Capper Sees Few Runs As Red Sox's Sale Tries for Strikeout History Vs. Rangers

chris sale

Rainman M.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017 4:40 PM GMT

The Texas Rangers have their work cut out for them Wednesday night at Fenway as they face Red Sox ace Chris Sale, who looks to set an MLB record by striking out at least 10 batters for a ninth straight game. Our capper expects it to be low-scoring. 

Texas Rangers At Boston Red Sox

My pick below may seem unlikely to those who remember the Red Sox crushing Martin Perez last July. On July 6, 2016, they nailed him for seven earned runs in just four innings. Those were different circumstances, however. It was 82 degrees at the first pitch.  The Red Sox were on a sizzling run after getting blown out by the Angels 21-2. Perez was just one victim as part of a four-game run in which the Red Sox put up double digits three times.

So far this season, the Red Sox have yet to heat up.  Their OPS is just .697 in the past 14 days. And part of that cold streak is due to the time at which they have been playing their games. Their OPS is a solid .815 during the day but just .689 at night.  Another part of their struggles is against left-handed pitchers. The three Red Sox batters who were best against Perez were right-handed batters but righties have yet to figure things out against southpaw starters, managing just a .700 ops against them so far in 2017 compared to .863 last year. 

Chris Young, for instance, is just batting .238 vs lefties this year, compared to .328 in 2016 when his OPS was 1.714 in his seven at-bats against Perez. The Red Sox have faced two southpaw starters at night so far this season: Jayson Aquino, currently in Baltimore’s minor-league system, got his lone win against the Red Sox, giving up two runs in six innings; also, Toronto's Francisco Liriano pitched 5.1 shutout innings. Boston’s OPS against southpaw starters is .629 -- and the Sox haven’t exactly been facing top competition, but rather the likes of Blake Snell, Sean Manaea and Daniel Norris, all of whom have an FIP of over 4.00 on the season. 

Perez is furthermore a tough matchup for the Red Sox because he is a power pitcher who relies especially on a fastball that tops out at 96.6 mph. The Red Sox are struggling against power pitchers, producing a .743 OPS  against them, compared to .782 vs finesse and compared to .796 vs power pitchers last season. Perez has improved this season: after initially struggling with command, he has walked only two batters in his last three games. His K/9 rate is also up from 4.67 to 6.35, as he struck a season-high eight batters in his last outing vs the Phillies. His FIP is down from 4.50 to 3.88. I like an in-form southpaw power pitcher to perform well at night against a cold Red Sox lineup.

 

Good Luck Against Dominant Sale

There is not much to say about Red Sox lefty starter Chris Sale. He last faced the Rangers in June 2015, when he gave up one run in 16.2 innings. In those two starts his FIP averaged less than zero. Current Texas batters are managing just a .113 BA and .381 OPS against him in 80 at-bats.

Texas bats are certainly sizzling with a .893 OPS in their last seven outings, but the only elite starter that they squared up against was Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander in an off year and he gave up a respectable three runs in seven innings pitched. The Rangers’ OPS is .716 against left-handed starters, compared to .732 against righties. But I think that even this number is inflated. Unlike the Red Sox, the Rangers have been able to do well against low-quality competition -- for example, against the likes of Detroit's Matt Boyd, whose FIP is currently 4.91, they put up a respectable four runs in 5.1 innings. But against the likes of Tyler Skaggs, whose FIP is at a solid 3.41 right now, they managed just one run in five innings. Against the likes of James Paxton, the Rangers managed two hits and zero runs in eight innings.

Against high-quality left-handed pitching, the Rangers struggle often on MLB picks, and that is why I think their OPS of .666 against lefties  (compared to .748 against right-handed pitching) is more telling. They also really struggle against power, managing just a .625 OPS against power pitchers, compared to .738 against finesse pitchers. Sale throws a fastball that tops out at 98.6 mph and against which opposing batters are managing just a .148 BA. Sale is even better than he was when he faced the Rangers in 2015. His K/9 rate is up from 11.82 to 13.02. His FIP is down from 2.73 to 1.62.

I expect an in-form Sale, who has struck out at lesat 10 batters in an MLB-record-tying eight straight starts, to take care of a Rangers squad that has yet to prove itself against elite pitching and against which he matches up well.

Free MLB Pick: First 5 'Under' 4.5Best Line Offered: BetOnline

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