Sunday, May 04, 2008

Objects in mirror...

Attention American League West. Attention American League West. Please be advised, the Texas Rangers are starting to figure out this whole "baseball" thing.

Thanks to a four-game winning streak, Arlington's Boys of Summer are showing signs of life, and they're doing it from the mound. Despite the Angels 5.5 game lead in the AL West, the Rangers have demonstrated why they have an ability to not plummet down the standings as they did to open the 2007 campaign.

Amazing to think that just a week ago manager Ron Washington was all but fired. Now the Rangers have had several solid pitching performances. Last night, A.J. Murray took the ball for Texas and threw 5.1 innings to get the win (TEX 6, OAK 3). It doesn't hurt when David Murphy blasts a three-run HR in the 1st inning to give you a lead before you have to throw a single pitch.

The night before, the Rangers opened their three-game set in Oakland with a 4-3 win (highlights) thanks in large part to a struggling Athletics fielding unit and by playing some small-ball. The Rangers scored their runs on sac-flies or ground-outs and an A's throwing error. It got the job done.

Now I realize the A's are not supposed to contend this season, but they are not on the Texas Rangers rebuilding plan - a nine-year period of delaying expectations two seasons at a time. Both the A's and the Rangers produce errors at an alarming rate. Texas is tied with Florida and Pittsburgh with the most errors in MLB so far this year (32) while the A's are second in the AL (27). Texas, however, has been getting things going at the plate. So far in this young season, Texas has the third-highest batting average in the AL (.269), trailing only Boston (.285) and LAA (.274).

But the surprising aspect of this current four-game winning streak, as I said, starts on the mound. The Rangers have been getting solid performances from their starters, taking some of the pressure off their bullpen. Texas is currently second-to-last in MLB in ERA (5.18), and last in strikeouts (155) while leading baseball with 142 walks. Pitching seems like an unlikely place for the Rangers to find success.

Now, hold on, don't jump all over me because I referred to what the Rangers are doing as "pitching success." I realize it's not success like the Diamondbacks have in Brandon Webb (7-0), but it's good enough for what the Texas bats ca produce.

Yesterday, the bullpen gave up exactly 0 hits in 3 2/3 innings of work. The day before that, 2 hits, 0 runs. On May 1 against KC, starter Sidney Ponson went 8.0 IP and gave up only one run before CJ Wilson closed up shop to get the save. The Rangers starters gave up a few runs but not enough to really hurt the club's chance at winning the game. In those three games, the Rangers only produced 2, 4 and 6 runs. This is an organization in the top 10 in RBI (136), so if the pitching staff can keep things tight, the bats will provide the firepower to get the W.

Today, the Rangers - having already clinched the upper hand in their third consecutive series look to earn their second 3-game series sweep of the season.

First pitch: 3:05pm CDT
Probable SP
TEX - Scott Feldman (0-0)
OAK - Greg Smith (2-1)

By the way, I completed my 1445-mile drive last night and even had time to stop in Phoenix to catch a perfectly-timed Diamondbacks-Mets game at Chase Field.  Ace Brandon Webb got the win, as he always does, to push his record to MLB-leading 7-0.  The D-Backs lead the Majors with 21 wins.  Amazing watching him pitch.

A few pictures from my road trip / stop at Chase Field...

The exterior of Chase Field (formerly Bank One Ballpark)

The view from my front-row seat in left field...

I had to wear my Rangers garb to support TEX amid their four-game winning streak...

After the game, I just drove west into the sunset until I reached LA...

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