It’s Round Two for the Blue Jays and Texas Rangers this season but that’s not what is getting fans in these parts pumped.
Josh Hamilton, the Li’l Abner of the American League with a Major League high of 18 homers, will be suiting up against the Jays for the first time in 2012 — he missed the games at Rogers Centre due to back woes — but that isn’t the big deal either.
On Friday evening the “big” news of the day will be the unveiling of the “Great Bratbino” at Rangers Ballpark, a two-foot long bratwurst that was created in honour of Hamilton and will cost each fan a whopping $26.
This on top of the $26 “Boomstick,” a two-foot long hot dog they created earlier in the season.
The Great Bratbino, though, comes complete with sauerkraut and can be topped with chili, nacho cheese, grilled onions and jalapenos. No mention of heartburn medication though.
Currently, the front-running Rangers are giving their manager Ron Washington enough heartburn all by themselves, Great Bratbino aside.
Over their past 10 games, the Rangers aren’t doing the Rangers thing which is smacking the beejezus out of the ball. Over that stretch they are hitting .243 with a .293 on-base percentage and a .374 slugging percentage while averaging 3.5 runs per game.
“We’re not swinging the bats the way we’re capable of right now,” designated hitter Michael Young said following Wednesday’s loss to Seattle. “We’ve got to stay the course. That’s what the big league season is all about. When things don’t go your way, you stay with it and play hard. Our confidence is still high as a team and we expect things to go our way.”
The Rangers aren’t racking up the wins, either, as they have gone 10-12 in May and 12-14 since their 15-4 start.
A highpoint for the three-game series should come in Sunday’s finale when their costly and dynamic rookie right-hander Yu Darvish makes his second start of the campaign against the Jays.
On May 30 at Rogers Centre, Darvish was a delight as over seven innings he held the Jays to one run and four hits — the lone run supplied by Edwin Encarnacion’s home run. He also walked two and struck out nine and lived up to all the pre-game hype.
Overall, Darvish is 6-2 with a 3.05 ERA but he is coming into the game off his worst start — a four inning outing against Seattle where he walked a season-high six batters.
Darvish was so upset with his performance that he apologized to Washington.
“I was apologetic because I wasn’t able to go deep in the game as a starter should,” Darvish told reporters through an interpreter.
The Jays can take heart from the outing as it marked the first time this season he has faced a team for the second time.
Kyle Drabek, meanwhile, has for the second time drawn the short straw in the rematch.
He was the loser the last time they met. Drabek, though, was sharp that game holding the Rangers to two runs on five hits over six innings while striking out eight.
He’ll take that again in a heartbeat.
Friday, 8:05 p.m. RHP Brandon Morrow vs. LHP Derek Holland
Saturday, 3:05 p.m. RHP Henderson Alvarez vs. RHP Colby Lewis
Sunday, 3:05 p.m. RHP Kyle Drabek vs. RHP Yu Darvish
TOR 2011 Texas
.241 AVG .284
11th RANKS 1st
61 HRS 63
31 STEALS 33
3.75 ERA 3.23
6th RANK 1st
6.77 K/9 8.08
Closer Joe Nathan has retired 13 consecutive batters with 10 saves. It marks his eighth career season of having 10 or more saves.
Reliever Koji Uehara has worked 11 1/3 scoreless innings in his past 11 appearances to lower his ERA to 1.17 from 4.50.
OF Josh Hamilton should be in the chase of the Triple Crown all season. He currently is tops in the league in homers with 18 and RBIs with 49. He is also second in batting average at .379. He has hit safely in 36 of the Rangers 42 games.
LF David Murphy has gone 6-for-34 (.176) in his past 11 games and is batting .212 (14-for-66) in his past 22.
C Mike Napoli went 1-for-12 on the Rangers six-game road trip while in his past eight games he has gone 3-for-22 (.130).
DH Michael Young is batting just .169 (11-for-65) with two RBIs in his past 15 games. In his past 29 games he is hitting .196 (24-for-122).
It is the second meeting of the season for the teams as the Jays won two of three at Rogers Centre with their lone loss due to the dazzling performance of RHP Yu Darvish, who they will face in Sunday’s finale. Even though the Rangers have been one of the top teams in baseball of late that has not generated wins against the Jays. In fact, the Rangers have not won a season series against the Jays since 2006 and are 7-14 against them straight up since 2010. The Jays didn’t face Josh Hamilton at Rogers Centre, but trends are trends and this one trends in the Jays favour.
PREDICTION: The Rangers have been sluggish since their 15-4 start and have gone 10-12 in May. The Jays will send out their three best starters of late — sorry Ricky Romero, the way you’ve been pitching you don’t make that list — in Brandon Morrow, Henderson Alvarez and Kyle Drabek. Given that and the recent history between the teams, we have the Jays winning two of three.