One big reason the Texas Rangers have been so successful over the past three seasons is the performance they've gotten from their bullpen, which for the past two seasons was a pretty star-studded unit with a couple of emerging stars mixed in.
Entering this season, the bullpen was full of unproven no-names with the exception of veteran closer Joe Nathan and second-year versatile reliever Robbie Ross.
But this year, the results have been the same through the season's first half, possibly even better than in recent years with proven veterans like Mike Adams and Koji Uehara and current starter Alexi Ogando, along with injured former AL Rookie of the Year Neftali Feliz.
The Rangers' "winning pieces" this year have pretty much comprised of four guys: Nathan, Tanner Scheppers, Ross and more recently Neal Cotts.
Over this current Rangers hot streak, those four have led the charge as Nathan recorded saves in four straight days beginning Thursday against Oakland and running through Sunday night/Monday morning against the Cardinals.
The unit has allowed just two runs in the past 15 1/3 innings as Cotts is 4-1 with a 0.49 ERA in his 18 1/3 innings of work this year. Scheppers, who's long been a golden-armed prospect who couldn't live up to potential, was entrusted to a set-up role, which was perceived to be temporary until veteran Joakim Soria was ready to roll after rehabbing for the past year and a half from Tommy John surgery. Now, Scheppers has worked 38 innings in that set-up role and has posted a 0.95 ERA. Ross is 4-1 with a 1.51 ERA, and Nathan is sporting a 1.67 ERA with 25 saves in 26 attempts this season.
You have to fear some overworked guys later in the season, but with Soria coming and with Feliz possibly contributing later in the season, and with the possibility still open that Ogando returns to the pen, there are plenty of innings to go around and plenty of trusted arms to give them to.