David Murphy #7, Nelson Cruz #17and Leonys Martin #2 of the Texas Rangers watch the video board of Cruz's grand slam home run in the fifth inning against the Seattle Mariners.
Gone are the days of “smash and dash” for the Rangers. After seeing this team up close and personal for over three years, it really became evident a couple of nights ago.
This year’s lineup is no doubt different than the one that made World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011. You can’t sit back and wait for the 3-run homer anymore like before. The 2013 team seems to be more of a “manufacturing” lineup.
Now make no mistake about it, there‘s still some power in the lineup with Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler. Plus, Jeff Baker has come out of nowhere to provide some punch. Gone are the big bats (opinions may vary) of Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young. With those three in the mix during the previous seasons, the Rangers were knocking pitches around the ballpark like a softball lineup.
But seasons change, and this is a new kind of Rangers baseball. Maybe more of a “small ball” mentality, singles and doubles, station to station type of play. Some see it as the Rangers are now a reflection of what principal owner/CEO Nolan Ryan always wanted them to be, depending more on pitching and defense instead of just big bats.
The deciding factor on the Rangers success could come down to pitching. There’s no longer the luxury of giving up runs and hoping the offense picks you up. So the pressure shifts more to the mound, with a rotation that has the potential of accepting the challenge. Yu Darvish had a strong April, proving he can be one of the best in the game. Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando have been solid, along with youngsters Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm.
What hurts is losing All-Star Matt Harrison, who just underwent two back surgeries. The good news is they are expected to get back Colby Lewis, Neftali Feliz and Martin Perez later in the season. Lewis, coming off an arm injury, was the Rangers best “big game” pitcher during the two World Series runs.
Picking up veterans Lance Berkman and A.J. Pierzynski provides some lineup relief. Both are solid contact hitters with World Series rings. Plus, Pierzynski is a top notch defensive catcher and one of the best at calling the game from behind the plate.
The observation here is Ron Washington's squad seems to be concentrating more on putting the ball in play instead of over the fence. It worked well, along with great pitching and defense to go along with an occasional big fly, for the two teams that beat the Rangers in those World Series appearances, the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals.
Mix in a “boomstick” shot by Beltre and Cruz, get solid pitching from your starters, and who knows with the Rangers. So far, the results have been positive. The Rangers are sitting on top of the AL West with April now in the books. They rank 1st in the AL in pitching, 7th in hitting and 6th in fielding. The Rangers also have the luxury to grab a big bat once the trade deadline rolls around, provided there’s one available.
It may be a different type of baseball being played at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, but that might not mean it’s a bad thing for Rangers Nation.