The grueling portion of Texas' summer schedule continues on Monday night, as the Rangers head to the Bronx to open up a four-game set against the New York Yankees. Not surprisingly, the Rangers and Yankees are the two American League powers this year, and either team could be considered the favorite to represent the American League in the World Series come October.
The Rangers have been playing better baseball lately. Texas went into Boston last week and took two-of-three from a solid, though vastly underachieving, Red Sox team. The Rangers took two-of-three from the Detroit Tigers over this past weekend, even winning a game Justin Verlander started.
Still, the Yankees prove to be Texas' biggest test yet.
New York is one of three teams, along with the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals, that has a better run differential than the Rangers do. New York sits at a comfortable +97, while the Rangers are at +82. For what it's worth, Washington is +96, and St. Louis is +101, despite being in third place.
Point is, the Yankees are one of baseball's best teams, and along with the Rangers, constitute the class of the American League. Texas catches a break this week, since they won't face New York ace C.C. Sabathia, who was placed on the disabled list with elbow soreness.
Instead, the Rangers face David Phelps, Hiroki Kuroda, Freddy Garcia and Ivan Nova. In a playoff series, the Rangers may face Kuroda and Nova, but they're missing New York's top two starters, Sabathia and Andy Pettitte.
Despite this fact, the series is a good test for the Rangers, specifically Texas' pitching staff. The Rangers, unlike previous years, lack a true top of the rotation pitcher. Ryan Dempster, Matt Harrison, Scott Feldman and Derek Holland will all take the mound this week in the Bronx, and they're certainly worth watching to see how they handle one of baseball's best offenses.
No, the series isn't make-or-break. The Rangers are going to the playoffs no matter what this year, barring a 2007 Mets-esque collapse. It's still worth watching and putting stock into how Texas' pitchers fare in the Bronx, and against a top lineup.