The Rangers: A Slide-Step Toward October

Jared BondessonCorrespondent IJune 2, 2009

SURPRISE, AZ - MARCH 04:  Starting pitcher Kevin Millwood #33 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the Kansas City Royals during the spring training game at Surprise Stadium on March 4, 2009 in Surprise, Arizona. The Rangers defeated the Royals 5-3.   (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The next two weeks will be very important stretches in the Texas Rangers' 2009 season. The combined record of their next four foes, Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Dodgers  is 123-85.  That's good for a .591 winning percentage.  These next thirteen games will define the first half for the Rangers and put them in the first utterances of post-season play, which is something that has not happened since the days of Rick Helling, Juan Gonzalez, and Pudge Rodriguez.

It is interesting how now the talking heads on all the sports shows are touting Texas as, "this year's Tampa Bay Rays."  None of those talking heads gave the Rangers a chance prior to the start of the season.  The front office was quietly confident, a feeling one could sense from as far away as Florida.  Clearly, Rangers' President, Nolan Ryan has made his presence felt in as much as the pitching is concerned.  His theories and philosophies have paid huge dividends since the beginning of the off-season and those dividends continue to bear fruit.

The Rangers proved that they can beat the teams they are supposed to beat.  Now it is time for them to beat the other teams.  It has been said that success should be defined as anything .500 and over, but given the strength of schedule of the Angels, the Rangers are going to have do better than .500.  

The Angels play Toronto, Detroit, Tampa, and San Diego.  The combined record of those teams is eight over .500, 107-99 going into play on Tuesday.  If the Rangers are to maintain their lead in the AL West, they have to come out of this stretch at 8-5, because the Angels are set to make their move to get back into the race.  They are getting their pitching back and they are only going to get tougher.  If they can shore up their bullpen, they are going to be tough to beat. 

The Rangers are starting to have some issues with their pitching with Padilla missing starts, Harrison on the DL and Millwood laboring to make it into the sixth inning his past couple of games.  While the pitching is what has gotten them to this point, it is unfortunately beginning to look like they are regressing to their normal play.

Thus far, it has been a very exciting season.  The next two weeks will go a long way to determining post-season play.