#969 Texas Rangersvs.#970 Detroit Tigers
Written by Matt Severance
Texas Rangers (21-20, 18-23 O/U) at Detroit Tigers (20-19, 22-16-1)
When/Where: Comerica Park, 7:10 p.m. ET, Detroit
Moneylines: Tigers -135, Rangers +125; total: 9
The streaking Texas Rangers make their only visit to Motown starting Friday night for Game 1 of a three-game weekend series vs. the Tigers. These clubs are fairly similar in that they are hanging around .500 and can rake but both have some pitching issues.
Texas is the hottest team in baseball as it finished off a sweep of the Phillies on Thursday, 8-4, for its ninth victory in a row to get two games above .500 for the first time all year. Winning nine straight is a great accomplishment regardless, but the Rangers took advantage of a very easy schedule. The wins were over the Padres, A’s and Phillies, three bad teams. And eight of those were in Arlington. The schedule gets much tougher now as following three games in Detroit, the Rangers play three in Boston and then three in Toronto. Texas is without outfielder Carlos Gomez. He was put on the DL earlier this week and will miss at least a month with a right hamstring strain. Gomez was hitting .246 with four homers and 13 RBIs. To replace him, the Rangers called up outfielder Jared Hoying, who had seven home runs for Triple-A Round Rock. Hoying 4-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs on Wednesday vs. the Phillies and added another hit and run scored on Thursday.
It’s struggling Nick Martinez (0-2, 5.04) on the mound for Texas. If Cole Hamels were healthy, I doubt the team would keep throwing Martinez out there. Frankly, I thought this team was done when Hamels was lost for perhaps two months. Martinez is 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in his last three starts and he is winless in his last 11 starts, going back to 2015. Martinez wants to get back to the rhythm he showed in the first two starts this year when he combined to allow nine hits and one walk. “I just need to stick to my strengths,” said Martinez. “The game plan that we go over, if we stick to that it gives our team the best chance to win, attacking hitters, getting hitters engaged. It’s contagious. Once one guy gets rolling, morale is high and it can keep on going.”
Detroit began this six-game homestand by losing the first game in a wild affair, 13-11 to Baltimore in 13 innings, in which both Detroit’s J.D. Martinez and the Orioles’ Chris Davis had two homers – both of Davis’ came in extra innings, which is incredibly rare. New Tigers closer Justin Wilson blew the save in the ninth inning by allowing a two-out dinger. However, the Tigers won the next two games each by one run. It was 6-5 on Thursday. Martinez hit a three-run shot in the third inning and Victor Martinez hit a two-run homer in the fifth to put his team ahead. It was J.D. Martinez’s fifth home run in his last five games. He has five home runs and 11 RBIs in six games since he made his season debut Friday off a foot injury suffered this spring. He’s sporting a .680 OBP, which is about as impressive as his 1.438 slugging percentage. The Tigers won’t have Victor Martinez likely for this entire series as he has been placed on paternity leave. He’s batting .360 with two homers and five doubles this month after a quiet April. Detroit star first baseman Miguel Cabrera missed a second straight game Thursday with an oblique injury and is doubtful here.
On the mound for the Tigers is left Daniel Norris (2-2, 4.34). He took a second straight no-decision last time out, allowing two runs and seven hits over 5.2 innings at the Angels. He was laboring to the tune of 104 pitches. Norris’ biggest mistake was the two-run single he surrendered to Albert Pujols, which knotted the score at 2-2 in the fifth. Norris tends to walk to many guys as he has given out at least two free passes in every game. Norris likes to work fast — get the ball, get the sign and go. Sometimes that works to his advantage, other times it works against him. Norris has thrown his fastball on 57 percent of his pitches and his slider on 24 percent of his offerings so far, with his changeup at 12 and his curve at 7. Opponents have hit well against his fastball (.329) and slider (.303).
Martinez is 1-1 with a 4.82 ERA in two career starts and one relief appearance against the Tigers. Norris’ only career start against Texas came in September 2015 and was the shortest of his career (1 1/3 IP, 6 R, 2 ER). Shin-Soo Choo is 1-for-2 off him with a homer. I don’t love the pick of Texas here with Martinez on the mound, but no Cabrera or Victor Martinez has me leaning that way. Texas has won its past six in Motown.
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Matt has been a sports journalist for nearly two decades. He is a former sports editor/writer at two newspapers and a magazine. Went full-time freelance sports writer in 2008 -- not by choice then but became a life-changing decision in the best possible way. Consider myself expert on all major US sports. If you are looking for Curling or Badminton expertise, etc., I'm not your guy.