Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Texas Rangers Are Off to Their Best Start in More Than a Decade

The Texas Rangers are off to their best start since 1996. Those who doubted probably still do, but they didn’t expect this kind of a start for a team who doesn’t look all that strong on paper.

But, that’s why there’s the all too familiar saying “that’s why they play the game.”

After a three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox, the perennial favorites in the American League, the Rangers followed that up with a series win over the Seattle Mariners. Not a bad way to open the defense of the American League Championship, the first in franchise history.

They’re not only getting good pitching, the Rangers’ offense has been nothing short of amazing.

On two straight nights, both in his first at bat of the game, second baseman Ian Kinsler would hit his first and second home runs of the year. Not to be outdone, outfielder Nelson Cruz would hit four runs, one in each of the first four games. He’s in good company in that category because only the great Willie Mays and the infamous Mark McGwire have accomplished that feat.

What most didn’t expect is how the back end of the rotation would perform.

Left hander Matt Harrison and right handers Derek Holland and first time starter Alexi Ogando had solid performances.

The three young pitchers combined to give up just four runs and 14 hits through 19 solid innings of work. There isn’t anyone who could have predicted that kind of start for these three young pitchers.

They were the concern coming in to the season. Everyone knew what C.J. Wilson brought to the table as the team’s ace and people saw what Colby Lewis was capable of doing in the rotation last season.

But after the struggles Holland went through in the playoffs last year, I don’t know that I could blame any of the fans for having their doubts about how he would perform. Though he was shaky through a few innings on Monday night, he finished with two big strikeouts to get out of a jam that definitely could have gotten out of hand.

Neftali Feliz still dominates

It took almost a full four games before Ranger fans got to see closer Neftali Feliz trot out to the mound from the bullpen to lock down his first save of the season.

He did so with the same kind of flash and domination that has become somewhat of a trademark around Rangers’ Ballpark.
In a 5-3 win on Monday night, Feliz had no trouble getting the save though I think both Ranger and Mariner fans enjoyed seeing the matchup between the young closer and Mariners’ star Ichiro Suzuki.

One night later, Feliz would pick up his second save of the season and again without giving up a hit. For those of you who wanted to know why he was put back in the bullpen as the team’s closer, you saw why over the last two nights.

Nelson Cruz in power mode

For those of you who watched this team all of last season, and especially in the playoffs, you got to see this young outfielder put on a display of power this franchise has searched for long and hard.

His walk off home runs last season became almost expected. However, his four home runs in four games certainly came as a surprise to just about everyone. Though it’s left most wondering, “what will he do this season for an encore?”

Michael Young still a Ranger

Super utility man Michael Young still remains in Texas and still dons the Ranger jersey. He’s received his share of playing time this season but you can bet it’s not the kind of playing time he’s been used to in the past.

So far, there hasn’t been much drama since the blowup between him and general manager Jon Daniels at the beginning of spring training. However, you have to wonder how long Young is going to be a “team player.” Those who have watched him over the years believe he’ll do what’s necessary to help the team when.

However, when push comes to shove, an every day player turned utility man isn’t going to get used to riding the bench much longer.

Rangers hit the road

Derek Jeter Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees steals second base against Michael Young #10 of the Texas Rangers in the 8th inning on August 7, 2008 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.The Texas Rangers will begin a nine game road stretch beginning on Friday night when they travel to Baltimore to take on the suddenly hot Orioles managed by none other than former Rangers’ manager Buck Showalter.

After that, it’s off to Detroit for a three-game set against the Tigers before they head for the Bronx and a rematch of the ALCS with the New York Yankees.

This could be the most telling sign for this team. Sure they can play well at home, but how will they fare in hostile territory?

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  1. The Rangers won 6-4 Monday night, not 5-3 genius.

  2. Just the fact you added "genius" at the end of the comment I'll definitely take as a compliment.

  3. HAHA, you're only human, and mistakes are expected.