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Stranger Rangers: Phillies vs. Rangers series preview

Two games of whatever the opposite of a rivalry is

Texas Rangers v Oakland Athletics
Brad Miller is familiar to Phillies fans, but the Rangers are not
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

I like it when the Phillies play the American League West teams. It gives us a chance to see teams that we don’t see very often, as opposed to the Mets and Marlins who the Phillies play approximately 40 times a year.

In preparation for this two-game series against a non-rival, I’ve written a preview. As usual, you won’t learn all that much about the Phillies’ opponent, but I will talk about Spencer Howard and Cole Hamels!

Texas Rangers

Record: 8-14 (Fifth place in American League West)

The last time they met

The Phillies visited Arlington for three games in 2017 and left with zero wins.

What’s the deal with the Rangers?

After a 102-loss season in 2021, the Rangers spent a lot of money this offseason.

Based on early results, the spending hasn’t improved things much. They’re being dragged down by a pitching staff with the 2nd highest ERA in the American League. There’s plenty of blame for that number, but one of the culprits is an old friend of ours...

Least valuable player

If Spencer Howard is going to make the Phillies regret trading him away, it certainly hasn’t happened yet. He made one start in which he somehow managed to give up four home runs in three innings.

He then moved to the bullpen for two appearances, neither of which went very well. He was then sent down to Triple A where he’ll reportedly concentrate on getting stretched out as a starter.

It feels like we’ve seen this movie before.

How are they doing that?

The Rangers’ offense has been a relative strength, ranking fifth in the American League in runs scored. However, it isn’t clear how they’re accomplishing all that run scoring. Among AL teams, they rank 10th in batting average, 10th in on-base percentage, 11th in slugging, and 9th in home runs.

Old friends alert

The Rangers might be largely unfamiliar to Phillies fans, but two of their players shouldn’t be: They signed ex-Phillies Brad Miller and Matt Moore this offseason. One of those guys will be more fondly remembered by Phillies fans than the other.

Miller is off to a poor start at the plate, with a slash line of .192/.218/.327. However, he does seem to be fitting into the Rangers’ clubhouse well.

Many people wanted to bring Miller back, but the Phillies have adequately replaced his “Long stretches of poor hitting broken up by huge games at the plate” abilities with Kyle Schwarber who is even better at it than Miller was.

As for Moore, he’s doing well in middle-relief, having only given up one run across six appearances. However, he’s walking a lot of batters, and I wouldn’t count on that success continuing. It would certainly be nice if he could let up some runs at some point over the next two days.

The anti-rivalry

I can remember only one game the Phillies ever played against the Rangers, and that’s only because it happened on Opening Day (more on that later). Can anyone think of any notable games these teams have played against each other?

But they will trade with each other

Maybe it’s because teams are more inclined to make trades with teams they’re not in direct competition with, but the Phillies and Rangers have been involved in some notable trades in recent years.

Last year, the Phillies sent the aforementioned Howard and two other minor leaguers to Texas in exchange for Hans Crouse, Ian Kennedy and Kyle Gibson. That trade didn’t work out too well for the Phillies in 2021, but Gibson is pitching well this season. Still, the prospects involved will ultimately decide which team “won” the trade. (If either team actually did.)

Another notable trade came in 2015 when the Phillies sent Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman to the Rangers in exchange for a package of players. Hamels pitched reasonably well for the Rangers, making an All-Star team in 2016, and helping them make the playoffs in 2015 and 2016.

Unfortunately, all of the prospects the Phillies received in return disappointed to some degree. This trade was supposed to help spark the Phillies’ rebuilding efforts, and it very much did not do that.

Ranger vs. Rangers

Ranger Suarez gets the start on Tuesday, and this will be the first time a player named Ranger faces the Rangers. You can read more about that here.

You may be wondering if a player named Phil has ever faced the Phillies, and the answer is, yes, of course. Phil is a relatively common name, so there’s no reason to think that at some point, a pitcher named Phil would have gone against the Phillies.

Do I know the last time it actually happened? I do not, but if anyone has the means to look up that information, feel free to share in the comments.

Trivia

Last series’ question: Todd Zeile and Eric Valent were the two ex-Phils on the Mets to homer during 2004. SteveH2331 was correct.

This series’ question: The last time the Phillies defeated the Rangers was Opening Day 2014. Three Phillies hit home runs in that game. Name them.

Non-Phillies thought

I hoped the rest of the 76ers would step up in Joel Embiid’s absence. That didn’t happen in game one, and we’re going to see a lot more from James Harden if they have any hope of pulling the upset.

Closing thought

The Rangers aren’t good, and this appears to be one of the few breaks in what appears to be a tough May schedule. They took care of business against the Rockies. Is it too much to ask for them to do it a second week in a row?