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Orioles-Rangers Series Preview: The new look Rangers come to town

It’s a battle of first-place teams as the Rangers come to Baltimore for three games against the Orioles.

Texas Rangers v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

The Orioles and Rangers have been playing similar baseball over the last few months. Both teams had an outstanding June (the Rangers went 20-8; the Orioles went 19-9) followed by a pretty miserable July. The Rangers actually finished the month with a four-game winning streak that resulted in an overall mark of 11-15, pretty similar to the O’s 12-14.

One thing the Rangers don’t have is most of their division breathing down their necks. They still have a six-game lead on the Houston Astros so while I’m sure the the Rangers faithful have been freaking out, they at least have not had to worry about relinquishing their hold on first place the way the Orioles have.

Even with a cushion in the division, the Rangers went into the trade deadline like there was no tomorrow. They have added to their roster DH/OF Carlos Beltran, Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, RHP Jeremy Jeffress, RHP Lucas Harrell, and LHP Dario Alvarez. And they did this all just in time to play three games against the Orioles!

To date the Rangers have had the worst bullpen in the American League and second-worst in the majors (sorry, Reds). They have attempted to bolster it with Jeffress, who racked up 27 saves with a 2.22 ERA for the Brewers, and Alvarez, who struck out 28 batters in 15 innings for the Braves before he was traded.

The Rangers’ rotation has been good this year but has struggled mightily with injuries. Both Colby Lewis and Derek Holland are out with injuries while Yu Darvish and A.J. Griffin have missed time but are back now. Only Cole Hamels and Martin Perez have avoided the DL. New addition Harrell joins Darvish, Griffin, Hamels, and Perez to round out the rotation for now.

Game 1: Tuesday, August 3rd, 7:05

Yu Darvish (2-2, 3.09 ERA) vs. Dylan Bundy (3-3, 3.46 ERA)

Darvish has been good when he starts this year, he just hasn’t been able to make many starts. After missing all of 2015 due to Tommy John surgery, Darvish didn’t make his first start of the season until May 28th. Three starts later he was back on the disabled list with shoulder and neck tightness.

Tonight’s start will be Darvish’s fourth since coming back from that injury. As I said, he has pitched well, but one thing he hasn’t done is go deep into games. Darvish’s last two games he pitched six innings, his first of the season to make it that far. He has yet to throw more than 93 pitches in a start. If the Orioles can run up his pitch total early, they will get to face that Rangers bullpen.

Mark Trumbo has 27 plate appearances against Darvish with horrible numbers, no other Oriole has faced him more than three times.

Game 2: Wednesday, August 4th, 7:05

Cole Hamels (12-2, 2.84 ERA) vs. Kevin Gausman (2-8, 4.18 ERA)

Cole Hamels is good at two things: pitching and being handsome. It’s hard to say which one he is better at. He also throws with his left hand, so that’s troublesome. Hopefully new Oriole Steve Pearce will do some damage against him, because it’s likely no one else will.

Hamels pitched against the Orioles back in April and they scored three runs off of him in 5 1/3 innings. That’s not bad, actually, too bad the Oriole still lost.

Game 3: Thursday, August 5th, 7:05

A.J. Griffin (4-1, 3.99 ERA) vs. Yovani Gallardo (3-3 5.70 ERA)

A.J. Griffin is the worst of the three starters the Rangers are using this series, and Yovani Gallardo is the worst of the three starters the Orioles are using. There is a pretty big difference between the two, though.

Neither of these pitchers likes to pitch late into the game, with Griffin averaging 5.2 innings per start and Gallardo averaging 5.1. Griffin has had better success in his short outings as Gallardo has been pretty miserable. But maybe he’ll be pumped up to face his former team. It could happen, right?