What to watch against the Red Sox
August, 22, 2011
By Richard Durrett | ESPNDallas.com
The Rangers begin a 10-day homestand (in 11 days) tonight against Boston. They'll face the Red Sox for four games, followed by the Angels for three and, after an off day, the Tampa Bay Rays for three. Here's a look at some things to keep an eye on (besides our in-game chats all series long from the ballpark):
* Standings. Obviously, it's that time of year for scoreboard watching and with the Rangers four games up on the Angels, everyone will be keeping an eye on the Angels. They don't play tonight, but face the White Sox for two games before heading to Texas. The Rangers would, no doubt, like to stay at least four games ahead before the Angels arrive.
* Catchers. Mike Napoli and Yorvit Torrealba have turned up the offensive heat in this second half. Napoli, it seems, has been hot the entire season. In Sunday's loss to the White Sox, the Rangers had only four hits. But three of them belonged to the catchers, including Napoli, who extended his road hitting streak to 22 games, now eight behind Rafael Palmeiro for the club lead. Napoli hit .317 on the Rangers' 10-game road trip. Torrealba was 2-for-3 and has hit safely in 19 of his last 23 contests. Throw-in Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a former Ranger, and the catching spot should be of great interest in this series.
* Race for the lead-league in batting average. The top-2 players in batting average in the American League will be at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington the next four days. Adrian Gonzalez is hitting .343 and Michael Young is at .337. Young has one batting title and is trying to win another. He had his streak of reaching base via a hit or walk end at 19 consecutive games yesterday. Young is a .263 lifetime hitter against Boston, but just 3-for-14 this season (although that was very early in the season).
* Mitch Moreland. He was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts yesterday, but still hit .371 with 3 HRs and 9 RBIs on the road trip. After some struggles, Moreland appears to have found a groove. Can he keep it going in this series? He's hitting .290 against righties and will see three of them in this series.
* Adrian Beltre. If his hamstring looks good to team physician Dr. Keith Meister, Beltre could run the bases today as he progresses toward a rehab assignment. Beltre has been on the disabled list since July 23 and had one setback running the bases already. He's been steadily building up, so we'll see how things go. Obviously, Beltre would be a big boost to this club in September if he's healthy.
* Ian Kinsler. The leadoff man can score runs in a variety of ways, as his 20-20 status shows (2o HRs, 21 stolen bases). The Rangers will need him to set the tone early against the Red Sox, much like he did on the recent 10-game road trip. Kinsler was 4-for-10 with 3 HRs and 3 RBIs in the first series against Boston this season.
* Who's the next Rangers hitter to get to 20 homers? Texas now has four at that mark with Kinsler's two blasts on Saturday (Kinsler, Beltre, Napoli and Nelson Cruz, who leads the club with 26). Moreland and Josh Hamilton are at 16.
* Josh Hamilton got the day off on Sunday, but is hitting .303 with 5 HRs and 20 RBIs in 35 games since the All-Star break. Hamilton has had some memorable games against the Red Sox, including maybe the best all-around game by any Ranger ever in a big comeback last year in Arlington. Keep your eye on him in this series.
* Neftali Feliz. These games figure to be close and that means the bullpens will be key. We've talked a lot about Koji Uehara and Mike Adams, but the Rangers' closer could be the key to the outcome of a few of these games. Since just prior to the trade deadline, Feliz is 5-for-6 in save chances with 10 strikeouts and just two walks -- better numbers than what he's put up overall this season.
It should be a fun series and it could be a playoff preview depeding on how the divisions shake out in the next six weeks. Join us for live in-game chats all week.