17 8 4 .217 .294 .302 .268 57 0.3 -0.4
Jared Hoying (L) OF 31 0 3 5 0 .250 .323 .250 .265 55 -0.1 -0.1
Hanser Alberto IF 39 0 2 3 1 .162 .162 .162 .142 -29 -0.2 -0.2

Stats through Wednesday, July 21

The finally healthy Jurickson Profar has forced his way into the lineup with regularity despite Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor occupying the two positions for which he would be best suited. As it stands, the former top prospect in the game has logged significant time at all four positions in the infield. Shockingly, Ian Desmond has used his chance in Texas on a one-year, make-good deal to ensure that he'll get a giant payday this offseason as he has used the move to center field to insert himself into the discussion for the AL MVP award.

This past week saw the Rangers lose both Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder to the DL, though Fielder going to the DL is a blessing in disguise, as he's been a black hole this season. Nomar Mazara, the youngest position player in the Majors this season, has been very solid and has very real power.

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