Originally posted on Baseball Prospectus  |  Last updated 6/5/12

The Monday Takeaway
R.J. Anderson wrote last week in his analysis of Roy Oswalt’s deal with Texas that “Jon Daniels knew the Rangers needed another starter with Neftali Feliz experiencing elbow inflammation and Scott Feldman inflating the run-scoring environment.” If the past week is any indication, the general manager’s foresight may prove critical to the team's hopes this season.

The Rangers have lost five of their last six games, and while a slumping offense—which has averaged less than four runs per game during that span, compared to 5.51 for the season—is partly to blame, the pitching staff has suddenly become an abject disaster. Ron Washington’s staff has coughed up 53 runs in the last week, after allowing just 68 during the team’s remarkable 17-6 April. A 21-8 drubbing at the hands of the Mariners last Wednesday is the primary culprit, but the Rangers have now allowed double digit-runs on three separate occasions in the last seven days, twice to Seattle and once to Oakland.  

Feldman kicked off this horrid stretch by surrendering five runs in 4 1/3 innings in last Tuesday’s 10-3 loss to Seattle. He prolonged it by recording just five outs in last night’s 12-1 defeat, where his counterpart, Jarrod Parker, took a no-hitter into the eighth inning.

The A’s, who came into the series with an AL-low 173 runs on the season and had been shut out in three of their previous four games, touched Feldman up for eight in the second inning alone, as seven consecutive batters reached to start the frame. Already on thin ice after losing his previous three starts, Feldman is now virtually certain to be relieved of his starting duties once Oswalt is ready to join the team.

The 34-year-old Oswalt pitched two scoreless innings for Triple-A Round Rock on Saturday, and he is expected to need about three more minor-league outings to build his stamina. His next start will come on Thursday, which means that an optimistic timetable could put the right-hander on track to make his 2012 debut before the Tigers come to Arlington on June 25-27.

The good news for the Rangers is that they will face only one top-10 offense (the Rockies, on June 22-24) between now and then. The bad news is that even the league’s worst offenses have had their way with Texas’ pitching staff of late. And after a month and a half of disparity, the AL’s three division leaders—the Rays, the White Sox, and the Rangers—are now all tied in the loss column with 23.

What to Watch for on Tuesday

  • The Rays come to the Bronx leading the third-place Yankees by only 1 ½ games, so this three-game series could result in New York’s first division lead since April 21. Though Ben Zobrist has slumped to a .208/.341/.393 triple slash over his first 52 games, the 31-year-old has excelled in his past encounters with Tuesday’s (7:05 p.m. ET) Yankees starter, Andy Pettitte. Zobrist is 7-for-16 with two homers in 20 trips, and his 1.313 OPS is third among active players with at least 20 plate appearances against Pettitte, trailing only Jhonny Peralta (1.657) and David Wright (1.379).
  • The NL East landscape could look dramatically different come Thursday night, too, with the Nationals hosting the Mets and the Marlins welcoming the Braves. Chris Young will make his first major-league start of the year for New York tonight (7:05 p.m. ET), facing Jordan Zimmermann, who has allowed five home runs over his last three starts after serving up just two in his first seven. Meanwhile, Tim Hudson—who has been charged with 12 runs in his past two starts—will try to bounce back against Anibal Sanchez, whose 2.72 FIP ranks sixth in the NL among pitchers who have thrown at least 50 innings to date (7:10 p.m. ET).
  • According to WEEI’s Rob Bradford, Dustin Pedroia will be in manager Bobby Valentine’s starting lineup tonight (7:10 p.m. ET), when the Red Sox play the Orioles at Fenway Park. Pedroia left the game against the Tigers on May 28 with a strained adductor muscle in his thumb and has missed Boston’s last six contests, though the injury proved less severe than initially feared. He is 4-for-7 with a homer lifetime against tonight’s O’s starter, Jason Hammel, so it’s safe to slide Pedroia back into your fantasy lineups immediately.
  • Garrett Richards struggled in a cup of coffee last season, but he was ranked as the Angels’ seventh-best prospect coming into 2012 and was promoted back to the majors last week. Armed with a mid-90s fastball, the 24-year-old must begin to show feel for at least one of his off-speed pitches in order to get over the hump and reach his number-four starter ceiling. Richards will make his first major-league start of the year against the Mariners tonight (10:05 p.m. ET), as the Halos look to keep the pressure on the scuffling Rangers. 
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