When the Rangers open a four-game set with the Yankees in the Bronx on Monday night, all eyes will be on the mound.
After making 14 appearances to varying degrees of success with the Rangers in 2015, 24-year-old right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez will be called up to make his 2016 debut Monday opposite Ivan Nova and the Yankees.
Gonzalez has spent the first half of the season in Triple-A, posting a 3-6 record and a 5.04 ERA through 14 starts. He went 4-6 with a 3.90 ERA in 14 big league games last season, working 1 2/3 innings from the bullpen in the postseason.
Nova (5-5, 5.18 ERA) isn't known as a strikeout pitcher, and this becomes an even more glaring when he faces the Rangers. Nova, who has a 4.85 lifetime ERA against the Rangers in six starts and one relief appearance, owns just a 3.5 K/9 ratio against Texas, about half of his next lowest rate against all other teams (minimum five starts against).
Things to know about this game
• Control was a big issue last year for Gonzalez, who averaged 4.3 walks per nine innings while striking out just four batters per nine.
• Alex Rodriguez was not in the Yankees' lineup Sunday, taking an off-day and giving Carlos Beltran the opportunity to take a day as a DH. A-Rod was also off, at least partially, because the Yankees were facing a right-hander. Rodriguez is hitting just .200 with a .584 OPS versus righties this year. The Rangers are slated to start only one left-hander (Cole Hamels on Tuesday) in the series.
• As a whole, the series will likely be an exercise in differing strategies. The Yankees enter as the American League's best strikeout team, with their pitchers as the only staff in the AL to average more than one K per inning. The Rangers have the lowest strikeout rate in the AL, setting down just 6.7 batters per nine.