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Rangers Ready for Heavyweight Matchup against Angels Thursday

Rangers Ready for Heavyweight Matchup against Angels Thursday

It’s been a tough last week for the Texas Rangers. Since last Wednesday at home, Texas has dropped five of their last six, had Jon Gray’s scheduled to start Tuesday pushed due to a blister, had to reorganize the bullpen, and has seen their offensive production trend downwards. It doesn’t get any easier on the schedule. On Thursday, the Rangers will go up against Shohei Ohtani on the mound, but the Rangers will send their ace, Nathan Eovaldi.

“I know I’m going to have to face Ohtani. I know he’s on the mound. For me, the biggest thing is competing against myself,” Eovaldi told me Tuesday. “As long as I’m doing the things I know I’m capable of doing; staying within my mechanics [and] trying to not to do too much.”

Ohtani ranks third in MLB and second in the American League in strikeouts with 102. Eovaldi ranks 23rd in MLB and 12th in the AL in strikeouts. But both have shown success with different approaches. “[Ohtani] is trying to go strikeout to strikeout; he strikes out, guys. I’m trying to get quick outs at times [and] double play balls. I’ve talked to certain guys, and [with] a runner on first base, they’re going punch outs [and] I’m like really I’m going double play balls trying to get quick outs and stuff like that,” Eovaldi said. Eovaldi has induced 10 double play balls this season, third most by any pitcher in the American League.

Of course, with the universal designated hitter opposing pitchers don’t actually face one another (similar to NFL Quarterbacks), but in Shohei Ohtani’s case, the starter does face Shohei. “He’s a big threat at the plate. I have to make sure that I am executing my pitches, working ahead, and trying to get quick counts,” Eovaldi said in the approach against Ohtani.

Andrew Heaney will take the mound on Wednesday, then Eovaldi will go on Thursday. The pen is still worn down with the bullpen adjustments and the extra innings affair on Monday. Jon Gray told me last year that there is a sense of getting deeper in the game with a depleted bullpen. For Eovaldi, that’s not necessarily the case. “Anytime I’m out there, regardless of how fresh our pen is, I want t go out there and keep the ball in my hand. I understand at times when I do come out because the bullpen is fresh. It’s just another opportunity for me to go out there and try to go as deep as possible.”

The Ranger’s offense has been sputtering over the past week (scoring 23 runs in their last 6 games). While it’s not a power outage by the Rangers bats, the key has been their success with runners in scoring position. It’s a club that hit an unreal .330 average entering last Wednesday’s contest vs. the Cardinals. Since that game, Texas is hitting .170 with runners in scoring position, including going 5 for 29 during the Angels series and only getting 14 at-bats with runners in scoring position last weekend in Tampa Bay.

“It’s too tough to predict both sides. We’re playing this game together as a team,” Eovaldi said when I asked if there was a realization on the pitching staff that the offensive breaks are not going the Ranger’s way. “There’s going to be games where the offense doesn’t score, and they may score one run. With pitching, you have to maintain the lead regardless of how big of a lead we have; we have to keep the lead. That’s baseball.”

Despite the struggles, the Rangers maintain a cushion in their American League West lead over the Houston Astros. However, the month gets tougher with Toronto, the Yankees, and the Astros coming up on the Texas schedule. First, it’s about returning to the win column against the Halos.

Credentialed Media Staff Writer covering the Texas Rangers for Dallas Sports Fanatic | 2014 University of North Texas graduate with a Bachelor's in Radio, Television, and Film. I talk about things. Find me on the tweeter @aplinckTX

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