|Big Test Coming for Rangers||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on August 17, 2010
Barring an improbable collapse the Rangers have already won the American League West and will be the lone playoff contender from that division. But running away with the west doesn't make you a feared team and certainly doesn't automatically bestow the aura of danger that the Angels earned over their last few seasons as division winner.
So far the Rangers are looking good. Since the All-Star Break, the Rangers have gone 5 and 2 against the Red Sox and Yankees. But between Tuesday and September 12th the Rangers will find themselves playing 13 games against the Rays, Twins and Yankees, games that will set the tone for whatever playoff run the Rangers are going to make.
For Texas this isn't just a chance to show how good a team they really are, but to wipe away the early-season sweeps that they experienced at the hands of Eastern division foes who smacked them down 7-16 in the first half of the season, as well as erasing the memory of a sweep by the Twins at the end of May.
And the Rangers team has changed a lot since then. They've not only added Cliff Lee, who now gives them four starters with sub 3.40 ERAs, but frontline catcher Bengie Molina, powerful corner infielder Jorge Cantu and Christian Guzman, who'll offer depth and defense to this team.
Those were all transformative deals, deals which made the team better and quite possibly will be enough to make them into legitimate playoff contenders. So far the only real contributor of the group has been Lee, who in seven starts has posted a 2.97 ERA but only managed two wins in that span.
Over the next 25 days they'd love to see the bats of the hitters they brought over from the NL come alive. Not just to prove that these guys can adjust to AL pitching, but in time to re-enforce their message that the Rangers are not to be taken lightly, especially if you'll have to face us in the playoffs. It's not a necessity that they do it now (so long as they are hitting by early October), but shaking the confidence of the opposition while building a team confidence, not to mention a chemistry going forward certainly couldn't hurt.
What they need to do is translate those on-paper statistics to wins, and they should be able to do that. After all only the Rays among the contenders have a better team ERA (and that was mostly done pre Lee). They have four starters with sub 3.40 ERAs (Lee, Colby Lewis, CJ Wilson and Tommy Hunter). That's pretty scary without taking into account that Rich Harden should come off the DL in time to contribute down the stretch.
Offensively they have a lot too. The center of the lineup trio of Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero and Nelson Cruz scare the heck out of opposition pitchers -- perhaps even more than Teixeira, A-Rod and Cano do. The Ranger rank fourth in runs scored (a single run behind Tampa and Minnesota who are tied for third), second in batting average and sixth in terms of home runs. And that's without the new arrivals hitting much, and Ian Kinsler on the DL.
But is there chemistry? Can this team pull it together or will the Rangers fall apart? That's something we'll probably find out in the next 25 or so days. If this team clicks they sure won't be pushovers no matter who they play. If they don't click you have to wonder if the Rangers will enter the playoffs already all but beaten.