In a series that could act as a turning point to an otherwise up and down inconsistent season, the Texas Rangers may have used their triumphant 3 out of 4 winning series against Oakland as a momentum shift. The Rangers (41-32) previously losers of their last 6, moved to within a game back of Oakland in the AL West thanks to a 4-3 win thanks to AJ Pierzynski's timely defense recording the final out. Tonight the World Series runner up two years ago face the team that celebrated the title back in 2011 in the St. Louis Cardinals (47-26). St. Louis seems to have not missed a beat in the post-Albert Pujols era owning baseball's best record.
St. Louis, who also won 3 of 4 this weekend albeit against the lowly Cubs, send Tyler Lyons to the hill in tonight's opener. After getting off to a fast and effective start Lyons has not shown the same efficiency over his first 3 appearances yielding 14 ER over his last 17 IP (7.41) dropping each of his last 3 decisions. His last start especially was puzzling to most allowing Miami, the league's worst franchise to score 6 ER over 5 innings in a 7-2 defeat. While manager Mike Metheny continues to stick with the young southpaw, he faces a Rangers lineup that got off to a typical hot start during the first 2 months of the season. While Texas went through a 2-7 slump this month, their offense has suffered as their average has dropped to .263 despite third in the AL with 89 HR. Adrian Beltre is still playing through hamstring issues and leads the club with a .304 batting average while second in HR (14) and RBI (39) despite not quite on pace to match his career average numbers. Nelson Cruz (.265 18 50) has provided the spark in power for Texas however must cut down on his 70 K's in just 260 AB's. The Rangers hope to get Mitch Moreland (.288 12 29) from the DL this evening recovering from a strained hamstring. David Murphy (.219 8 27) has been mired in a season long slump but the Rangers are fortunate to have Ian Kinsler (.299 7 26) back in the lineup even after a scary collision with John Jaso at the plate earlier this week.
The Rangers counter with Derek Holland (5-4 3.30) who hasn't been at his best over his past few starts. Holland has given up 10 ER over his past 16 IP (5.63) going 0-2 with a no-decision. Holland suffered losses to Cleveland and Toronto but has just a .50 ERA away from the ballpark in Arlington. While the Cardinals lineup is intimidating as evident by their .277 collective clip, they sure could use more power from their supporting cast. 28 of their 63 HR have come from Carlos Beltran (.307 17 45) and Matt Holiday (.278 11 40). In line to compete for the NL batting title, Yadier Molina (.366 5 41) has been one of the toughest outs leading the club in hits (94) and doubles (24). Matt Carpenter (.316 5 26) and Allen Craig (.310 6 55), who leads the team in RBIs have taken advantage of some clutch hitting especially in the later innings making the Cardinals dangerous as a come from behind team. 2011 World Series MVP David Freese (.280 4 24) has also contributed despite his production being way down than most expect.
Another bargain of a price this evening as Busch is one of those ballparks that in the summer heat known for the ball carrying despite it's challenging dimensions straight away. Lyons is looking to right the ship in June after getting pounded over his last few starts, although if he is not at his best has plenty of run support to fall back on. Holland has been nearly unhittable on the road this season. However he is in a tough venue to pick up a victory, and may need to continue his efficiency as well as depend on some of the hitters not coming through for Texas to make a statement hoping to gain back the AL West lead. Best of luck however you play!