It seems the All-Star break wasn't long enough to take the wind out of the Rangers' sails.
They picked up just where they left off by sweeping the Mariners and pushing their winning streak to 11 straight games. The lead in the division is up to four games and the whole thing feels like a repeat of last year's 11-game run that wound up spelling an early end to the race for the rest of the AL West.
Streaks like this don't normally call for much statistical analysis to illustrate just how well a team has been playing because wins tell you just about everything you need to know. In the macro sense, this year's streak isn't terribly different -- wins are wins regardless of how they get posted to the standings -- but going behind the curtain is still enlightening.
Once you do delve into the numbers, the thing that pops out at you is the pitching. Simply put, things have never been this good on the Rangers mound.
The starters have gone at least seven innings in eight of the last nine outings with their performance peaking over the last five games. The Rangers allowed just two runs in those games, something they've never done before in the history of the franchise, and reeled off a 33-inning scoreless streak, second-longest in their history, in the middle of all the winning.
They say that momentum in baseball is the next day's starting pitcher and the Rangers have spent the last 11 games proving it. Their pitching has been so good that the Rangers don't just have a chance to win every night, they have no excuse for not winning the games. For a team that's been trying to figure out if they have enough pitching all season, this run has provided a pretty emphatic argument that they are just fine in that department.
Now comes the caveat. The last 11 games have been against the Orioles, A's and Mariners. If you put the best players on those three teams together in one lineup, you'd still have trouble scoring runs so beating up on them individually isn't quite toppling a series of baseball giants. Still, a run like this demands attention and appreciation.
It will demand even more than that if it holds up through this week's trip to Anaheim and our superlative bank might just run out of funds.