Rangers start second half off best roll of season

Posted Wednesday, Jul. 13, 2011  comments  Print Reprints

First-half team MVP

Michael Young, DH/IF: Good thing he wasn't traded. Young has adjusted to his newest role swimmingly, hitting a team-best .328 with eight homers and 59 RBIs, and has played dependably in the field at three positions. His professional approach has made a tumultuous off-season seem like an distant memory. The stay-focused message he delivered before the All-Star break could help the Rangers stay hot entering the second half.

First-half team Cy Young

Alexi Ogando, RHP: As good as C.J. Wilson and Matt Harrison were over the first 92 games, Ogando was better. His nine victories matched Wilson for the team lead, and his 2.92 ERA was a tick better than Harrison's (3.04). Ogando showed that his three-game losing streak in June wasn't about fatigue as much as it was poor fastball command. He's now getting some rest, which the Rangers hope will keep him going in the second half.

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

The start of the season and the end of its first half couldn't have gone much better for the Texas Rangers, who opened 2011 with six straight home victories and headed into the All-Star break by winning seven in a row at Rangers Ballpark.

Play in the other 69 games was a mixed bag. Five players earned a trip to the Midsummer Classic, even as the team's play was as up and down as the stock market.

But, with 70 games to go, the Rangers (51-41) hold a one-game lead over the Angels in the American League West, and are playing their best baseball of the season as they enter the second half tonight at Safeco Field.

The Rangers' orders for the All-Star break, delivered by Michael Young, were to recharge physically but not check out of the mindset they had during their best stretch of the season.

"We were able to play the type of baseball that we consider to be Texas Rangers baseball," manager Ron Washington said. "You never know what's what until you come back and start playing. But we're very confident that we can come out and play our style of baseball."

Biggest surprise

Alexi Ogando, RHP: All of the good things Ogando did en route to earning an All-Star berth were 100 percent unexpected. Sure, he was prepared to start at spring training and many thought he could be a good starter in time. But not this good this quickly. If not for Ogando, Matt Harrison would be the top surprise. He started fast and made a two-start relapse look like only a hiccup during a breakout season.



Only a one-game lead: Inconsistent performances prevented the Rangers from taking advantage of some rough times the Angels experienced, and the Rangers' lead in the AL West is one game. No one player is to blame, though several haven't performed up to their full capabilities. Throw in some iffy defense and six weeks without Josh Hamilton, and the Rangers missed a chance for a wider division lead.

Second-half storylines

Two-team race: The Rangers and Angels have put some distance between the other two AL West teams and appear to be headed toward a tight stretch run. They play 13 more times this season, with 10 of the games at the Big A. The Angels are only 26-22 at home, but have won 11 of their past 13 there. The Rangers are 20-23 on the road, where they hit 35 points lower and have 50 fewer home runs.

Trade-deadline relief: The bullpen, thinned out by an injury to Darren O'Day and the transition of Ogando to the rotation, struggled in the first half. The Rangers are trying to mend the relief holes with internal candidates. O'Day is back and working back into form. Tommy Hunter, also injured in the first half, has been intriguing in four appearances. But a proven relief arm (Heath Bell, perhaps) would be welcomed.

Staying strong: Workload was already broached as an issue with Ogando. At 1032/3 innings, Harrison has surpassed his career-high by 20, though he threw 1672/3 at three levels in 2008. Derek Holland is fewer than 30 innings from his career high and just 40 from his professional high. If one slips, there aren't many options to replace them. There's no Cliff Lee on the trade market this year.

Mending defense: Rangy Rangers infielders get to more balls than others. Their outfielders can cover a lot of ground. The Rangers are capable of playing quality defense, but so far no team in the American League has committed more errors (73) or has a worse fielding percentage (.979). Only last-place Oakland has surrendered more unearned runs. The Rangers can't continue to give teams extra outs.

Looking for comments?

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?

Friday, October 24Full Scoreboard
Kansas City 10/24 8:07 PM ET
San Francisco TV: FOX
110th World Series, Game Three. Series tied, 1-1.
Full Scoreboard
Friday, October 24Full Scoreboard
Dallas 10/24 7:00 PM ET
New York 10/24 7:30 PM ET
Toronto TV: MSG, TSN2
Minnesota 10/24 8:00 PM ET
Chicago TV: CSN-CHI
San Antonio 10/24 8:00 PM ET
Miami 10/24 8:00 PM ET
Memphis TV: Sun Sports
Phoenix 10/24 9:00 PM ET
Sacramento 10/24 10:00 PM ET
LA Lakers TV: TWC SN, D
Denver 10/24 10:30 PM ET
Golden State TV: CSN-Bay
Portland 10/24 10:30 PM ET
LA Clippers TV: FSN-PT, NBA TV
Full Scoreboard
Week 8Full Scoreboard
San Diego21Final | Box
Denver «35Gridiron Replay
Detroit 9:30 AM ET
Atlanta TV: FOX
Seattle 1:00 PM ET
Carolina TV: CBS
Baltimore 1:00 PM ET
Cincinnati TV: CBS
Miami 1:00 PM ET
Jacksonville TV: CBS
St. Louis 1:00 PM ET
Kansas City TV: FOX
Chicago 1:00 PM ET
New England TV: FOX
Buffalo 1:00 PM ET
Minnesota 1:00 PM ET
Tampa Bay TV: FOX
Houston 1:00 PM ET
Tennessee TV: CBS
Philadelphia 4:05 PM ET
Arizona TV: FOX
Oakland 4:25 PM ET
Cleveland TV: CBS
Indianapolis 4:25 PM ET
Pittsburgh TV: CBS
Green Bay 8:30 PM ET
New Orleans TV: NBC
Washington 8:30 PM ET
Dallas TV: ESPN
Full Scoreboard
Friday, October 24Full Scoreboard
Dallas 10/24 7:00 PM ET
New Jersey TV: FSN-SW, MSG+
Tampa Bay 10/24 8:00 PM ET
Winnipeg TV: SUN, TSN3
Vancouver 10/24 9:00 PM ET
Colorado TV: TVA 2, SNE, SNO, SNP, Alt
Carolina 10/24 9:30 PM ET
Edmonton TV: SPSO, SN-W
Columbus 10/24 10:00 PM ET
Anaheim TV: FSN-OH, FSN-PT
Full Scoreboard