Texas at Toronto, 12-14 August

Monday, August 12 2019 @ 12:15 PM EDT

Contributed by: Magpie

It's the Texas Rangers, tonight, tomorrow, and Wednesday afternoon. And that means a few familiar faces.

Alas, Adrian Beltre is not one of them. Don't we all miss him? I know I do. But we should see shortstop Elvis Andrus, whom Jays fans will always remember fondly for his troubled seventh inning in Game 5. There's Nomar Mazara, who looked so promising as a 21 year old rookie back in 2015, but hasn't taken even a tiny step forward since and whose four major league seasons are eerily similar.  There's veteran outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who's 37 years old now, but more than holding his own and presumably still stretching out his arm between pitches. And there's Rougned Odor, whom we remember for his 2016 sucker punch. Rough Ned, who is still just  25 years old, is a strange player having a strange season. He's been sort of hot for the last three weeks and has finally cleared the Mendoza Line. The Stinky One is still hitting just .205, but he has 20 HRs and leads the Rangers in RBIs.

There's also veteran catcher Jeff Mathis, and in case you're wondering - yes. He still has that mysterious quality that makes him Jeff Mathis. He's caught almost exactly half the innings for the Texas pitchers this year, who have worked to a 4.00 ERA with 560 K and 181 BB in 538.1 innings. With the other catchers, the staff has a 5.77 ERA, and a K-W of 443/228 in 500.2 innings. The old Mathis Magic? On the one hand, he has caught most of the innings worked by Mike Minor and Lance Lynn, who are far and away Texas' best pitchers. On the other hand, Minor's been around for a while and his 2.92 ERA in 148 IP  with Mathis is significantly better than his results working with Robinson Chirinos (3.81), Evan Gattis (3.94), and Brian McCann (4.01). And Lynn's been around even longer, has a 3.27 ERA in 113 IP with Mathis, which is slightly better than his work with Yadier Molina (3.37) and a bit better than with Tony Cruz (3.77). And both are pitching half their games in Arlington this year, which still increases offense by about 18%. Nevertheless, I predict Mathis does not catch Lynn's Tuesday start - I expect they'll save him for Wednesday afternoon when the 21 year old rookie, Kolby Allard, makes his third major league start. Mathis caught his Texas debut last week. And even a rookie manager like Chris Woodward wouldn't ask a 36 year old catcher to catch Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon. That would be cruel, and unusual.

We remember Woodward, of course. He was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 54th round in 1994, after 1,437 other names had been called. I think it's safe to say that not much was expected. But from there Woodward went on to play 659 games over 12 seasons in the majors. While he was mostly a utility infielder he was also the nearest thing to a regular shortstop the 2002-3 Blue Jays had. He played for four other teams, and spent time in another three organizations before ending his playing career (in the Blue Jays system, playing for Las Vegas.) He went into coaching with Seattle and spent the last three years as the Dodgers' third base coach.

Woodward replaces Jeff Banister. The Rangers managed to win the AL West twice under Banister, but both times it was a little weird. The 2015 team outscored the opposition by just 18 runs, but posted an 88-74 record anyway. That's just ordinary good luck, random enough, but the kind of thing that lands on somebody each year. It was good enough for first place in 2015 mostly because Houston lost 29 of 50 one-run games and went just 86-76 despite outscoring their opponents by more than 100 runs. So the Rangers got even stranger. In 2016, they went an unfathomable 36-11 in one-run games. That, needless to say, never happens. Except this one time, when it did. It gave what was basically a .500 team (they scored 765, they allowed 757) what I'm pretty sure was the flukiest 95-67 record in human history. Their luck ran out in 2017, as it was bound to do, and they took a serious step backward in 2018. Accordingly, Banister walked the plank last September. (Which reminds me - I just watched the whole first season of Black Sails and no one has walked the plank. Or been keel-hauled. And I haven't seen a single parrot. I think I want my money back.)

The Jays will trot out an Opener tonight. Neil Ramirez will make his first appearance as a Blue Jay, his first start in the major leagues, and his first start anywhere since 2013. Texas drafted him out of high school in the first round back in 2007, and he toiled away as a starter in their system for six years before going to the Cubs late in 2013 in the Matt Garza trade. He had a fine rookie year in the Chicago bullpen in 2014, but he's been scuffling ever since. He's got a big power arm but he will walk people and sometimes the ball doesn't stay in the park. He will get you some strikeouts.

At the moment, the Jays still have 14 pitchers on the active roster, which is silly. Billy McKinney is here, wandering the clubhouse like a ghost. Ken Giles played catch yesterday and felt better, so he didn't go on the IL But Giles hasn't pitched in 5 days and his wife is back in Arizona ready to give birth to their second child any day now. I'd sure give him the week off. He's going to end up being away from the team anyway.

Free Billy McKinney? Hmm, maybe not.

Matchups? Why not.

Mon 12 Aug - Jurado (6-7, 4.74) vs Ramirez (0-1, 5.40)
Tue 13 Aug -  Lynn (14-7, 3.60) vs Pannone (2-5, 6.83)
Wed 14 Aug - Allard (0-0, 4.15) vs Reid-Foley (2-2, 2.36)

Allard, of course, is the 21 year old southpaw drafted by Atlanta in the first round back in 2015. The Rangers extracted him from the Braves in exchange for two months of Chris Martin, who I had been led to believe was a sensitive singer/songwriter. Allard went 6-4, 2.72 in AAA a year ago, but either took a step back this year or was simply surprised by the baseballs this season (7-5, 4.17).