Rangers playoff preview part two: Scouting the Boston Red Sox

Rangers center fielder Ian Desmond has had a great season against the Red Sox. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Rangers center fielder Ian Desmond has had a great season against the Red Sox. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

As the Texas Rangers prepare for the eighth playoff appearance in team history, we take a look at their second potential playoff opponent, the Boston Red Sox.

The Texas Rangers will close the book on the 2016 regular season Sunday afternoon. While we still don’t know who the Rangers will face in the American League Division Series, we know they would face either the Cleveland Indians or the Boston Red Sox in the Championship Series. Having already peeked ahead at Cleveland, we will now see what could be in store in a seven game series against the Red Sox.

The Red Sox wins and losses

Having won just 78 games in 2015, Boston bounced back with a vengeance this season. They’ve won 93 entering the season’s final day and still have a few scenarios in place to vault them up to the #2 seed in the American League. Not to mention, David Ortiz has had quite the farewell tour to make this a team nobody wants to face.

The main reason for that is how hot they were in September, going 19-8. At two games behind the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL East standings, FanGraphs gave Boston an 87% chance of making the playoffs, but only a 36.7% chance of winning the Eastern Division entering play on September 1. The team responded the following day with a 16-2 drubbing of the Oakland Athletics, sending the message that they weren’t done, yet.

Related Story: Would home field be an advantage for the Texas Rangers?

They’re fighters, they’re gritty, and their home and road win-loss records are almost identical. That makes them one of the more dangerous teams this postseason, because they’ll beat anyone anywhere.

The Red Sox offense vs. the Rangers offense

The Red Sox may have the most potent offense in all of baseball. Their remarkable .282 team batting average tops the League by eight points and they also lead the Majors in on-base percentage (.349), slugging percentage (.462), doubles (343), and runs scored (877).

Across the board, their numbers are much better than the Rangers. Texas enters Sunday with a team batting average of .262, an on-base of .321, slugging .434 with 257 doubles and 761 runs. On paper, it appears to be no contest.

The Red Sox pitching vs. the Rangers pitching

Fenway Park, according to FanGraphs, is a better ballpark for hitters than pitchers. That hasn’t stopped Boston from putting up some solid numbers as a staff, though. Opponents have batted just .246 against the Red Sox this season, which is third-best in the AL. They also have the fourth-best earned run average as a staff in the American League at 4.01 and the 638 earned runs they’ve surrendered this season is the fourth-lowest total among AL staffs.

Meanwhile the Rangers have allowed opposing hitters to bat .260, have a staff ERA of 4.36 and have given up 695 earned runs on the year. Once again, the matchup favors the Red Sox on paper. But ballparks aren’t made of paper and runs aren’t scored with calculators. Perhaps that’s why the numbers don’t match what happens when they play each other.

The Red Sox and Rangers head-to-head

The Rangers and Red Sox have battled each other quite a bit this year, but Texas leads the season series four games to two, having taken two wins in each three game set. The two teams met for the first time in late June, and the Rangers won two of three at Globe Life Park, then the Red Sox took two of three a week and a half later in Boston. The run differential between the squads was 41-38 in favor of the Rangers.

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Offensively, the Red Sox enjoyed facing the Texas pitching staff, batting .307, belting 11 home runs and achieving a .388 on-base percentage in those six games. Only the Oakland Athletics allowed a higher OBP to Boston this year. They ate up the Rangers staff pretty well.

The Rangers bats did some feasting of their own against the Red Sox, though. In fact, they were much stronger with a .338 average, a .395 OBP, and a .498 slugging percentage.

Those numbers top all other opponents the Texas offense went up against this season. There were two main catalysts behind this offensive success for the Rangers. One guy won’t surprise anyone that’s paid attention this season, but the other might.

Outfielder Ian Desmond liked what he saw against Boston this season. In what has been nothing short of a rejuvenated season for the former infielder, he’s put up some big numbers. That was certainly the case in his six games against the Red Sox. In six games, he batted .429 with 12 hits, including a home run, a triple and a .607 slugging percentage. Amazingly enough, there was a Texas hitter that fared even better against Boston.

Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo absolutely lit up Red Sox pitching this season. His .429 average, two home runs and his astronomical .810 slugging percentage gouged Boston pitchers.

While Boston didn’t face Rangers aces Cole Hamels or Yu Darvish, it should be worth noting that Texas reliever César Ramos notched wins in each series against the Red Sox. He pitched four scoreless innings in total, allowing just one hit and two walks during the appearances.

Final take on the Red Sox

Boston will give the Rangers the most fight between any American League team that plays this postseason. It could be an entertaining slugfest of two offensive powerhouses if they meet in the ALCS. Considering what the Red Sox-Indians ALDS matchup looks like, it’s a safe bet the Red Sox will await the winner of either Rangers-Blue Jays, Rangers-Orioles or Rangers-Tigers.

Next: Rangers playoff preview: Scouting the Cleveland Indians

This series will go seven and the edge, along with home field, will go to the Rangers. Had Boston come out with the top seed, this might be a different discussion. But in the end, that’s why teams fight for that top spot.