Series Preview: Rangers/Angels

The first-half of the season ended for the Texas Rangers amidst a wash of momentum and new-found confidence. With a weekend series against the West leading Angels on the horizon, they'll look to make some noise for themselves coming out of the All-Star Break. Lone Star Dugout has a look at this weekend's three game series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Rangers (38-50) at Angels (53-35)

Friday, 9:05 PM: Kevin Millwood (6-7, 6.16) vs. Jered Weaver (6-5, 3.67)
Millwood, who's historically been a much better pitcher in the second half of the season, will get the ball rolling for the Rangers Friday evening. He's been a 63-40, 3.42 pitcher over the second halves of seasons in his career as opposed to 66-54, 4.41 before the All-Star Break. His finest start of the year came just last week against the Angels, a team he's posted a 4.04 earned run average against in his career. In that game, if you may remember, he went eight innings and allowed just a couple of runs on five hits. With four consecutive quality starts and five consecutive starts of at least six innings in the books for Millwood, it looks like he may have finally found his stride.

Beginning with a biceps tendon that forced him to start the season three weeks late, Jered Weaver's first half was filled with plenty of bumps and bruises. But through it all, his numbers actually weren't that bad. His command is a far cry from where it was as a rookie, when he only walked 33 batters through 76 innings. This year, Weaver has issued 30 free passes in just 76 innings of work. But while his stuff hasn't been as dominant this year, he's fought through plenty of physical discomfort and it's earned him plenty of respect within the Angels organization.

Saturday, 8:05 PM: Kameron Loe (5-6, 5.36) vs. John Lackey (11-5, 2.31)
Kameon Loe wrapped up his first half of the year by continuing this latest string of successful outings he's put together. Last Saturday against Baltimore, Loe allowed only six five hits and no runs over six innings of work in a game that was ultimately won in the bottom of the 9th on a walk-off single. Interesting to note that the Rangers haven't lost a game he's started since his recall from Triple-A just about a month ago.

Since he didn't participate in the All-Star Game, John Lackey's start will be pushed up a day in an effort to stay on schedule. He's also had a start pushed back this year due to shoulder stiffness, but has never missed a game in his six-year career - a true testament to durability. A further look into his numbers will show you just how dominating he's been: To go along with a .238 opposing batting average, he's also held opponents to a .303 on-base percentage and a .359 slugging percentage. In other words, he's been quite good. Lackey is 8-8 with a 5.24 ERA in 21 career outings against the Rangers, but is 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA against them this year.

Sunday, 2:35 PM: Brandon McCarthy (4-6, 5.70) vs. Kelvim Escobar (10-3, 3.19)
Although he ended up taking the loss, last week's game against the Orioles was probably one of the better outings in the 2007 season of Brandon McCarthy. Although one of the runs in that 3-0 loss came via the long ball, for the most part the righty was able to get his curveball over for strikes - a key ingredient if the Rangers are hoping he can become a successful major league pitcher. Historically, McCarthy has a commendable 3.32 earned run average over 31 career appearances after the All-Star Break.

Kelvim Escobar completely dominated last week in Arlington, allowing only three hits and a run in seven innings of work. From Opening Day, he's been one of the best pitchers in the American League and pretty much epitomizes the word "snub" when talking about who didn't make year's All-Star team. He's likely well on his way to flying by his career high in wins (14) and given the track record of his second half performances, will likely be a 20-game winner when this season is all said and done. Escobar also hasn't lost a game since May 31st. But, I suppose now would be a good time to mention that he's also just 4-8, 4.24 in his career against the Rangers.

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