This series begins a brief six-game homestand for the Royals before they travel to Minnesota for the Labor Day series. The Rangers will be coming into town with at least a week’s lead on their closest divisional rival, the Angels. The beginning of September also means the Royals will begin evaluating the talent that is currently on their roster and calling up the minor leaguers who have shown a lot of promise to help set up shop for next year. The Royals will also have some people coming of the DL vying for playing time during the twilight of the season. The three most notable are David DeJesus, Gil Meche and Luke Hochevar.
Game 1: C.J. Wilson (13-5) vs. Kyle Davies (6-8)
Wilson is having an all-star caliber year, especially since the Mid-Summer Classic. He is 6-0 since the break. However he has struggled mightily away from home this year, with only three wins away from Arlington. If the Royals work the pitch count, they will be able to get into the Rangers’ bullpen early and keep the Rangers out of their game plan that has worked well all season long. Wilson has pitched very well against the Royals in his career so far. He is 1-0 with an ERA of 2.25.
Kyle Davies has had nightmarish outings against the Rangers in his young career. He is 0-3 with an outlandish ERA of 7.62. He will need to mix up his pitches and hit his spots better than he did against the Tigers in his last start. He gave up twelve hits, issued three walks and seven runs in only 4.2 innings pitched.
Game 2: Cliff Lee (10-8) vs. Sean O’Sullivan (1-4)
Cliff Lee has been the best control pitcher in the league this year. His outstanding strikeout to walk ratio proves that. Unfortunately when he started the season in Seattle, even if he only gave up one or two runs the Mariners would be unable to muster enough offense to win the game. He is also known for his ability to pitch deep into ball games. He has seven complete games so far this season. This has been the trend that Rangers have relied upon up until his last two starts. In his previous two starts he has managed only to complete the fifth inning. Lee is no stranger to the Royals with his time in Cleveland. He is 12-5 lifetime against the Boys in Blue with an ERA of 4.28.
Sean O’Sullivan arguably pitched his best start last time out. He still didn’t get the win. He went seven strong innings while giving up only three earned runs. He is 2-0 with a very good ERA of 2.70 in his career against Texas. With Cliff Lee struggling in the month of August, Sean O’Sullivan will be eyeing his first win against his former divisional foe.
Game 3: Tommy Hunter (11-2) vs. Bryan Bullington (1-3)
Hunter, in terms of winning percentage is the most reliable pitcher the Rangers have. He may not have the finesse that Lee does or get a lot strikeouts, but he is very capable of getting the outs when his team needs them. He has one complete game so far this year but is vulnerable to being pulled early. He is also prone to giving up the long ball. He has given up on average one home run per start. This will be his first start against the Royals.
Bullington will be looking for win number two against a team that he is facing for the first time in his career. The biggest question is which Bullington will show up. Will it be Bryan Bullington the pitcher who fooled the Yankees for eight plus innings or the Bryan Bullington who gave up a career high seven runs on nine hits and three walks to Cleveland?
The Rangers’ offense has really clicked in the second half of the season. The have risen to be among the best hitting teams in the entire major leagues. The Royals are currently ranked third in team average, but they don’t put up huge power numbers. If the Royals can put the ball in play and use their speed they should be able to scratch out some runs against this top notch rotation.
The Royals will need to catch everything that comes their way in order to keep the Texas Rangers from being the most dangerous: when they have runners on base. If the Royals give extra outs to this team, it will be a long series. Making the sure plays and the occasional great one will help keep the game close in the later innings. The quality of defense is what led the Royals to their several extra inning games last week.
Pitching has been a strong suit for the Rangers all season while the Royals’ pitching staff has experienced trades, injuries and inconsistencies throughout the year. This is a huge difference between a near cellar dweller and a playoff caliber team. The Rangers have a rotation that is even capable of taking them all the way to the World Series. The Royals have a few pieces of a solid pitching staff but still need many additions to contend. The Royals’ pitchers will need to be selective with the location and type of pitch they throw to the Rangers hard-hitters like Josh Hamilton and Vladimir Guerrero.
The Rangers have been dominant at home but are under .500 on the road this season. Cliff Lee, the biggest mid-season acquisition as far as pitchers goes, has lost three straight starts. The Royals will need to match the Rangers from the first pitch to the last in order to have a chance of winning this series.