Fri, 9:05 PM: Kevin Millwood (1-1, 4.91) vs. Miguel Batista (0-1, 15.43)
Sat, 2:55 PM: Vicente Padilla (0-2, 6.94) vs. Horacio Ramirez (0-0, 0.00)
Sun, 3:05 PM: Brandon McCarthy (1-1, 3.75) vs. Jeff Weaver (0-1, 31.50)
Keys To Victory
1. Game over?
Eric Gagne is expected to be activated off the 15-day disabled list in time for the first pitch Friday night. On Tuesday night, he finished off his time at Double-A Frisco with a perfect inning of relief. During his final appearance, Gagne continually reached 94 mph on the radar gun and needed only eight pitches to retire the side. Manager Ron Washington has stated that the former Cy Young Award winner will be used on Friday whether it's a save situation or not. If he struggles in the American League, the Rangers have the benefit of a strong bullpen to lend a hand when needed. But if Eric Gagne can come out of the gate strong, it could serve well in putting the rest of the American League West on high alert.
2. Time for Tex
After a two homer, four RBI night in the final game against Tampa Bay, it looks as though Michael Young's bat has arrived this season. Now it's time for the man behind him in the order to follow suit. Through Wednesday night's affair, Mark Teixiera's offense production in 2007 consists of 8 singles and one lone run batted in. Taking into consideration there's 153 games left in this season I would think it's a little early to be losing sleep over that fact. Not to mention a litany of other sluggers around baseball who are also still trying to find their swing in the early going. However, judging by his performance during the first half of last season it's got to be at least a little disheartening. Teixeira is also tied for second in the league with seven walks, a sign of a patient hitter at the plate. In 2006, it took 10 games before Mark Teixiera hit his first homerun of the season. Perhaps the tenth game of 2007 will mark the awakening of some thunder in the bat for the first baseman.
3. Keep Ichiro off base
Before Tuesday night, the starting rotation had a streak of five straight quality starts against the Angels, Red Sox, and Devil Rays. Keeping the catalyst for the Mariner offense off the basepaths will be key in starting another streak. In his career, Ichiro Suzuki has pounded Rangers pitching to the tune of the second highest average against a team with at least 100 at-bats (.333). He also has piled up 30 stolen bases against the Rangers in his career - the most off any opponent. With lifetime averages of .333 and .571 off Friday and Saturday's starters, Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla, staying out of harm's way against the Mariner leadoff hitter will be no easy task.