It’s quite possibly an American League Division Series (or ALCS) preview starting Tuesday night on the South Side of Chicago as the AL West-leading Texas Rangers, the team with the best record in baseball, visits the AL Central-leading White Sox for the only time this season.
There will be at least 10 American League all-stars on display at U.S. Cellular Field but probably 11. Texas got a whopping seven all-stars, including a team-record three starters: outfielder Josh Hamilton (who drew a record total of more than 11 million votes), third baseman Adrian Beltre and catcher Mike Napoli, although Napoli isn’t even a full-time catcher. Second baseman Ian Kinsler, shortstop Elvis Andrus, starter Matt Harrison and reliever Joe Nathan also made the AL roster from Texas, with the AL team managed by Rangers Manager Ron Washington.
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The White Sox have three all-stars: first baseman Paul Konerko, DH Adam Dunn and starter Chris Sale, who starts the series opener. Sale probably would be in line start next Tuesday’s game in Kansas City but is scheduled to pitch Sunday so likely won’t be able to pitch at all in the Midsummer Classic. Frankly, Pale Hose catcher A.J. Pierzynski deserves to be on the AL team ahead of Napoli and backup all-star catchers Joe Mauer and Matt Wieters. When Washington was asked if there was one player he was most disappointed that didn't get in the All-Star Game he was quick to mention Pierzynski (.285, 14 homers, 45 RBI), but Washington essentially had to pick Mauer to get a Twins representative on the team.
Look for Rangers rookie pitcher Yu Darvish to grab the final AL spot in fan voting that takes place through Thursday. He’s up against fellow starters Jake Peavy of the White Sox and Jason Hammel of Baltimore and relievers Jonathan Broxton of the Royals and Ernesto Frieri of the Angels. But there’s almost no way that Darvish won’t win that ballot with all of Japan voting for him. Both he and Peavy deserve to go.
Chicago and Texas will meet again in a series after the all-star break but this time in Arlington. And the clubs opened their seasons against each other there, with Texas winning two of the three games. Texas enters off a 3-1 home loss to Oakland on Sunday that ended the Rangers’ five-game winning streak. They have by far the best run differential in MLB at plus-100 and have won 13 of their past 16 games. The White Sox have won seven of their last 11, but lost two straight to the Yankees over the weekend, scoring just two runs in those two games.
Rangers at White Sox Probable Starting Pitchers
Tuesday: Rangers RHP Roy Oswalt (2-0, 4.26) vs. White Sox LHP Sale (9-2, 2.27) – Texas made a big push to sign Oswalt after losing Neftali Feliz to the disabled list, and it has paid off so far. Oswalt makes his third start for Texas and first regular-season road start since Sept. 27, 2011 in Atlanta. In the past three seasons, Oswalt is 16-13 with a 3.32 ERA in his road starts. He hasn’t seen the White Sox since 2008. Sale, meanwhile, has been one of the stories of baseball in 2012, leading the American League in ERA. The former reliever won his sixth straight decision last time out and has limited opponents to two runs or fewer in six of his past seven starts. Sale has only pitched 3.1 career innings vs. Texas.
Wednesday: Rangers RHP Scott Feldman (2-6, 6.13) vs. White Sox RHP Dylan Axelrod (0-1, 4.50): Feldman is only in the rotation due to injuries to Feliz and others. Feldman allowed four runs and nine hits (three homers) in five innings in a win over Oakland last time out. Feldman has won two in a row after starting 0-6. He is 2-2 with a 4.95 ERA vs. the White Sox in his career. The rookie Axelrod is only in the rotation because of injuries to John Danks and Philip Humber. But Axelrod was pretty good last time out, holding the Yankees to two runs and six hits over seven innings in a no-decision. No Rangers player has seen him yet, which could be an advantage for the Sox.
Thursday: Rangers LHP Harrison (11-3, 3.16) vs. White Sox LHP Jose Quintana (3-1, 2.19) – Harrison is on the way to his best season, with his 2012 ERA more than a full run lower than his career mark. It’s certainly possible that Washington starts his guy in the All-Star Game as he would be on normal rest. Harrison faced the White Sox on April 8 and blanked them for six innings on just four hits to get the win; he has never lost to Chicago. Harrison has allowed just three combined runs in his past five starts. Quintana is another rookie only in the White Sox rotation due to injury but certainly has done enough to stay there. However, he does come off his worst start of the year, allowing six runs in six innings vs. the Yankees even though Quintana did get the win. None of the Rangers have seen him yet, either.
Rangers at White Sox Betting Odds and Trends
This series line could be a literal ‘pick’em’ in my opinion, with Chicago a favorite in the opener and Texas expected to be in Game 3 – the middle game looks like a wash. But I would project Texas likely around a -120 slight favorite for the series. For Game 1, the Sox are at -135 with the total at nine, according to Bovada MLB odds. Texas is 18-19-1 “over/under” on the road, while Sox are 23-16-1 O/U at home.
The Rangers have won eight of their past 10 vs. teams with a winning record. They are 7-2 in their past nine vs. lefty starters. The White Sox are 1-4 in their past five series openers. They have won five of their past seven vs. righty starters. The under is 5-1 in Rangers’ past six road games. The under is 7-2 in Chicago’s past nine games vs. a right-handed starter.
MLB Picks: Rangers at White Sox Betting Predictions
It’s an inexperienced pitcher in all three games for the White Sox against the majors’ No. 1 offense, and that sounds like a potential problem. The Sox are actually under .500 at home while Texas is an excellent 23-15 on the road. Thus, I like Texas to take two of three here, including the opener (think Chicago wins Game 2). I would go with the under in Game 1.
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