Rangers Complete Dig Dug Level 1
The Rangers stumbled at the end of their recent ten-game road trip digging a hole instead of creating opportunity. The result: they left Oakland five games back of the A's and tied with Seattle for residence in the AL West cellar. I hear the whines there are great, but the playoff games are few.
That meant the Rangers were buried in a hole and had essentially three teams to dig through in less than two months. Thankfully, the schedule provides the chance. Coincidentally, they play each of those three teams in order of worst to first.
Tonight the Rangers completed level one of the dig. A four-game sweep of the Mariners including solid starting pitching and bats galore puts the Rangers at .500 at home, hopefully reversing a dangerous trend of losing at home, and three games above .500 overall.
Level two arrives at the Ballpark (I don't care about the corporate name. It's still the Ballpark.) in the persons of the Anaheim Angels. The Angels close a four-game series with the Yankees tomorrow and will either stride into town ahead of the Rangers by a game or tied for second. It's important, after splitting their recent series in Anaheim, that the Rangers sweep the two games of the upcoming matchup and tell the AL West, in Tom Petty's famous words, "Don't come around here no more."
After a trip to Detroit for four games against the suddenly faltering Tigers and four games opposite the lowly Devil Rays, the Rangers return home to face the number one Oakland A's. The Rangers sweep of the Mariners kept the Rangers within sight of the A's who just swept the Devil Rays. A decent road trip could set the stage for a legitmiate showdown in Arlington with Oakland who will coming off series against AL West cellar fixture Seattle, the upstart Royals, and the surging Blue Jays.
Is there reason to think the Rangers can make the next two weeks count? Sure. Carlos Lee has returned to form after slumping on the road trip. Hank Blalock is having the best second half of his career. Mark Teixiera has rediscovered his power. Mark DeRosa has been the AL's best all-around hitter in the second half. Add in the unbelievable clutch hitting of Michael "Two strikes is a Hitter's Count" Young and the offense is potent. That gives the Rangers by far the AL West's best offense along with perhaps the division's best bullpen.
Now they have to add consistent starting pitching. Vicente Padilla has been the one truly reliable starter. Millwood continues to cash a check worth more than his performance. Adam Eaton has been on again off again since his return. Edinson Volquez looked strong in his last start but is a rookie nonetheless. And Kip Wells may or may not be healthy requiring more minor league reinforcements.
Being five games back at this point in the season, following up their current five-ghame winning streak with another equal losing streak due to erratic starting pitching would just about close the door on the playoffs. And losing either of these upcoming series against their division rivals may finish off their season for sure. So the rotation must find a way to answer the bell.
The Rangers have not done much this year to assure the fans they can keep the momentum going and questions remain. Yet, opportunity has provided the shovel again. Will they dig themselves out?