In past years, the Texas Rangers, and their fans, have become painfully familiar with the slide; ten games, fifteen games, whatever.
These runs have historically razed any hopes in the collective mind of the Rangers fan, and effectively instilling a general stance of skepticism across the area.
This season, aside from an ugly run in mid-April, the Rangers have avoided such a slide. They are still two games ahead of the Angels, who are struggling mightily at the moment with the injury bug, and they have showed little signs of vulnerability in this regard.
Of any number of reasons, Texas ace Kevin Millwood is not the least; and make no mistake, Millwood has (finally) earned the term, ‘ace’ in 2009.
The 34 year-old has set the tone for Texas’ pitching staff in 2009, winning big games and stopping what could be big slides.
Millwood’s last four starts have come after a Rangers loss. In that span, he is 3-0, with a no decision from a May 26 game against the Yankees, a 7-3 win on the heels of an 11-1 loss.
On Tuesday, Millwood went seven innings, surrendering just four hits and a run, while walking three and striking out six; this, coming after two lackluster losses to the Dodgers at home.
On June 11, the right-hander beat Toronto 1-0 in a pitchers duel, going 7 2/3 innings, surrendering five hits, no walks, and, obviously, no runs.
A week before, Millwood beat the Red Sox in Fenway, going seven innings surrendering one run (no earned) and seven hits while striking out five.
A day before, the Rangers were beaten in heartbreaking fashion to New York in Yankee Stadium, 8-6, losing the game and the series to the Bombers.
This was arguably the toughest stretch of Texas’ schedule, a stretch in which one of the aforementioned slides won't occur.
One of the reasons it didn’t, of course, is because of the performances of Kevin Millwood. He is operating as a legitimate stopper at the moment, a constant in what has historically been an inconsistent rotation.
Millwood, in the month of June—arguably the toughest month on the schedule—is 3-0. His ERA is a microscopic 0.42.
Whether it was the conditioning plan, the fact that it’s a contract year or the influence of Mike Maddux, Kevin Millwood is finally looking like the ace we’ve been waiting for. And if he keeps it up, he might just get himself a fancy new contract come winter.
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