Manager: Ron Washington, eighth year
Last 10 games: 7-3
Who to watch: LF Shin-Soo Choo (.297/.423/.465, 6 HR, 18 RBIs); RF Alex Rios (.325/.356/.486, 22 XBH, 29 RBIs, 10 SB); RHP Yu Darvish (4-2, 2.35 ERA, 1.11 WHIP); RHP Nick Tepesch (2-0, 2.95 ERA, 1.04 WHIP)
Season series vs. Nats (2013): Did not play
Should the Nationals be seeking an American League counterpart when it comes to injuries to key players, the Rangers would be it.
Much like the Nats, who have spent a good portion of this season without the middle of their order, Texas has taken major hits to both its lineup and pitching staff.
First baseman Prince Fielder is expected to miss the rest of the season with neck surgery. Left-hander Matt Harrison is out with spinal nerve irritation. Left-hander Derek Holland has yet to pitch this year because of a knee injury. Left-hander Martin Perez will miss the rest of the season to undergo Tommy John surgery.
Infielder Jurickson Profar hasn’t played this year, and won’t anytime soon after suffering a setback with his injured shoulder. Catcher Geovany Soto also hasn’t played this season because of knee surgery. Oh, and third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff is out with back surgery as well.
But despite all that, the Rangers remain above .500, are still in the American League West race and are playing some of their best ball of the year as they open their first series against the Nats since 2008.
Texas has won five of its last six and seven of nine since standing a season-worst three games under .500 at 21-24. The Rangers have been getting it done both at the plate and on the mound over the last nine games, outscoring opponents 55-28.
That’s an impressive 6.1 runs per game during that time. Overall this season, the Rangers are second in the AL with a .268 average and .332 on-base percentage while tying for fifth with 232 runs. That success has come despite uncharacteristically having the third-fewest homers in the majors with 34.
Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo leads the Rangers with six homers and an .888 OPS. Outfielder Alex Rios has been especially good, batting .404 during a 12-game hitting streak and .325 overall this season. Third baseman Adrian Beltre has also been part of the offensive surge, batting .395 over the last 11 games.
Pitching-wise, Texas has ranked toward the bottom of the AL - 12th with a 4.22 team ERA, 10th with a 4.35 rotation ERA and 10th with a 3.98 bullpen ERA. But the Rangers are allowing just 3.1 runs per game over the last nine contests.
After right-hander Colby Lewis faces Stephen Strasburg in the series opener, the next two Texas pitchers bring plenty of intrigue to the series.
Nick Tepesch, a 25-year-old right-hander, is 2-0 with a 2.95 ERA and has tossed quality starts in each of his last two outings. He has allowed six runs in 18 1/3 innings through three starts.
Then on Sunday, right-hander Yu Darvish gets back to work after missing a start because of a stiff neck. Darvish ranks fourth in the AL with a 2.35 ERA and seventh with 71 strikeouts in just 61 1/3 innings.
So the Nats will be looking to get back over .500 against a Rangers club that has been tough to handle all-around in recent weeks.