Rangers face stiff challenge against Dodgers as West Coast road trip begins


The Texas Rangers have been treading water, but a trip out West provides a chance to test themselves against the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Texas Rangers versus the Los Angeles Dodgers is a battle between two teams that appear to be headed in opposite directions. But perhaps looks are deceiving.

After all, the Rangers are the reigning champions and the Dodgers have proven to be beatable despite their decade-long stranglehold on regular-season dominance. Unfortunately for Texas, this is the regular season and the series marks an important stretch out West.

The Rangers are coming off a homestand where they were only able to capture two wins against teams with similar near-.500 records with more spotty effort from their offense. The Dodgers, meanwhile, arrive back home after finishing a marquee series victory in New York against the American League East-leading Yankees.

In that series, the Dodgers showcased a little of everything that makes them perennial World Series contenders – good pitching, strong offense, and a stout bullpen.

Texas Rangers (31-34, 2nd Place AL West, 5.5 GB) @ Los Angeles Dodgers (41-26, 1st Place NL West, +7.5)

Previously, for Los Angeles…

The Dodgers were last seen in New York with all eyes on them over the weekend. It was a battle between the two superpowers of baseball, and it featured a little bit of everything. The opener saw a pitchers’ duel between Yoshinobu Yamamoto of the Dodgers and the Yankees’ Cody Poteet and several New York relievers. It wasn’t until the 11th inning that extra inning ghost runner Shohei Ohtani scored alongside Freddie Freeman on a Teoscar Hernandez double to put LA on top for good.

On Saturday, the Yankees and Dodgers were engaged in a seesaw affair that saw the game tied into the fifth inning. The Dodgers put up a couple more runs over the next two innings before exploding for seven runs over the last two innings to bury the Yankees. In the finale, Tyler Glasnow was in a position to win the game when the Dodgers took the lead in the sixth before giving up an inexplicable three-run homer to Trent Grisham that LA couldn’t recover from.

The 11 runs scored by the Dodgers on Saturday was only the 5th time in three and a half weeks that LA had scored more than six runs. In that regard, they’re like the Rangers – the offense has been sputtering a bit consistently. But it’s only been that way recently. The month of April saw the Dodgers put up a 15-11 record, outscoring their opponents 130-97. Overall, Los Angeles sports the National League’s second-best record behind Philadelphia, who swept Texas a month ago.

The Dodgers’’ trio of mega stars – Ohtani and Freeman to go along with Mookie Betts – have unsurprisingly been at the forefront of their production. Betts is slashing .309/.410/.504 with 10 homers and 37 RBI, Freeman is in at .290/.397/.482 with eight homers and 40 RBI and the sensational Shohei is slashing .310/.377/.570 with 15 homers and 41 RBI while battling a hamstring contusion. They’ve also gotten excellent production out of Hernandez, who actually leads the team with 16 homers and 48 RBI.

While the lineup is replete with former MVPs, the pitching staff, both starters and relievers alike, has also been extremely good. The starters hold the second-best ERA in the NL at 3.49 and also have the second-best batting average against, holding their opponents to a .229 average. Their relievers are holding hitters to a National League-best .206 while putting up an NL-best 3.03 ERA. In other words, the Rangers appear to have their hands full in this series.

What to watch for

Game 66, 9:10 PM CT – TBD vs. James Paxton (5-1, 4.19 ERA)Game 67, 9:10 PM CT – TBD vs. Walker Buehler (1-3, 4.82 ERA)Game 68, 9:10 PM CT – TBD vs. Yoshinobu Yamamoto (6-2, 3.00 ERA)

The Dodgers have a very good 21-12 record at home, making the three-game series even more of an upward hill to climb for Texas. By contrast, the Rangers have a losing record on the road and a losing record in interleague play. The Rangers also have a rotation in flux, as noted by the trio of TBDs doting the scheduled probables.

Jon Gray returned from his stint on the injured list but pitched 2 ⅓ innings out of the bullpen on Saturday to toss more questions about manager Bruce Bochy’s options for starting pitchers over the next week. The rotation looks to have Dane Dunning in line to start the opener, but Gray could step in and make the start, making the relief appearance a glorified bullpen session.

Recall that Gray did something similar this season, appearing in relief against the Atlanta Braves before making a start against the Seattle Mariners three days later. In that start against the Mariners, Gray went just 4 ⅔ innings but allowed only one run so it’s something to keep an eye on if Gray gets the call to open the series.

If Gray starts the opener, Dunning could be in line to start on Wednesday night, with Jose Urena an option for the finale on Thursday. Notable would be the familiarity of both Gray and Urena with the Dodgers, after their years with the Rockies in the NL West. But Gray has a losing record at Dodger Stadium and against the Dodgers. Urena has a losing record against the Dodgers but has a 1.26 ERA for his career at Chavez Ravine.

The Dodgers will send James Paxton, Walker Buehler, and Yamamoto against the Rangers. Paxton and Buehler have been the Dodgers’ two “weakest” starters. Over his 11 starts, Paxton, the lefty, has a 4.19 ERA but also has a 5-1 record. The run support for Paxton hasn’t been the most incredible, but it speaks to Paxton’s ability to keep the Dodgers in games. Paxton’s last start was against Pittsburgh where he took his one loss, giving up six runs in just 1 ⅔ innings. That poor outing was the most runs he’d given up since two starts before he allowed five against Cincinnati.

Buehler has not been nearly as fortunate as Paxton. Since returning from Tommy John surgery, the righty has only had one scoreless outing. That was a six-inning start against the Reds. One quirk for Buehler, in every other start since coming back, he has not only given up at least one home run but has also given up exactly three runs in each outing. His last start, also against the Pirates, saw him go just three innings allowing his three runs over seven hits.

The rookie Japanese import Yamamoto’s last start was a 2-1 win against New York, which continued a bounce-back effort after a more difficult month of May where he gave up 12 runs in his five starts. Overall, the former Nippon Professional Baseball standout is striking out more than ten batters per nine innings while walking just two per nine.

Texas is still in search of momentum and for that momentum to carry over from series to series, but running into one of the top teams in the National League in their hometown is going to make that task very difficult.

Do you think the Rangers can make a statement and claim a series in LA? Share your predictions with Matt on X (formerly Twitter) @FisherWritesMLB.