Rangers insider Evan Grant breaks down the most important dates on the team’s calendar this year, as well as gives his prediction of how the 2019 season will unfold in Texas…
Key Dates — Full schedule
March 28: The season opens at home for the 15th time in 26 seasons at Globe Life Park. The Rangers are 8-6 in season openers at home in the park. This is completely coincidental, but when they have won the season opener at home at Globe Life Park, they have gone on to winning records six times.
The Rangers play 23 of their first 29 games inside the AL West. They were 28-48 inside the division in 2018, tied for the third most intra-division losses in club history and the most since 1975.
Get ready for some late nights. All 13 of their road games through April will start with a two-hour time difference. A total of nine games will begin after 8 p.m.
April 12-14, 22-25: Six games against the A’s means a lot of early-season matchups against Khris Davis. Perhaps the new coaching staff will have a better approach. Davis has 27 home runs and a 1.169 OPS against the Rangers over the last three seasons.
Summing it up
Though the opponents are challenging, conditions are right for a fast start. The Rangers have four off days in the first three weeks, so they can get ample rest for a starting rotation that may be operating under some pitch limits. And 15 of their first 20 games are at home. It makes it possible to carry the good vibes from spring training into the season.
Key dates — Full May schedule
April 30-May 1, 7-8: A rare road trip — The Rangers play a pair of two-game, home-and-home series with Pittsburgh in a 10-day span. The Rangers have gone longer since visiting Pittsburgh — they were last there in 2007 — than any other NL city. It should be an interesting visit. Former Rangers manager Jeff Banister is back on the Pirates’ staff.
May 17-19: The Rangers host St. Louis for three games. The Cardinals have been to Arlington for a regular-season series only once, in 2004. Of course, there was that one visit in October 2011 that some people may remember.
The early-season schedule should help the Rangers with maintenance for their fragile rotation. They have four off days in a 15-day span between April 29 and May 13. The off days could allow extra rest for the starters and allow them to carry an eighth reliever.
May 20-22, 27-29: The Rangers face Seattle 10 times in the first two months of the season, which might give Felix Hernandez a chance to tie the all-time pitching wins record against the franchise. Bartolo Colon has 21. Hernandez is one of four pitchers tied for second with 19.
Summing it up
With 15 of 27 games on the road, it will be a good month to find out if the hitting approach can stay more consistent in away games. In the Jeff Banister Era, there was a giant difference in home and road hitting splits. The Rangers ranked third in the majors with a home OPS of .792 from 2015-18 but were 27th (and last in the AL) in road OPS at .692.
Prediction: 13-14 (28-28)
Key dates — Full June schedule
June 3: The most important date on the calendar is an off day. The MLB draft begins. The Rangers have the eighth overall pick and three of the top 50. They have picked just once in the top 10 in the last 15 years and wasted that choice on Dillon Tate in 2015. It is imperative they maximize value.
June 1-6: Three teams lost at least 100 games last year. The Rangers play their first five games of the month against two them (KC and Baltimore) and play eight of 28 games in the month against 100-game losers. Add in six games against Cincinnati and Detroit and half the month’s games are against teams that lost 95 or more games.
June 10-13: Maybe new manager Chris Woodward will have more success in Boston than his predecessor. The Rangers make their lone trip to Fenway Park. They were 3-9 there under Banister and have lost seven straight games in the stadium.
June 14-16: It’s a sentimental one. The Rangers visit Cincinnati where center fielder Delino DeShields will square off against his father’s employer for Father’s Day Weekend.
Summing it up
The month begins with lots of promise: The draft comes in the middle of the season’s longest homestand. But eight games against division champs Boston and Cleveland in the middle could cool any momentum.
Prediction: 13-15 (41-43)
Key dates — Full July schedule
July 8-9: Who will represent the Rangers in the All-Star Game in Cleveland might not be as significant as whether Joey Gallo participates in the Home Run Derby. This year, the Derby carries a $1 million prize for the winner. That’s nearly $400,000 more than Gallo will earn this season.
The month is heavy on intra-divisional play with 20 of 25 games against the AL West. As previously noted, the Rangers were not good against the West last year.
July 19-28: A 10-game road trip to Houston, Seattle and Oakland precedes the July 31 trade deadline. A lot of guys may start that trip but may not make it back to Arlington as the club starts to turn over its roster.
July 11-13, 19-21: Six games against the Astros in the not-so-heated Silver Boot rivalry could mean a pair of matchups against Justin Verlander. Since joining the Astros, Verlander has a 2.19 ERA and .633 opponents OPS against the Rangers in six starts.
Summing it up
The most important development that could come from this month is if a top-tier starting pitching prospect — Taylor Hearn, Joe Palumbo or Jonathan Hernandez — shows he’s ready for the bigs. Trading veteran starters is part of the equation for a rebuilding team; the other part is their eventual replacements warranting a call-up.
Prediction: 10-15 (51-58)
Key dates — Full August schedule
Between July 19 and August 14, the Rangers play 19 of 24 games on the road. For a team that could be peeling off veteran pieces around the trade deadline, this has the makings of a very ominous and challenging stretch.
To add to that: Between Aug. 9 and Sept. 8, the Rangers are scheduled for 30 games in 31 days. Lots of road games, plus August heat, plus no off days is not a fun formula to try to solve.
Will Shin-Soo Choo still be a Ranger at this point? After the July 31 trade deadline, there will be a little more than a year and about $28 million left in salary commitment to him. Choo has been productive on the field and an asset in the clubhouse, but he also turns 37 on July 13 and his presence probably blocks Willie Calhoun from a meaningful role.
August 19-21: Mike Trout and the Angels make their last-ever visit to Globe Life Park in late August. Trout enters the season a .336 hitter with a 1.069 OPS in the stadium. The Angels have 106 wins at Globe Life Park, most by any opponent.
Summing it up
This is liable to be the most painful month for the Rangers. Veterans will have been peeled off and their replacements still will be raw. In addition, the long stretches of road games and the lack of days off may lead to realization of another losing season.
Prediction: 12-16 (63-74)
Key dates — Full September schedule
This is the final season teams can expand their rosters up to 40 after September 1 (it will be reduced to 28 in 2020), so expect the Rangers to take a look at a lot of guys, primarily pitchers. In addition to Hearn, Palumbo and Hernandez, guys such as Brett Martin, Kyle Bird and possibly Brock Burke should be getting some exposure. On the position player side, it would be nice to see outfielder Scott Heineman, injured this spring, finally get an audition.
The Rangers play 17 of 25 games in the month, including the last 14, against teams that played in the 2018 postseason.
September 24-29: A marquee opponent for the final homestand at Globe Life Park was the club’s top schedule request to MLB. The Rangers were rewarded with dates against Boston and the Yankees.
September 2-4, 27-29: The Rangers play the entirety of their season series against the Yankees in September. That means a lot of appointments with The Judge. Aaron Judge has five career homers and a 1.229 OPS in 40 career at-bats against the Rangers. He has four of those homers in 27 at-bats in Arlington.
Summing it up
By this point, the record won’t matter. What will: Having at least one young starting pitcher step forward to demonstrate readiness to join the rotation for 2020. The other thing that will matter: Enjoying the memories amassed in 26 years at the stadium in which the Rangers became a legitimate MLB organization.
OVERALL RECORD: 75-87, 4th in AL West
This would represent an eight-win improvement over 2018, not insignificant for a team that is rebuilding. But the final record doesn’t really matter so much as the progress this team makes, whether it’s the growth of new manager Chris Woodward, his young staff, individual players such as Rougned Odor and Nomar Mazara or, most importantly, pitching development at the minor league level. In the long run, this season won’t be judged on wins and losses but how the Rangers turned their entire organization toward being both more collaborative and more data-savvy.
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Source: Yahoo Sports