Rangers/Angels Series

Coming off a brutal 3-1 series loss to the Red Sox in the middle of a pennant race, the Rangers responded tremendously in the series opener versus the Angels. After a dismal offensive stretch over the last six games (just over 2 runs/game), the Rangers lineup exploded for 18 hits and 11 runs last night, overpowering the very respectable Angel pitching staff. Nelson Cruz led the charge, escaping his 4-27 slump. Cruz went on a primed Vladimir Guerrero-like tear, ditching his batting gloves and hitting two homeruns, a double, and a single while driving in six runs. Cruz’s homerun in the 3rd inning traveled halfway up “Greene’s Hill” in centerfield, measuring 450+ fleet, and claiming a spot among the 10 longest HR’s ever hit at the Ballpark in Arlington. David Murphy assisted Cruz, by lining a Haren cutter into the right-field seats for his second career grand slam. Derek Holland pitched tremendously and showed good control over all of his pitches, leading to strikes on 72 of 115 pitches, and he conceding only 2 walks.

This game was enormous for the Rangers. Not only does the victory extend their divisional lead to three games, but also it helped the team shake the rust of the last series vs Boston, and develop some confidence for the remaining two games of this series. Now, with only five head-to-head games remaining between the AL West rivals, the opportunity for the Angels to pick up the slack may have to depend on how the Rangers handle their remaining schedule (6 vs. Seattle, 6 vs. Oakland, 6 vs. Tampa Bay, 5 vs. Angels, 3 vs. Red Sox, 3 vs. Indians). The season-ending series is a 3- game set away vs. the Angels, which could prove to be a playoff or bust conclusion to the season. The Angels are already slightly entering panic-mode, by starting Santana and Weaver on 3-days rest, giving the Rangers a challenge for closing out the series. This may be a big risk for Angel skipper Mike Scioscia, as such a change in the scheduling of pitchers may alter their arm strength and endurance during the last month of the season, and leading into the playoffs. “Dead Arm” is a common occurrence for starting pitchers who have logged many innings to this point in the year, and pitching on 3-days rest may cause this problem to compound for the Angels’ staff.

The series versus the Red Sox was a disaster, following the opening 4-0 win. The offense was pitiful, the pitching was uninspired, and the results were unwaveringly poor. Elvis Andrus, and Josh Hamilton both are key plugs in the Rangers’ lineup, and both are struggling in their last seven games. Andrus and Hamilton need to find a way to be more productive in their role. Andrus needs to work on his plate patience and take more walks.  As a young hitter, he needs to understand that his strength is his speed, and that a walk is as good as a single. If he can discover a better eye for the strike zone, he will easily achieve 50+ steals each season just from being on base that many more times. Following Andrus in the batting order, Hamilton would benefit very much from Andrus reaching base at a higher clip. He would further be able to drive the ball and produce runs with more men on base and more pressure on the opposing pitcher.

A disturbing note is that Ranger’s fans and beat writers are discussing that after winning last night’s game, no matter what happens in the Angels series this weekend, the Rangers will be in first place on Monday morning. This is no time to show an utter lack of confidence in a talented World Series contender. This is the time to bury the Angels and put them 5 games out of first place. Their confidence surely must be matching the Texas heat index after winning 4 of the last 5 vs. the in-division Halos. The Rangers can sense the urgency from their opponent by hearing the media question the installation of mid-season 3-day rest starts. The Rangers need to get into the zone they were in during last years World Series run, and start playing their best baseball. Win this series 3-0 and carry that momentum into the last month of the regular season.

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