Dry Your Eyes, Mate: Texas Still On Top Of West

After a few ugly performances and one rough stretch of games, Texas is still sitting (kind of) pretty.

Maybe it’s the hangover from another fabulously anticlimactic NBA Finals, during which nothing was accomplished other than further mythologizing Kobe Bryant.

Maybe it was the 6-3 loss to the Dodgers yesterday, the fact that Derek Holland, who showed great promise in the appearances directly after his call-up, has been struggling mighty of late.

Maybe, too, it’s the fact that Texas’ once awe-inspiring lineup has gone cold, with 321 more strikeouts than walks.
Texas is 5-7 in June, after finishing up what was arguably the toughest stretch of their schedule in 2009, with the 6-3 loss to Los Angeles on Sunday.
They are missing (a) Josh Hamilton, (b) Frank Francisco, (c) Matt Harrison and (d) Brandon McCarthy.
On the surface, that is, things are looking a bit gloomy.
Rangers fans, whether on purpose or not, have an inherent sense of impending doom, even when things are going well, a sort of baseball-centric sense of Murphy’s Law. This has been honed over 37 seasons without a playoff win, hasty front office moves and countless collapses.
But, at the risk of being obnoxiously positive, things may not be as bad as they may seem.
First, let’s not forget that Texas was not supposed to be in first place right now. Most analysts (and, I’ll admit it—myself) had Los Angeles running away with the division as they did in 2008.
The fact that Texas is in first place—particularly with their bats struggling as they are—speaks volumes to the growth of the club. If you don’t think Texas is moving in the right direction, I’d suggest a good look at the offensive numbers—not the home run totals—and ask yourself how Texas is still in first place.
It’s certainly not the doing of what has, hitherto, been a mostly feast-or-famine offense.
The answer, of course, is pitching and defense.
Historically, the aforementioned collapses come from a devastating stretch of games that ultimately dash any hope Texas has of a playoff berth. It may seem like this weekend’s set against L.A., and really beginning with the first series in New York in late May, could mark the beginning of such an ugly campaign.
And, to be sure, there has been ample ugliness at times over this run. Enough, in fact, to convince your typical skeptical Rangers fan that the fun is over.
What’s lost in the ugliness of a handful of games, however, is the fact that since that first Yankees series, Texas is 9-10; not bad, considering that this is (was) the toughest stretch of games Texas will play all year.
Even better considering that Houston is coming to town.
The last time Texas faced the Astros, they were freshly swept (by Detroit) and surrounded by doubts from just about anyone with a platform to express them. They answered, of course, by taking three in a row from their southern neighbors in Houston.
As the teams prepare to square off for the second time this season, Kevin Millwood scheduled to start and still with a 2.5 game lead in the West, I’d say things aren’t looking too bad; in fact they’re looking better, probably, than they should.
That gloomy sense of futility will continue, probably, to knock on my door, as it does anyone who has watched the Texas Rangers for more than 5-10 years. I’m just not so sure it’s time to let it in; not yet.
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