The Kansas City Royals have been surging over the past month or so, overtaking the Detroit Tigers for the top spot in the AL Central with a little more than a month to play.
It's no coincidence that rookie starting pitcher Yordano Ventura has also been very good over the past month, and on Friday night the Texas Rangers will have to deal with the young fireballer.
Ventura, according to FanGraphs, is the hardest throwing starting pitcher in baseball with an average fastball of 96.9 mph, a pitch he throws more than 60 percent of the time. Historically speaking, the Rangers usually hit hard throwers well. Obviously, it's hard to bring up historic Rangers trends with this current team, considering there are a lot of new faces and many of whom should probably not even be in the majors.
An easy way to see that is to take a look at how the Rangers have fared against another hard thrower in Los Angeles Angels starter Garrett Richards, who was lost for the season earlier this week. In his first outing this year against the Rangers, before injuries changed the look of the team, Richards was tagged for nine hits in six innings. Since then, Richards baffled the Rangers in three other outings.
The Rangers have yet to face Ventura, who is 9-9 with a 3.48 ERA this season, but over the past four starts he's been much more dominant. Since July 31, Ventura has made four starts and has compiled a 2.81 ERA while opposing hitters have batted just .198 against him.
The Rangers know what's coming on Friday night — lots and lots of heat. It'll be up to them to find a way to hit it.