Is Yu Darvish in line to start Game 1 of the postseason?
While the Texas Rangers have yet to come close to clinching a postseason berth thanks to the recent hot play of both the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics, it's a pretty safe bet the Rangers will be past the first few days of October, as they have a four-game lead on the New York Yankees for the best record in the American League with 22 games remaining on the schedule.
With all that said, the Rangers, or at least their fans can start thinking about how the team's postseason pitching rotation will line up, and to be real honest, it's looking to be a lot better looking than it was a few weeks ago.
Each pitching another fine outing over the weekend, Yu Darvish and Derek Holland have continued their recent upward ticks heading down the stretch, and Ryan Dempster has been one of the best pitchers in the AL over his past four outings since struggling when he first arrived in Arlington from the Chicago Cubs at the July 31 trade deadline.
That doesn't even mention the Rangers' most consistent starting pitcher throughout the entire season, Matt Harrison, who has struggled over his nine or so starts with a couple of good ones mixed in there. But over his last nine outings, he has a 4.45 ERA and is 4-5. Because of that, the Rangers let resident whiner Roy Oswalt make a spot start on Sunday to give Matt Harrison a couple of extra days of rest before he opens the team's homestand Tuesday against the lowly Cleveland Indians.
So here we go, let's look at what the team's four-man rotation would be if the playoffs started tomorrow:
1. Yu Darvish: An up and down rookie season has been up recently, and in a big way, as his last five outings have been the best he's looked all year. He's suddenly cutting down on the walks, and over his last four times out has walked just six batters while striking out 34. That's what makes Darvish the No. 1 starter is his ability to miss bats. It gives him such a big advantage that most guys don't have, and that's to get out of jams on his own, without any help or double plays. Plus, if you map out the rotation up until Game 1 of the ALDS, Darvish's start would fall right there. Just makes too much sense.
2. Matt Harrison: While the club would probably still list him as the No. 1 guy if the postseason began tomorrow, I've dropped him to No. 2 because of his recent stretch of bad-to-average performances and because of Darvish's emergence as a go-to guy. With that said, this extra two days of rest he's gotten could give him the spark he needs going forward, and for the entire season there hasn't been a bigger rock in the Rangers' rotation.
3. Ryan Dempster: The former Chicago Cubs ace has been really, really good his past four. He works efficiently and deep into games and he flat-out attacks hitters, throwing strikes and getting outs. That's all you can ask for out of pitcher.
4. Derek Holland: Because of his inconsistencies throughout much of the season, Holland has had to earn back the trust of the Rangers' front office and Ron Washington after his stellar second half to the 2011 season and the best postseason pitching performance in club history in Game 4 of the World Series. With that said, Holland had probably the best outing of his career on Friday night in a no-decision, striking out 11 over eight innings. He seems to be really hitting his stride at the perfect time and could easily work his way up to No. 3, or possibly even No. 2 should this continue.
Simply put, things are looking a whole lot better than they did a few weeks back when Holland was struggling, Dempster was struggling and Darvish was walking every one he faced, seemingly. Now, the Rangers just have to get there...