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Two of MLB’s division leaders cross paths this weekend in a potential World Series preview with the Los Angeles Dodgers visiting the Texas Rangers. The Dodgers recently took back the lead in the NL West and currently have the second-most wins in the National League. Meanwhile, Texas has a comfortable lead in the AL West and is poised to earn a playoff bye if it can maintain that lead atop the division.
The Rangers have been able to grow their lead atop the AL West in recent days, as they’ve been perfect since the all-star break. Coming out of the break, Texas has swept home series against both the Guardians and Rays, winning six in a row. The Rangers now have a four-game lead over the Astros while also owning the second-best home record in baseball at 33-18.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers are 4-2 since the break, winning series against both the Mets and Orioles over the last week. Dating back before the break, the Dodgers have won eight of their last 10 games. That stretch has allowed Los Angeles to overtake the Diamondbacks in the NL West. The Dodgers are now two games ahead of both Arizona and San Francisco, so while they’ve moved into first place, the race in the division is far from over.
The NL West leaders are slight favorites over the Rangers in Friday’s series opener. DraftKings lists Los Angeles at -120 while Texas has a moneyline of +100. This will be just the 11th game this season in which the Rangers are home underdogs. They’ve gone 6-4 in the previous 10 games. Friday’s contest also has an over/under of nine runs, although the over is receiving shorter odds.
If the Rangers are going to win as road underdogs on Friday, they’ll need former Dodger Andrew Heaney to lead the way. The lefty spent last season with Los Angeles before joining the Rangers this past offseason. Thus far, Heaney has had mixed results in Texas, going 6-6 with a 4.43 ERA. There have been games in which Heaney has been hit hard while others when he’s looked dominant. Heaney is coming off one of his best starts of the season. He returned from the break and pitched 5.1 scoreless innings against the Guardians, scattering six hits while striking out four.
Of course, the Los Angeles lineup he’ll face on Friday poses a much greater threat than the Cleveland lineup he faced last weekend. The Dodgers have four players who made this year's All-Star Team, most notably Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts. As a lefty, Heaney will hope to neutralize left-handed hitters like Freeman and Max Muncy. However, Freeman, Betts, and Will Smith are a combined 24 for 71 (.338) since the break, as all three have started the second half red-hot. Also, Betts, Muncy, and J.D. Martinez are a combined 13 for 33 (.394) in their careers against Heaney.
The Dodgers will be able to send ace Tony Gonsolin to the mound against the Rangers on Friday. Despite a solid 3.72 ERA, there have been some rocky moments for Gonsolin this year, especially in late June and early July. But he came back strong after the break, conceding just one run on two hits over five innings against the Mets last week. However, even with that start, Gonslin still owns a 5.28 ERA over his three starts in July.
Much like the Dodgers, the Rangers will throw a lineup at Gonsolin that’s loaded with all-stars. Texas had four players starting for the American League in the Midsummer Classic, including three-quarters of the infield. With a 1.023 OPS, Corey Seager could be the runner-up behind Shohei Ohtani for MVP honors in the American League. The Rangers also have seven other players with at least 10 home runs this season, including all-star Adolis Garcia, who was not a starter but gives the Rangers five all-stars in their lineup. However, the Rangers can’t keep their winning streak alive forever, and with Gonsolin giving Los Angeles an advantage in the pitching department, Los Angeles is a good bet to steal Friday’s series opener and end Texas’ winning streak.
There is a good chance that nine of the 18 position players in Friday’s game will be 2023 all-stars. That should translate to plenty of runs. While Gonsonlin and Heaney are both quality pitchers, the depth in each lineup could be too much for either to handle two or three times through the lineup. Moreover, the Dodgers have hit the over in 60% of their games, leading the majors in that area, while the Rangers have the fourth-best O/U record in baseball. With the offensive firepower both teams possess, there should be at least 10 total runs scored in this game.
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Bryan Zarpentine is a 2008 graduate of Syracuse University and has been working as a freelance writer and editor since 2010. During that time, he has contributed to countless sites while covering baseball, soccer, the NFL, college football, and college basketball.More info on Bryan Zarpentine
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