Rangers Roll Into Long Stretch Against the AL West
Remember back when the Rangers won 11 straight games and the naysayers couldn't wait to jump all over the soft interleague schedule the Rangers were playing.
Well, how do you like them now?
The Rangers have opened the second half winning five of seven games on the road against the Red Sox and Tigers and have done so in rather convincing fashion.
Considering the Rangers recent history at Comerica Park in Detroit, it's not a stretch to say winning two of three to close out the trip was more impressive than taking three of four in Boston.
Now the Rangers face 16 straight games within the division beginning with a four game series opening up at Rangers Ballpark tonight against the Angels.
For the first time in, well a decade, the Rangers come in not only the hot team, but the team up five games in the division.
The Rangers have an opportunity to really separate themselves from their competition and do so throwing three of their best pitchers in the four game set.
I've already made my thoughts on Scott Feldman crystal clear, but I will still plead with the Rangers brass to start Matt Harrison over Feldman in the Saturday match up.
Cliff Lee against Jared Weaver in the opener has the makings of an epic pitchers duel, of course we said the same thing about the Weaver/CJ Wilson matchup early in the season and both starters were gone in the fifth inning.
This is of course why the Rangers paid such a premium price in prospects to bring Cliff Lee into their drive for the pennant, now the Rangers are hoping to reap the benefits.
For the Angels to get back in the race they must take three of the four games. A split of the series still leaves them five games back or worse, a Rangers series win pushes them seven games back.
With the addition of Lee, the Rangers can match the Angels always solid rotation, but the Rangers have the edge in offense and the bullpen so the Angels must take advantage of these head to head matchups if they want to add another division title to their collection.
For the Rangers life is a little bit simpler, but not much.
With a fan base always waiting for the other shoe to drop and a roster that has seen good starts turn into lousy finishes their entire careers, these Rangers and their fans do not need any shred of doubt to enter their minds.
Coming into this series the Rangers and Angels are both a confident bunch for different reasons.
The Angels are relying on their track record, the Rangers on their talent and a sincere belief their time has come.
With the next two and half weeks playing within their division the Rangers have the opportunity to take a huge step toward claiming their first AL West title since the 1999 season.
Play well and they can really put the Angels and A's into a difficult position, play poorly and things will get tight once again.
Cliff Lee gets the ball first, just as the Rangers intended when they sent Justin Smoak and Blake Beaven to the rival Mariners.