You were a little shocked by Tuesday night's loss in Game Three, weren't you?
It's okay to admit it. We were all a bit caught up in the thrill of Nelson Cruz's heroics from Monday and the five-game winning streak made it hard to remember that the Rangers weren't exactly playing patsies up in Detroit. It's never fun to have your bubble burst right in front of your eyes, but, like the rise of internet stocks in the late 90's and the more recent housing boondoggle, the invincibility of the Rangers was a bubble all the same.
Colby Lewis failed to give the Rangers a quality start (at least six innings pitched, no more than three earned runs) on Tuesday night. That's the fifth time in seven games this postseason that a Rangers starter has failed to miss the standard, which isn't really as indicative of quality as the name would have you believe.
You can argue that Matt Harrison's 5.2 inning, three run outing is essentially the same thing or that C.J. Wilson didn't get a shot at turning the trick in Game One, but the fact of the matter remains that the Rangers aren't getting what they need from their starters. Their wins have been overreliant on strong relief pitching, something that you can't really count on holding up as long as Ron Washington has to push those arms harder and harder to cover for weak starts.
That's why the most pessimistic view of the Rangers right now has to be that they are going to go the way of Pets.com and the housing market. The underlying fundamentals were so poor that there was no chance that those things could continue to boom in the way that was so enticing to such a wide range of people.
There's nothing more fundamental to success in baseball than starting pitching. Teams can win with flaws in just about any other phase of the game because good pitching can cover so many sins. Just ask the San Francisco Giants.
Without good starting pitching, though, a team has about as much chance of winning a title as a company has of surviving into its third year without coming up with a way to make revenues exceed expenses.