The Texas Rangers can get back to the World Series.
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Before you shake your head and tell me to tap the breaks, just hear me out. And let’s not forget the opening line of a piece I wrote back on July 12: “Matt Garza will be a Texas Ranger.”
Look back to the World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011 and the one thing that became the Rangers’ downfall was what? Pitching.
In 2010, they faced a San Francisco Giants team that didn’t exactly have the best offense in baseball and everyone knew it. So, what were they doing in the Fall Classic? If they can’t hit, and they aren’t scoring a lot of runs, how did they get there? More importantly, how did they win it?
In 2011, the Texas Rangers were one thing away — twice — from winning the World Series in the now famous, or infamous, game six against the St. Louis Cardinals. Remember what that one thing was? One … single … pitch.
Sure you can look at Nelson Cruz‘s failure to make the catch on that line drive off closer Neftali Feliz but, as most pitchers will tell you, in that kind of situation, on a 1-2 count, you don’t throw a pitch anywhere near the strike zone, because David Freese is swinging no matter where that ball is. If Feliz buries that pitch, there is no line drive, and Nelson Cruz doesn’t factor into that one moment in time.
But I digress.
After back-to-back failing attempts to win the franchise’s first ever championship, general manager Jon Daniels may finally have the pitching staff in place to do the very thing that eluded them almost two years ago.
At the top of the rotation is Yu Darvish, who leads the big leagues in strikeouts (207) — leading Matt Harvey of the New York Mets (178) and Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners (178) by a large margin.
In the second spot is Matt Garza, the right-hander the Texas Rangers have been chasing since his days with the Tampa Bay Rays. His fire on the mound has both helped him as well as caused him some off-field trouble after a frustrating outing against the Oakland Athletics. Aside from that, Garza has been everything the Rangers wanted and needed in this rotation. He provides the perfect complement to Yu Darvish ahead of the two of young left-handers. Since joining the Rangers, Garza is 2-1 (four starts) with a 3.38 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 29.1 innings.
Behind Garza is Derek Holland, who seems to have found the consistency a lot of us said he had lacked in previous seasons, not to mention fighting back from a 2012 season that left a lot to be desired. After struggling to a 12-7 record and a 4.67 ERA, not to mention giving up a career high 32 home runs, Holland has been the complete opposite pitcher in 2013.
Through 24 starts, Holland is 9-6 with a 3.07 ERA and has already surpassed his strikeout total (151) from last season (145). However, don’t look at his total number of wins and think he’s not performing like he should be, especially since he’s been the hard-luck starter who gets no-decisions or losses due to the lack of offense behind him. Holland has given up three runs or less in seven of his last 10 starts, getting just three wins, two no-decisions (5 ER in 12 IP) and two losses (5 ER in 15.1 IP).
Arguably, the most surprising of all is the youngest of the Rangers’ starting rotation, Martin Perez. I’ll admit, I wasn’t his biggest fan going into the season because I wasn’t sure his maturity had gotten to where it needed to be.
I can gladly say Perez has proven me wrong with his performance so far this season, especially coming off his first career complete game against the Houston Astros on Monday afternoon. Through 11 starts (68 IP), Perez is 5-3 with a 3.44 ERA and has given up two runs or less in six of those starts.
After struggling against the Cleveland Indians back on July 26, giving up seven runs (six earned) in just three innings of work, Perez seems to have found his groove.
Over his last three starts, two of which came against the Los Angeles Angels, Perez is 2-0 and has given up just a single run in two of those three starts.
One through four, the Texas Rangers have the pitching to get themselves another AL West pennant and another American League crown.
From Darvish to Garza to Holland to Perez, as well as through the bullpen that boasts the likes of Tanner Scheppers, Neal Cotts, Jason Frasor, Robbie Ross and Joe Nathan, not to mention getting an Alexi Ogando who is better when he goes all out for one inning vs. trying to go six or seven innings as a starter, the Texas Rangers are primed for their best run yet.
They were six games back of the Oakland Athletics just a few weeks ago. As the middle of August comes around, the Rangers find themselves in the driver’s seat of the division.
What might be the most telling trait of this team is how players pick each other up. When the offense takes a night off, the rotation and bullpen seem to step up. When the pitching can’t seem to find a groove, the offense puts up enough of a cushion to make sure the team comes away with a win.
Things are going right for this team right now headed into a two-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers. The rest of August is nothing short of what most would call a soft schedule. Even September, save for series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the best team in baseball right now, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Oakland Athletics, the next month and a half is set up for the Rangers to stay on top.
Get ready for what’s to come, because it’s going to be a fun ride. How it ends is up to one thing, and one thing only: Pitching.