After a long road trip, the Texas Rangers come back home on Monday, April 23rd when they take on the New York Yankees in a battle of two of the best teams in the American League on ESPN.
The Yankees are coming into this weekend's series at Fenway Park hovering right around that .500 mark. This is a crucial set of series' for this team, as going 1-5 or so is a distinct possibility against two of the top AL contenders. Needless to say, if that were to happen, the changes would need to be made and made in a hurry, and odds have it, matters would really start to change for the pitching staff. The signing of Hiroki Kuroda was a bit overshadowed by the fact that the Bronx Bombers traded for Michael Pineda on the same day, but it was still looked at as one of the best free agent moves that a team could make that was trying to help out its pitching staff. Maybe not so much. Thus far, Kuroda, a pitcher that throws to contact, has really gotten knocked around here in the American League. Batters are hitting .311 against him, and the end result is a 5.00 ERA and a lousy 1-2 record. The lone win was a great one against the Los Angeles Angels in which he tossed eight shutout innings, but this is going to be arguably his hardest start of the year in one of the most offensive parks in the game.
And then there are the Rangers, who are just doing what they do once again this year. This isn't a team that has the flashy stars like Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and the likes, but it is still a squad that can mash up and down the lineup, plays good defense, and has pitching like you wouldn't believe. Derek Holland isn't exactly a household name, but since the start of the 2011 season, he has been one of the most consistent young pitchers in the game. The lefty is 18-5 in his last 35 starts, and he has really done a great job taking care of his team. This year, Holland has 20 strikeouts against just six walks, and batters are hitting just .164 against him. Inevitably, that will change, and the Yanks are likely to knock him around a little bit, but in the end, this is a man that has always seemed to scatter hits and stay out of the big innings. That's going to be the key in the first game of this pivotal series for sure.
The Final Word: This is a bad spot for Kuroda to be in. It is a tough road game against a great team that is just playing ridiculously well right now to start the season, and he has a lefty opposing him that has a history of just consistently finding ways to put zeros on the board. New York won't be able to get the big inning off of Holland all that often, and in the end, the southpaw is going to get the 'W' to move to 3-0 in this one.
New York Yankees @ Texas Rangers Pick: Texas Rangers