And Down The Stretch They Come.
Last week, Your Texas Rangers (87-60) won their series against the Cleveland Indians. Then they won two of three games against Seattle. All said, they've won eight of their last nine series.
That's because Your Texas Rangers are purebred winners. Shockingly, though, they've yet to put those young Oakland Athletics (84-63) too far behind them in the rear-view mirror. In their bid for a possible third straight World Series appearance, the Rangers currently have just a three-game lead over the A's, who are statistically mediocre in just about every category except the one that counts — the win-loss column.
Here's the thing, though: There are 15 games left in the regular season, and nearly half of them are against the A's. And, remember, at this point in last season, the Rangers only had a 1.5 game lead in the division over the Athletics before they went on to roll through everybody in the American League who stood in their path.
You've got to figure that history will repeat itself this year: The Rangers are first in just about every category that matters offensively. Plus, they have Adrian Beltre.
• The Rangers' hottest hitter in the last seven days is Michael Young (.274), who had 10 hits in 20 at bats over the past week. The ever-dependable Ranger infielder also had three walks and 12 total bases.
• The AL West-leading Texas Rangers are coming off of a loss last night to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who have gone from division contenders to wild-card hopefuls in the last two months. The Oakland A's have tough series on the road against Detroit and New York before they come to Arlington for an all-important four game series that should decide the division.
• The Rangers' starting pitching rotation continues to put up some impressive numbers. This week, Yu Darvish became just the 16th rookie to record 200 strikeouts. He also became the only Texas pitcher other than Nolan Ryan to pitch three consecutive games of at least seven innings while giving up three or fewer hits. Ryan Dempster, meanwhile, had won five straight starts with a 1.91 ERA until his uncharacteristic performance last night.
• Speaking of pitching: Matt Harrison became the fourth AL pitcher to reach 17 wins this season when he topped the Mariners over the weekend. Even cooler: He did so on his birthday.
• Mike Napoli went 2-for-3 in his return back from an injury. Among those hits? This crushing moonshot to left field, which served as a fine reminder of his white-hot return from injury last season, which saw him owning the plate during the team's dominance down the stretch. In last night's loss versus the Angels, he had another homer — this one a solo shot over the centerfield wall — that would serve as the biggest highlight of the night for the Rangers.
• Here's a fun fact: Rangers manager Ron Washington is characterized in Michael Lewis' Moneyball as having played an integral role in the underfunded A's successes in the early '00s, despite generally disapproving of Oakland GM Billy Bean's sabermetrics-based strategies. Now that he's with the Rangers and the two teams are set to square off in the 2012 AL West finale, it should be interesting to see which methodology takes the cake.