Texas Rangers: Who Has to Be the Rangers' Ace Down the Stretch?

Lance ReavesContributor IIIAugust 10, 2012

Texas Rangers: Who Has to Be the Rangers' Ace Down the Stretch?

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    While the Texas Rangers’ bats have started to heat up, the rotation has fallen into a funk lately.

    In defense of the struggles, they have been facing some stiff competition. The White Sox, Angels, Red Sox and now Tigers all rank in the top 10 in the league in runs scored.

    Still, this situation must improve. It’s not time to panic, but these are the types of teams and hitters the Rangers will face in the playoffs.  

    So, who is going to be the guy who will stabilize the rotation and lead the quest for a third straight pennant?

    Here are the candidates:

Ryan Dempster

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    Dempster is the first to come to mind because he was the Rangers' big deadline acquisition. The 35-year-old has been a good pitcher throughout his long career but not really the anchor of a staff.

    His career ERA is 4.32 with a 118-121 record, including 87 saves from his stint in the bullpen. He only has one career postseason start in 15 years.

    However, this season is all that Texas cares about. Dempster was having a great 2012 season for a last-place team. His first start for the Rangers went poorly, but he rebounded by shutting down Boston in Fenway. That is the performance he needs to have going forward. 

Matt Harrison

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    Harrison is in a surprising position this year. Due to injuries and ineffectiveness throughout the staff, he has watched his value to the team climb in the last couple months.

    Thirteen wins and a 3.31 ERA has made Harrison the team’s most consistent starter. He is not a guy who will rack up double-digit strikeouts every time he takes the mound, but at the end of the day he has managed to keep the opposing team in check.

    The lefty has responded well thus far to the added pressure. To his credit, he has started Game 7 of the World Series, and it doesn’t get much more intense than that.

    There is a lot of season left, so Harrison still has much to prove. 

Scott Feldman

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    Feldman is the wild card on this list. A month ago, he was a spot starter, shifting in and out of the rotation until someone more effective was ready to take his place.

    The big righty is making it very difficult for Ron Washington to put him back in the bullpen now. Feldman has won his last four decisions, going at least seven innings and giving up two runs or less in three straight starts.

    Consistency is really all the Rangers ask for, and right now Scott has been delivering. It’s still hard to consider him an ace, but he has been pitching really well of late. 

Derek Holland

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    Holland has had a disappointing season this year. It sounds like a broken record, but he once again has struggled to find the consistency it takes to be a reliable starter in this league.

    The southpaw had a brief stint on the DL, but from the beginning of the year and up to this point, it has not been a strong season.

    There is still time for him to turn things around. Holland finished strong in 2011, including his gem in the World Series.

    However, now may not be the time to put money on him pitching the Rangers into the postseason and beyond. 

Yu Darvish

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    Darvish looks like he is going through some growing pains right now. For a team in a pennant race, the timing is a little frustrating.

    The rookie from Japan has had plenty of good starts this year. That’s the good news. He was brought in to be the future ace, so bigger things are probably on the horizon.

    Not to say he can’t contribute this year. Darvish is still a very valuable arm in the rotation. He has been durable and ranks in the top 10 in strikeouts.

    The sooner Yu fixes his command issue, the sooner he can be relied on more as the team’s best pitcher. It can happen this year, but only time will tell.

Roy Oswalt

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    It’s safe to say the Owsalt experiment has not gone according to plan so far. He failed to get through the sixth inning in all six starts, and gave up five or more runs in three of them.

    For that, he has been banished to the bullpen, where he is not happy. There is still a chance he can return to the rotation, but there is a big question mark as to how effective he can be.  

    For a guy who had been so consistent throughout his career, this was tough to predict. He has the pedigree to back his desire to pitch in the rotation, but right now opponents are hitting .343 off him.

    Until he fixes the issues plaguing his ability to keep runs off the board, the bullpen looks like the best place for him.

The Winner Is...Ryan Dempster

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    It was a tough call between Dempster and Harrison, but I think in the end Dempster has to be the go-to guy the rest of the season. This may seem obvious because the Rangers traded for him, but it was not a slam dunk like Cliff Lee a couple years ago.

    Harrison is having a fine season, but he may not be ready for the responsibility yet.

    The Rangers needed a difference maker when they traded for Dempster, and he has the ability to be that. He may not have the flashy hardware that other pitchers have, but he is a seasoned veteran who still has a lot to prove down the stretch.

    The Rangers have played in big series without a No. 1 guy before, and it was very difficult. They need a trendsetter; someone who can keep losing streaks to a minimum, or continue the momentum gained from winning streaks.

    If Texas wants to accomplish its goals this season, Dempster has to pitch like he did with the Cubs.