Rangers relying on a shaky Game 4 starter of their own in Tommy Hunter

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Lost in the various teeth-gnashing over Joe Girardi sticking with A.J. Burnett for tonight is that the Rangers are turning to a less than stellar Game 4 starter of their own in Tommy Hunter.

On the surface Hunter’s numbers this season look great, as he went 13-4 with a 3.73 ERA in 23 starts, but a deeper look reveals a pitcher the Yankees have a very good chance of teeing off on.

Hunter served up 21 long balls in 128 innings, which works out to 1.5 homers per nine innings. Among all the AL pitchers who threw at least 120 innings this season only Javier Vazquez and Brian Bannister had a higher home run rate. And he’ll be facing a Yankees lineup that was one of just three MLB teams to smack 200 or more homers this season.

Beyond his overall difficulty keeping the ball in the ballpark Hunter is like most right-handed pitchers in that he’s far worse against left-handed batters than right-handers batters, and seven of the nine hitters in the Yankees’ lineup tonight will be swinging from the left side.

During his 250-inning career left-handed batters have hit .285 with an .832 OPS against Hunter, compared to .241 with a .678 OPS by right-handed batters. Not surprisingly in two previous starts against the Yankees he’s 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA, allowing seven runs on 14 hits in 9.1 innings. He also lasted just four innings against the Rays in Game 4 of the ALDS, taking the loss.

Burnett has been horrible for months now, so there’s a good chance he’ll be horrible tonight, but his struggling would hardly guarantee a Rangers victory. Hunter is a run-of-the-mill back-of-the-rotation starter whose great-looking record this season is due largely to excellent run support and the Yankees present a particularly tough matchup for a right-handed pitcher who struggles versus left-handed power bats. New York may not be able to out-pitch Texas tonight, but out-slugging them is still very possible.

Nationals acquire Kelvin Herrera from Royals

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Update (8:06 PM ET): The Royals will receive minor leaguers Blake Perkins, Kelvin Gutiérrez, and Yohanse Morel from the Nationals, per Heyman. The trade is official as the Nationals and Royals have announced the deal.

Perkins, 21, is the Nationals’ No. 11 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. The outfielder was selected by the Nationals in the second round of the 2015 draft. This season, with High-A Potomac, Perkins hit .234/.344/.290 in 305 plate appearances.

Gutiérrez, 23, is rated by MLB Pipeline as the Nats’ No. 10 prospect. The club signed him as an international free agent in April 2013. With Double-A Harrisburg this season, the third baseman hit .274/.321/.391 in 249 trips to the plate.

Morel, 17, is not in the Nats’ Top-30 as the club signed him last July as an international free agent. In one start in the Dominican Summer League, Morel allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits and a walk with five strikeouts across 3 1/3 innings.

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Nationals are close to acquiring reliever Kelvin Herrera from the Royals. Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post says three minor leaguers are going from the Nats to the Royals.

Herrera, 28, has been outstanding for the last-place Royals. He owns a 1.05 ERA with 14 saves and a 22/2 K/BB ratio in 25 2/3 innings. Herrera is a free agent after the season, so this is effectively a rental for the Nationals, who are three games behind the Braves for first place in the NL East.

Herrera will help bolster the Nats’ bullpen behind closer Sean Doolittle, who has 17 saves and a 1.52 ERA. It’s not known yet how the Nationals will handle the closer’s role with Herrera in the mix. One would imagine Herrera slides into the set-up role behind Doolittle.