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Rangers Vs. Braves: Randall Delgado, Meet The Defending AL Champions

The Texas Rangers are 36-34 and currently lead the AL West by 0.5 games. The Braves are 39-31 and are currently 5.0 games out of first place in the NL East.

Maybe division and league realignment isn't so bad after all...

Anyway, the defending American League champions are in town this weekend and there are plenty of story lines to keep track of. Randall Delgado is making his Major League debut, Jason Heyward is back and hitting third Friday night, Chipper's knee has been bothering him and he could miss a few games, and we have an incredible pitching matchup on Sunday afternoon. Let's take a closer look at the Rangers:

Offense:

Despite losing eight of their last ten games, Texas is a really strong offensive club. Ian Kinsler (.234/.350/.407, .349 wOBA, 118 wRC+), Adrian Beltre (.262/.314/.461, .337 wOBA, 109 wRC+) and Elvis Andrus (.277/.323/.352, .318 wOBA, 96 wRC+) have all been worth 2.0+ fWAR and make an impact on each and every game with their bat and glove. First baseman Mitch Moreland (.300/.363/.483, .370 wOBA, 132 wRC+) is having a breakout season

Josh Hamilton (.284/.340/.478, .351 wOBA, 119 wRC+) has battled injuries in 2011, but he's still having a nice season in the outfield along with Nelson Cruz (.221/.278/.478, .332 wOBA, 106 wRC+) and Julio Borbon (.270/.305/.348, .296 wOBA, 81 wRC+). Catcher Yorvit Torrealba has struggled at the plate this year (.253/.283/.362, .282 wOBA, 83 wRC+).

Projected lineup:

Ian Kinsler - 2B
Elvis Andrus - SS
Josh Hamilton - LF
Adrian Beltre - 3B
Nelson Cruz - RF
Mitch Moreland - 1B
Yorvit Torrealba - C
Julio Borbon - CF

Don't forget about Michael Young, either. He's usually the DH for the club, but he'll likely play some first or third base in the series.

Pitching Matchups:

Colby Lewis Vs. Randall Delgado - Friday, 7:35 EDT (PeachTree TV, Fox Sports South)

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Colby Lewis 5-7 14 13 2 1 0 0 79.2 83 47 44 17 23 59 4.97 1.33


All eyes will be on rookie Randall Delgado in his Major League debut, but let's take a look at Colby Lewis. The righty has been pretty mediocre this year, though his xFIP of 4.23 indicates he's a little better than what his numbers above display him to be. He features a fastball in the high-80's, above-average slider, cutter and a decent changeup. The Braves should be able to get to Lewis if they make him work early in the game.

Matt Harrison Vs. Derek Lowe - Saturday, 4:10 EDT (FOX)

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Matt Harrison 5-6 12 12 0 0 0 0 70.2 62 30 26 6 32 42 3.31 1.33
W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Derek Lowe 3-5 15 15 0 0 0 0 85.0 81 38 38 7 33 66 4.02 1.34


Matt Harrison, who was included in the Mark Teixeira deal of 2007, has been a solid pitcher for the Rangers. He won't "wow" you with anything and his K/BB ratio isn't great (1.31), but he's a smart pitcher who knows how to get guys out. Harrison throws a hard fastball in the low-90s, a solid changeup, and then a curveball and slider on occasion. This will be his first career start against Atlanta.

Alexi Ogando Vs. Jair Jurrjens - Sunday, 1:35 EDT (Fox Sports South)

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Alexi Ogando 7-1 13 13 1 1 0 0 83.0 61 25 25 8 19 61 2.71 .96
W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Jair Jurrjens 8-3 12 12 1 0 0 0 84.1 76 22 20 4 16 49 2.13 1.09


This one should be good. In a battle of two Cy Young contenders, Jair Jurrjens and Alexi Ogando will face off in what is arguably the pitching matchup of the year to date. Ogando, who lost his first game of the season on Tuesday, has been incredible this year and throws hard. His fastball sits in the mid-90's and pairs that with a nasty low-80s slider. He'll also break out a changeup to lefties on occasion. The Braves will have their hands full on Sunday afternoon.

Recap:

This should be a really good series. The Rangers have been struggling, but they're still a solid club. They have the ability to light up a scoreboard in a hurry and the Atlanta pitchers will need to be on the top of their game in order to win. I see the Braves winning two out of three, but it'll be tough. The series could honestly go either way.

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Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.