Entering this series between two first-place teams, the Texas Rangers are in the midst of a losing skid. After their loss to the Diamondbacks on Tuesday, the Rangers find themselves losers of six in a row and now holding just a one-game lead over the Astros in the AL West. We’ll preview the opening game of their series with the Twins before going over my play on the F5 total.
Minnesota sits atop the AL Central division with a 4.5-game lead, but they have yet to truly go on a run that solidifies them as the winner of that division. Over their last ten games, the Twins are 5-5, and on Tuesday, they dropped a game to the Brewers. In that 7-3 loss, the Twins picked up seven hits, but their only offensive highlight was a Christian Vazquez two-run home run.
The good news for the Twins is they have Pablo Lopez on the hill tonight, and with the way he’s been throwing, there are not many pitchers that would be better to have on the mound after a loss than him. The right-hander has not allowed a run in his last 19 innings, and over his last five starts, he is 4-0 with five quality starts. Lopez has also been a strikeout machine, averaging 7.7 per game over his last ten outings.
With how he’s throwing, he is likely the last pitcher the Rangers offense wants to see. Over their last ten games, Texas has scored three or fewer runs in six of them, and they are coming off a 6-3 loss in which they struck out 13 times and left 24 runners on base. The one player who has consistently produced for the Rangers through all this is Corey Seager, who drove in two of the team's runs on Tuesday.
Looking to end their losing streak, the Rangers will send Andrew Heaney to the mound for his 25th start. The lefty has made early exits from his last two starts, the first one due to an illness and the second one due to a bad outing. Heaney was pulled after 3.2 innings in his last outing after he threw 84 pitches and allowed three earned runs on seven hits.
The total for the first five innings is set at 4.5, and I’ll be taking the under for my play. Not only do the Twins rank 19th in average runs per game in the first five innings, but over their last 23 games, the Rangers team total under is 16-7. Now the Rangers have to face a starter who is on a tear right now, and the Twins face a lefty whom they have struggled against as of late.
Since July 1st, the Twins offense is hitting .204 and ranks 29th in wOBA and 28th in OPS and wRC+ against left-handed pitching at home. Heaney has had a rough go of it in his last two outings. However, he still has a batting average against on the road of .229, and prior to getting sick, he did turn in two straight scoreless outings, so with another normal week of preparation under his belt, he should be able to get back on track.
Pablo Lopez is already on track, entering tonight in the 90th percentile in xERA/xwOBA, 81st percentile in xBA, and 79th percentile in xSLG. With a 2.92 FIP at home, he is a brutal matchup for a Rangers lineup that ranks 18th in wRC+, wOBA, and OPS against right-handed pitching on the road over the last 30 days.
F5 Under 4.5