The Texas Rangers (50-31, 23-16 away) may be the top team in baseball heading towards the All-Star break, being the first squad to win 50 games on the season, but that didn’t stop the Chicago White Sox (43-37, 20-21 home) from stepping all over them in Game 1 of their 3-game series together last night. After delivering their most productive output on offense of any game played over the past six years, the Chicago White Sox will today look to set off more fireworks at the plate against Texas in Game 2 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois, seeking to build on the massive 19-2 rout laid out last night against Roy Oswalt and the supporting Rangers’ bullpen.
Things look lined up for more heavy artillery to be front and center for tonight’s game, as the Texas Rangers’ Scott Feldman (2-6, 6.13 ERA) gets set to take the mound against the White Sox’ rookie Dylan Axelrod (0-1, 4.50 ERA), in a match-up of two pitchers who are prone to inconsistencies for two different reasons. Obviously, with Axelrod being a rookie, he’s prone to making mistakes especially against teams with stacked offenses. Making just his 4th start on the season, there’s a very small sample size to review, with Axelrod pitching well in 2 starts (giving up 2 runs in 2 games) and getting beat up in one (5 runs on 5 1/3 innings of work against Milwaukee). It bodes well though for the White Sox knowing that in the two games he pitched the best in, they were against the Yankees and Tigers, two of the best hitting teams in the Major Leagues this season. So long as Axelrod can avoid giving up the big inning against the Rangers, and keep the walks to a minimum, there should be a good chance for the White Sox’ surging bats to power past the Rangers in Game 2 today.
For Scott Feldman on the other hand, inconsistency has defined his season overall, but at least some things look a little brighter with his lone two wins on the season coming back-to-back over his last two starts. After losing six straight decisions, Feldman and his ballooning ERA (which jumped from 3.00 to a current 6.13 in his last 8 starts) has found out that getting some run support can do wonders even if you’re not pitching at the top of your game. In his six straight losses, Feldman never received more than 3 runs of support from the Rangers’ batsmen, but has gotten 7 runs apiece in his last two wins. Like Axelrod today, Feldman’s focus has to be on avoiding the big inning, which is something that haunted Texas last night in their blowout loss. Despite putting up an insane 19 runs yesterday, Chicago scored all of them in just 4 innings, getting 4 runs in the 1st, 3 in the 2nd, 9 in the 5th and another 3 in the 7th. For Texas to bounce back, they need to produce enough runs for Feldman to remain confident on the hill, but Feldman can also give the Rangers a chance to stay competitive provided he can do the same as Axelrod and keep runners off the base paths, and keep the big hits to times when there aren’t too many base runners on board. That is something he’s struggled with this year, evident by his 8.06 ERA away from home, and a 1.57 WHIP number, giving up 26 hits and 9 walks over 22 ½ innings away from Rangers Ballpark.
With the pitching match-up looking tough to decipher, with a rookie who hasn’t had history, and an inconsistent Rangers starter who can’t win without a lot of runs behind him, the battle at the plate between these two heavy-hitting teams should be the focal point of today’s match-up. There’s no question of who to watch for on the White Sox side of things, as the heart of their order is stacked and starting to come alive right before the All-Star break. Adam Dunn, with 25 home runs on the season and the latest coming last night, could be in for a very rare back-to-back night of successful hitting. Despite the fact that he’s quite simply terrible at staying consistent at the plate night after night, Dunn still has mustered a .364 average against Texas pitching this season, hitting two home runs while knocking in 3 RBIs and scoring 5 runs in just 11 at-bats. Count in his 5 walks issued by Texas, and he’s been on base in 9 of his 11 plate appearances against them. Something says he’ll find a way to be on the base paths once again tonight. Other White Sox hitters to watch out for tonight include Kevin Youkilis, who got silly last night going 3-for-6 with a home run and 4 RBIs in his first home game with Chicago, and Alex Rios, who is off to a torrid start to July hitting 5-for-8 in his last 2 games. Rios has 7 multi-hit games in his last 8 starts, and he’s had success against Feldman going 7-for-23 with 2 homers off the Texas starter. The hitter to watch for in the black and white pinstripes tonight though is Paul Konerko, who loves mashing Texas pitching. He’s hitting .438 against Texas this season, and .353 lifetime against Feldman. After struggling for a brief spell a week ago, Konerko is surging into the All-Star break hitting .337 on the season with 14 jacks and 42 RBIs. Look for him to be huge tonight once again.
For Texas, it goes without saying that Josh Hamilton needs to be the core of the Rangers offense this evening, sporting a .462 batting average (6-for-13) against Chicago this season. Off to a slow start through the first two games of the month, he’s due to come back strong tonight, hitting well at U.S. Cellular Field (.381 over his last 3 seasons combined). With 25 homers and 73 RBIs on the season so far, Hamilton must get runs on the board to help his Rangers stifle was is sure to be another strong offensive effort by the Sox against Scott Feldman. With no one having seen the Sox’ Dylan Axelrod yet, look to the most productive recent Texas hitters to have success against him tonight, including David Murphy, who’s hitting .350 since the start of June, and is 6-for-10 against Sox pitching this season. Another Rangers’ hitter who may be set to break out of a recent funk is Michael Young, who is batting 0-for-13 in his last 4 games. He’s beyond due to get back into his usual stride at the plate, and against rookie pitching it may just be the perfect opportunity for him to take advantage of.
Betting lines for the Texas Rangers vs. Chicago White Sox at Oddsmaker sportsbook.
Despite the pounding that the Sox gave to the Rangers last night, and the fact that Texas starting pitcher Scott Feldman is prone to inconsistency, the Rangers still march in to tonight’s game as slight favorites to win, getting -112 odds at Oddsmaker sportsbook. That is likely due to the fact that despite the recent blowout loss, the Rangers are still 16-5 over their past 21 games, and are the hottest team over the past month. However, with the Chicago White Sox having confidence growing at the plate, and a young pitcher who Texas hasn’t seen, it’s tempting to wander towards the +102 odds on the Sox as underdogs on the money line.
Against the spread, the White Sox will receive a 1 ½ run cushion as underdogs, but spread pickers will get -155 odds to make this option less tempting. For the Rangers backers, they’ll need to cover 1 ½ runs to earn spread pickers a +135 price. Here’s an interesting note to consider through for Rangers’ backers; When bouncing back from a loss with a victory in the next game, Texas has won by at least 2 runs in every match-up since April 22nd. They are 21-1 against the spread when bouncing back to win after a loss.
For the over/under, the line is inflated after yesterday’s hit-fest for the White Sox, with the total runs set at 10.5. Both over and under wagers sit at -110 odds, and with the possibility of shaky pitching on one or both sides of the match-up high today, it’s awfully hard not to choose the over wager here on today’s Game 2. One thing is for sure, the bigger gamble is to back the under side of the total runs, considering Scott Feldman’s 8+ ERA on the road, and the likelihood that Texas, the top run-scoring team in the American League, will be held down for a second consecutive night by a rookie pitcher. Look out for big innings to be prevalent tonight as they were yesterday.