The Houston Astros have run away with the AL West, putting seven games of separation between them and the next closest team. The Rangers currently find themselves in second place in the division standings after getting back above the .500-mark with another solid week. Texas had won eight of their last 10 games, including five straight entering play on Saturday night. Can the Rangers close the series with a victory on the road at Angel Stadium on Sunday afternoon?
Rangers to use Jurado as opener for Sunday’s finale
The Rangers have committed to using relievers in an opener role this season and it had paid off for the most part. This time right-hander Ariel Jurado will take the mound in the first inning for the Rangers. Jurado tried his hand as a traditional starter last season, but posted a 5.93 ERA in 12 games (eight starts) for the Rangers, while averaging just under five innings per start.
never ever try joey gallo pic.twitter.com/amg1uaNaBI
— ᴍɪᴋᴇ ᴛᴀᴅᴅᴏᴡ (@taddmike) May 18, 2019
However, Texas has moved him into more of a bullpen role in 2019, while giving him the opportunity to use the experience that he gained as a starter last season by employing him at the start of games. Jurado has usually followed the opener for Texas this season, but he did make one start this season. That outing was more of a traditional start for Jurado, who gave up four runs (two earned) in 4 ⅓ frames against the St. Louis Cardinals. Prior to that outing, Jurado had not worked longer than 2 ⅓ innings and had not allowed an earned run in an appearance of two innings or less.
The 23-year-old faced the Halos twice (one start) last season, finishing with a 5.40 ERA against them in 10 combined innings of work. According to Baseball Savant, the current Halos’ roster is batting a healthy .412 in 18 plate appearances off of the Rangers’ right-hander.
Heaney to make 2019 debut after coming off IL
Los Angeles will counter with left-hander Andrew Heaney, who is scheduled to come off of the injured list to make his first start of the 2019 season. Heaney’s long-awaited debut comes on the heels of a solid 2018 campaign in which he led the Angels in starts with 30 and posted a solid 4.15 ERA. He struck out 10 in 4 ⅓ scoreless frames in his final rehab start at Triple-A on Monday. The 27-year-old was tough on left-handed hitters last season, giving up zero home runs and an OPS of .546 against them. However, righties launched 27 home runs off of Heaney in 2018.
Mike Trout crushed his 250th career HR 💪 pic.twitter.com/vOJyiDIQ6H
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 19, 2019
Heaney made three starts versus the Rangers last season, but only factored into one decision, finishing 0-1 with a 5.89 ERA. However, he was much better at Angel Stadium last year, posting a 7-3 record and a 3.22 ERA in 14 home starts compared to a 2-7 record and a 5.06 mark on the road.
According to Baseball Savant, the current Rangers’ roster is batting .297 in 71 plate appearances off of the Halos right-hander. StatCast data projects Texas hitters for an expected batting average of .249 and an expected slugging percentage of .250 heading into Sunday’s start.
- Rangers are 4-10 in their last 14 road games vs. a team with a losing record.
- Rangers are 8-23 in their last 31 road games vs. a left-handed starter.
- Rangers are 1-4 in their last 5 games vs. a starter with a WHIP less than 1.15.
- Angels are 12-5 in their last 17 home games vs. a right-handed starter.
- Angels are 35-17 in their last 52 home games vs. a team with a road winning % of less than .400.
- Angels are 7-2 in Heaney’s last 9 home starts.