|Notes and Observations Week 16: Patriots Escape from New York with 17-16 Win; Clinch First Round Bye.||Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Win By Less Than a FOOT||Panic Mode in Full Effect, Minutemen are Struggling||Patriots Survive Gritty Challenge From Jets|
The Red Sox finally woke up a bit at home against the Tigers, but hit the road again, to face the team they are leading in the Wild Card race. The Rangers sit just one half game behind the Red Sox for the final playoff spot in the American League, so the winner of this series is the leader after the weekend. The Sox are 1-5 against Texas this season, including 0-3 in Arlington, the site of this weekend’s series, which is the final between the teams this season.
Based on the Red Sox track record in the second half so far, the first game will be very important: in the last seven series, the winner of the first game won or split the series. Jon Lester (1-0, CG, 9.0 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 11 K, 2 BB vs TEX this season) and Kevin Millwood (2-0, 13.0 IP, 2 ER, 13 H, 8 K, 5 BB vs BOS this season) will duel in the important first game. Brad Penny (0-1, 5.2 IP, 5 ER, 7 H, 5 K, 2 BB) and rookie Derek Holland (0-1, 4.2 IP, 4 ER, 6 H, 5 K, 2 BB), who took the only loss for Texas this season, lock horns in the second game. Finally, Junichi Tazawa (1-1, 4.05 ERA, 1.50 WHIP this season), coming off his first big league win, will tangle with Dustin Nippert (1-0, 5.2 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 5 K, 2 BB) in the getaway game. The pitching has been the difference in keeping the Rangers competitive this season including closer Frank Francisco (2.01 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 10.05 K/9, 16/18 SV) and C. J. Wilson (3.20, 1.28, 9.59, 14/17), who has filled in for him while he has been injured.
The Rangers can score and hit home runs like few other teams and have eight guys with double digit home run totals. Nelson Cruz is the leader with 25, to go along with a .269 average, 58 RBI, 56 runs, and 17 steals. Hank Blalock (.249 BA, 56 RBI, 52 R) and the about-to-return Ian Kinsler (.242, 63, 61, 22 SB) each have 23 home runs. Michael Young is their most well rounded hitter, and the only regular over .300, with a .318 average. He has 19 HR, 33 2B, 52 RBI, 64 R, and seven swipes.
The Red Sox really struggle against this team and historically, road trips through Texas are not known for their success, regardless of how good the Rangers seem to be. This looks to be another tough trip, one that likely will cost the Red Sox the Wild Card lead as they will probably drop two.