Sunday's pitching matchup features two starters who have very little in common from an experience standpoint, but both of whom are facing challenges as they prepare to take the mound for the series finale between the Red Sox and Rangers.
On one end, there's Robbie Ross Jr., who is still getting acclimated to a starting role after spending two years as a Rangers reliever. On the other side, there's John Lackey, a veteran righty who has faced the Rangers a whopping 40 times, including 19 starts at the Rangers' ballpark.
Their challenge? Turn in strong outings and erase some recent history at a ballpark that hasn't exactly worked in their favor in the past.
Ross started strong this season, going 1-0 with a 1.00 ERA through three starts. Since then, he's made four starts, going 0-3 with a 8.10 ERA. At home, he's 1-2 with a 5.06 ERA, allowing 12 earned runs over 21 1/3 innings.
Clearly, Ross has some work to do, especially since his spot in the rotation could become less stable very soon. The Rangers have Joe Saunders getting ready to come off the disabled list, and Nick Tepesch is pitching well at Triple-A Round Rock, going 6-1 with a 1.58 ERA over seven starts.
So, the Rangers have options if Ross continues to struggle.
Ross said things didn't go his way in his last start, when he allowed six runs and 12 hits in 5 1/3 innings at Colorado.
"I felt my mindset was right, and hopefully I can keep the same mindset and go out there and try to battle," Ross said. "If I get on the fence not going right at them and attack them … I don't want to forget what's gotten me here. Attack is always what I've done as a pitcher, so I don't want to look at too many things and remember I have to do the right stuff to keep it going."
Rangers manager Ron Washington said Ross is adjusting to having to get 27 outs as a starter. More work is resulting in more pitches to locate. Opponents are batting .379 with .976 OPS.
"Just inconsistent location," Washington said. "His location has been bad. He's not executing pitches like he did earlier. When you miss spots, you get hurt."
Lackey, of course, has job stability in the Red Sox rotation. What he doesn't have is a great track record at Globe Life Park. Overall, he's 13-15 against the Rangers, with the 15 losses being the seventh-most ever. In Arlington, Lackey is 7-7 over 19 starts with a 6.61 ERA, the second-highest ERA by any pitcher at that ballpark with at least 15 career starts and 75 innings pitched.
Since it opened in '94, only Ervin Santana (6.93) has posted a higher ERA.
On making 20 appearances at Globe Life, the most of any opponent, Lackey said: "That's probably not a good thing -- I would like to have that distinction in another ballpark. They've had some great lineups, and it's obviously not a real great place to pitch, either."
Red Sox: Offense sporadic
The Red Sox entered Saturday 12th in the American League in batting average (.242), yet their on-base percentage (.335) was tied for third in the AL. Boston has been struggling some with runners on, hitting .240, 13th in the AL, in those situations.
"If you look at the underlying numbers we're doing some things very similar to a year ago, and that's getting on base at a good rate," manager John Farrell said. "We've seen some of our younger guys experience some things consistently for the first time in their young careers. We're still creating the opportunities, and base hits with men on base has been the one area that we continually look to be a little more consistent in."
Rangers: Fielder finding groove
Slowly but surely, first baseman Prince Fielder seems to rounding into form. Fielder is batting .290 in his last 20 games with a long home run in Thursday's win over Colorado.
Fielder also has RBIs in three consecutive games. The Rangers enter Sunday 9-3 in games that Fielder had an RBI.
Even his outs are loud these days, like the drive to right-center that was caught in Friday's 8-0 win.
"He hit one to the biggest part of the park last night and it died," Washington said. "He's seeing the ball well. It is just a matter of time. He's not all the way there, but he's good enough to do some damage."
• The Rangers are 5-4 in day games this season while the Red Sox are 8-4.
• Yu Darvish isn't expected to need an extra day before his next start Wednesday against the Astros, after throwing 126 pitches against the Red Sox. The Rangers do have an off-day on Thursday before their three-game home series against the Blue Jays, so they could give Darvish two extra days between starts if needed. "That will be predicated on how he feels when he throws again," Washington said.
• The Rangers are closing in on the Red Sox in the all-time series. Boston has a 224-217 advantage entering Sunday. The Rangers are 31-17 in the series since 2009.
• David Ortiz has 17 doubles, 19 homers and 45 RBIs in 54 games at Globe Life Park.