Jim Cowsert/US PresswireRyan Dempster (right) has switched leagues, but will face a former rival in his Rangers' debut.
Ryan Dempster will make his debut for the Texas Rangers on Thursday as they wrap up their four-game series with the Los Angeles Angels. Dempster switches leagues with the second-best ERA (2.25), trailing only the San Francisco Giants' Ryan Vogelsong.
Unfortunately for Dempster, the trade means he’s back in the same division as Albert Pujols, who is 18-for-55 with seven home runs in his career against Dempster. It's also the most home runs Dempster has allowed to any batter, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Pujols has had no trouble with Rangers pitching during this series, going 7-for-15 with four home runs and eight RBIs. Pujols has been crushing fastballs since the All-Star Break -- he has as many home runs off fastballs in the last three weeks (7) as he had in the entire first half of the season.
Pujols entered play on May 15 hitting below .200 (.197). Since then, he’s hit .332 with 21 HR and 59 RBI. In fact, Pujols' numbers are better through Aug. 1 with the Angels (.284, 22 HR, 71 RBI) than they were at this point last season with the St. Louis Cardinals (.280, 24 HR, 65 RBI).
Pujols' former teammate Matt Holliday has not been a welcome sight at his former home ballpark, Coors Field. In nine games at Coors Field since joining the Cardinals, Holliday is 13-for-30 with six home runs and 15 RBI. He’s been even better the last two games, going 5-for-9 with 3 HR and 9 RBI.
All three of Holliday's hits on Wednesday came on pitches outside the strike zone. He’s batting .279 on pitches outside the strike zone this season, and his .939 OPS on such pitches ranks third behind Melky Cabrera (.965) and Ryan Braun (.958).
Over in the National League, the Cincinnati Reds are a major-league best 16-3 since the All-Star Break, and have opened up a three-game lead on the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Central.
The Reds have allowed 383 runs this season, the second-lowest total this season behind the Washington Nationals. One key has been the continued development of Johnny Cueto.
Cueto posted a 2.31 ERA in 156 innings in 2011. If he had not fallen six innings short of qualifying for the ERA title, Cueto would have finished second in the majors to Clayton Kershaw’s 2.28. Among qualified pitchers, Cueto has the lowest ERA since the start of last season.
Cueto’s home ballpark has ranked in the top six in number of home runs hit each of the past two seasons. Despite that, he has allowed only 13 HR since the start of last season, and none in his last 11 starts. The only other qualified starter to allow fewer than 20 in that span is Roy Halladay with 19.
In nine starts at Great American Ballpark this season, Cueto has allowed just two home runs in 223 at-bats, and only 3.3 percent of his flyballs allowed have left the ballpark. Every other Reds starter this season has allowed home runs on at least 10 percent of his flyballs.