Monday, July 22, 2013
By Todd Wills
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Where did 2010 go?
The Rangers and Yankees are back together again, though in a few ways they are mirror images of the super powers that clashed in a memorable American League Championship Series in 2010.
Don't blame the pitching. The Rangers and Yankees are second and third in the American League in ERA in what is a dead heat. The Rangers have a 3.76 team ERA. The Yankees have a 3.77 team ERA.
No, the problem is a pair of offenses that have plummeted from their powerhouse levels of 2010. The Yankees are averaging 3.9 runs per game. The not-so-Bronx Bombers have a .244 team batting average and a .375 slugging percentage.
Meanwhile, the Rangers have scored two or fewer runs in six of their last eight games. The Rangers are eighth in the AL with 418 runs, an average of 4.3 runs per game.
The Rangers have actually managed to play at a high level for much of the season and at 54-44 are three games behind Oakland in the American League West.
The Yankees (52-46) have also managed to hang around in the AL East, where they are seven games behind Boston after losing 8-7 in 11 innings on Sunday night on former Ranger Mike Napoli's walk off home run for the Red Sox.
Here's what else to watch for as the Rangers and Yankees begin a four-game series Monday night in Arlington:
Not A-Rod: Former Ranger Alex Rodriguez was expected to make his season debut Monday night, but will be in Tampa instead getting treatment for a Grade 1 quad strain. Conspiracy theories abound that the quad injury -- discovered by an MRI on Sunday -- are part of a plan for Rodriguez to never play for the Yankees again, and who knows, maybe help them get out of the $141 million the club still owes him. Rodriguez will avoid the boo birds in Texas where he has long been vilified since being traded by the Rangers to New York. Amazing since Rodriguez put up big numbers in Texas. He was the 2003 America League MVP playing for the Rangers in a season where he had 52 home runs and 132 RBIs. There's an argument the Yankees need to take a chance on A-Rod. Yankees third basemen this season have hit an AL-low four home runs and have not hit one since May 22 (by David Adams).
Darvish returns: Yu Darvish comes off the 15-day disabled list to make Monday's start against the Yankees. He missed only one start because of a muscle strain in his back. Rangers manager Ron Washington said this week that Darvish could have made the start he missed before the All-Star break against Baltimore, but the the Rangers decided to hold him back for precautionary reasons. The Rangers hope they are getting back the Darvish that dominated opponents early in the season. He's failed to complete seven innings in each of his past four starts, recording a 4.50 ERA. Darvish can retake the major league strikeout lead on Monday night. Matt Harvey of the New York Mets tied him with 157 strikeouts over the weekend.
Changing of the guard: The Yankees have won the season series from the Rangers seven of the last nine seasons. The Rangers took two out of three games at Yankee Stadium in June and can win the season series for the first time since 2008 with no worse than a split of the four-game series. The teams also split eight regular season games in 2010, and then the Rangers won the series that really matter, taking the ALCS 4-2 to earn the first trip to the World Series in club history.
Injuries crush Yanks: The Bronx Bombers have aged quickly. With shortstop Derek Jeter going back on the disabled list right before the All-Star break and former Rangers first baseman Mark Teixeira out for the season after wrist surgery, the Yankees have a total payroll of $98.5 million on the DL. That's more than 16 teams' Opening Day payroll for 2013. Notable Yankees on the DL include Rodriguez ($29M), Teixeira ($23.125M), Jeter ($17M), center fielder Curtis Granderson ($15M) and oft-injured infielder Kevin Youkilis ($12M).
Cano, Kinsler playing well: Somehow, All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano stays hot for the Yankees despite little protection in the lineup. Cano is batting .415 with a .519 OBP over a Yankees season-high 12-game hit streak. He’s also driven in 12 runs in that span, including two in each of the last two games. Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler also has played well despite a merry-go-round behind him in the No. 2 spot in the batting order. Three different players have batted second in three games since the All-Star break. Kinsler was 4-for-12 and drove in two of the Rangers' seven runs against Baltimore in a weekend sweep by the Orioles.