Series Preview: Texas Rangers make rare pit stop in Miami
For just the fourth time, the Miami Marlins and Texas Rangers are set to square off in a series in South Florida.
Tonight on #TwitterTuesday the Fish, who have clawed their way back to .500 with their 62-62 record, host the American League cellar-dwellers for the first of a quick two-game series. It will be the Rangers’ first trip to Miami since 2011, and first-ever appearance at Marlins Park.
These two teams have been trending in opposite directions as of late. The Marlins, winners of seven of their last ten, still believe they are in the thick of the playoff hunt. And that is certainly a possibility, as they find themselves 3.5 games behind the San Francisco Giants for the second National League Wild Card spot.
The Rangers, however, currently own the worst record in baseball at 48-76. Having lost seven of their last ten games, Texas may draw some comparisons to the 2013 Marlins, a team which ultimately lost 100 games.
The role-reversal between these two teams is rather uncanny. At this point a year ago the Marlins were firmly planted at the bottom of the National League, and the Rangers were once again thinking postseason.
The Rangers finished 2013 at 91-72 — their fourth straight season of 90+ wins — before being bounced by the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Wild Card tiebreaker game 163.
I’m not saying the Marlins will win 90 games this year, but they have already equaled their 2013 win total with 38 games still to play. Just the fact that we are even speaking the word “playoffs,” and that the Marlins are playing meaningful games in mid-August is reason for excitement.
In the all-time series, the Marlins are 7-10 against the Rangers. Texas has swept two of the three series they have played in South Florida, each of which took place at Sun Life/Dolphin/Joe Robbie Stadium.
The teams split their two-game set in Arlington back in June.
Tuesday, August 19 — 7:10 PM ET
Rangers: Miles Mikolas (1-5, 7.71 ERA)
Marlins: Jarred Cosart (1-1, 2.92 ERA)
Wednesday, August 20 — 12:40 PM ET
Rangers: Nick Martinez (2-9, 5.27 ERA)
Marlins: Nathan Eovaldi (6-7, 3.96 ERA)
I don’t know a lot about baseball teams’ travel itineraries, but with the off-day yesterday and the game times in this series, the Rangers could conceivably be in Miami for less than 24 hours. It’s a two-game series, the the finale on Wednesday has a scheduled first pitch time of 12:40.
Looking at the pitching matchups, you have to think the Marlins have a good chance of sweeping the series and climbing to two games above .500.
In the series opener the Rangers send a guy with a 7.71 ERA to the mound. The Marlins counter with Jarred Cosart, who the Rangers are very familiar with having pitched in the AL West with the Astros before coming to Miami at the trade deadline. Cosart has been splendid in his first three starts with the Marlins, culminating with his best start so far his last time out where he tossed seven shutout innings while allowing just three hits against the St. Louis Cardinals.
That Mikolas fella, however, has been less-than-stellar this season as he transitions from reliever to starter. He pitched adequately out of the San Diego Padres bullpen in 2012 to the tune of a 3.62 ERA and 1.45 WHIP, and made just six minor league starts before being thrust into Texas’ rotation out of desperation this year.
In eight starts Mikolas boasts a 1.56 WHIP and 5.25 FIP in 44.1 innings. The Marlins will hopefully be able to jump on him early and often and give Cosart some cushion in what appears to be a pitching mismatch in game one.
Wednesday’s daycap features another Rangers pitcher you probably aren’t familiar with. Nick Martinez, who hails from Miami, made his big league debut this April out of the Texas bullpen but has since made 16 starts. He is another pitcher whose advanced metrics read unkind, with an awful 5.48 FIP and a 75 ERA+. Consider his 1.606 WHIP and the Marlins should be able to pressure him with base runners aplenty.
I really think the Marlins can pull off the sweep here. This isn’t my blind fandom talking, either. The bats have been hot lately, and the pitchers the Marlins will see are not exactly Cy Young contenders. Oh, and they don’t have to face Yu Darvish!
Giancarlo Stanton, fresh off a 7-for-14 series against the Arizona Diamondbacks where he smacked his 32nd home run of the season, should have a field day against these Rangers starters. Stanton has thrust himself to the forefront of the NL MVP discussion with his 88 RBI and .964 OPS, and has five homers over his last ten games.
The Fish are 7-3 in their last ten games, and have beaten the teams they should (winning three-of-four against the Arizona Diamondbacks and two-of-three against the Cincinatti Reds) and being competitive against good teams (two-of-three over the Cardinals).
If Cosart and Eovaldi are their usual solid selves, and the bats are as productive as they’ve been for the last week, look for the Marlins to sweep the Rangers.