The Rangers return home today tied for first place in the AL West with Oakland and just 1.5 games ahead of the Angels. That makes this an interesting 7-game homestand, which includes three games against Tampa Bay and four against Seattle.
A few things to keep an eye on tonight and over the next few days:
* C.J. Wilson. He tries to return to the form that saw him put together an impressive streak of seven straight quality starts to begin the season. Since that point, he's 0-2 with a 9.56 ERA in his last three starts. He hasn't gotten an out past the sixth inning in any of them. He's allowed four homers in those three games and opponents are hitting .277 against him. A few other notes from ESPN Stats & Information on Wilson:
Entering his start against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on May 18 he posted an era of 1.48. After his outing on May 18 and through his most recent outing against the Minnesota Twins on May 29 his era has skyrocketed to 3.48. Perhaps this may be due to his lack of efficiency. Over these three starts he has pitched a total of 16 innings, throwing 301 pitches, averaging 18.81 pitchers per inning, and allowed 4 homeruns (he had not given up any going into his start on May 18). Out of the 72 batters he has faced during this stretch his pitch count has gone startlingly 3 or less pitches only 36% of the time compared to the MLB average 47% and 4 or less pitches only 58% of the time compared to the MLB average 65%. He has also struggled to throw first pitch strikes with a percentage of only 50% compared to the league average 58 %. In addition 24% of the batters he has faced have scored compared to the league average 12%.
* Michael Young is pounding the ball. He's a ton of fun to watch at the plate right now. His average is up to .329 for the season. But since May 9, he's run off some very impressive numbers with a larger sample size. He's hitting .416 (37-for-89) with three homers and 17 RBIs. He's got a .471 on-base percentage with 10 walks and 13 strikeouts. He also has 13 doubles, including another one to the gap last night. In that span of 22 games, Young has 13 multi-hit games, including the last four straight. So keep an eye on Young. He's likely to do something to help the Rangers score runs during this homestand.
* It's interesting that the two teams tied at the top of the AL West have the most overworked bullpens. The A's relievers have actually pitched 2/3 inning more than the Rangers. But what Texas needs is some good performances from its starters. They were better in Chicago about pitching deeper into games and that needs to continue on this homestand. Darren Oliver is sixth among AL relievers in innings pitched with 28.
* Ian Kinsler is coming off a struggling road trip. He was 5-for-34 -- that's just a .147 average -- with four strikeouts and a walk. He had four RBIs. Kinsler played well for a good stretch after returning to the lineup, but has since slowed a little. He was 2-for-10 with a runner in scoring position on the trip.
* Is Justin Smoak starting to come around? Maybe. He put together a good road trip, batting .280 (7-for-25) with a .400 on-base percentage thanks in part to five walks (he also had seven strikeouts). But if you just watch the games, Smoak looks like he's having better at-bats and going up there with a good plan. I'd like to see if that continues now that the team is at home.