We have all seen it before and I have talked about it a lot this season—the Angels will get hot and they will have long winning streaks. The key is to weather the storm, keep playing winning baseball, and beat them when we play them.
This past week, the Angels went 6-1, until finally on Sunday the Twins beat them to end their eight-game winning streak. The Angels are now 9-2 since the All-Star break.
In the month of July they are 16-6, but 1-3 against the Rangers. And since June 23, the Angels have a 22-7 record, yet are 2-4 facing the Rangers during that stretch.
So enough with the Angels playing great, let me recap the huge week the Rangers had on the field, despite the flu bug going around the clubhouse.
Monday: W, 6-3 (50-41)
Former Atlanta Brave teammates Kevin Millwood and John Smoltz faced off in the first of this three-game series. Smoltz started off better, but in the end Millwood pitched six quality innings for the win.
The Rangers offense used a huge, five-run sixth inning to power past the Red Sox. The Texas offense was highlighted by three home runs in the inning from Michael Young (12), David Murphy (8), and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (7).
Tuesday: W, 4-2 (51-41)
Ranger rookie Tommy Hunter took on former All-Star and World Series ace Josh Beckett. After allowing two runs in the first, Beckett settled down to pitch the rest of the game, allowing only two more runs on a total of seven hits.
However, Hunter had the better stuff today, not allowing any Red Sox players to score until the sixth. He pitched six complete innings, allowing the one run and only four hits.
Wednesday: W, 3-1 (52-41)
Trying to avoid being swept in Texas, Boston sent their super-prospect Clay Buchholz to the mound. Ranger starter Vicente Padilla was too ill, later diagnosed with “swine flu,” to make his start and was replaced by Dustin Nippert.
Buchholz lasted only four innings, surrendering three runs off Ian Kinsler’s 23rd home run, RBI groundout by Taylor Teagarden, and a successful “suicide squeeze” by Elvis Andrus (scoring David Murphy).
Nippert, on the other hand, was exactly what the Rangers pitching staff needed. He went 5.2 innings, allowing only one run on five hits and striking out five.
Friday: W, 2-0 (53-41)
Coming off a huge sweep of the Red Sox the Rangers were rewarded with a matchup against the AL leader in ERA, Zack Greinke.
Greinke pitched seven solid innings, striking out 10, allowing only three hits and three walks, and giving up only one run on a Marlon Byrd home run.
Scott Feldman took the mound for the Rangers and he was more than solid, in fact he was near flawless. Feldman pitched eight shutout innings and allowed only seven Royals to reach base.
The Byrd home run and a Blalock two-out RBI single in the eighth was all Texas needed for the victory.
Saturday: L, 3-6 (53-42)
The Ranger offense started off promising, scoring three times in the first four innings, highlighted by Young’s 13th long ball of the season. But that would be it for the Ranger offense that again faltered late in the game.
Ranger starter Derek Holland pitched well for four innings, but has always had one inning during an outing in which he struggles. This time it was the fifth in which Holland surrendered three runs and lost the lead.
Royals starter Luke Hochevar did the opposite, he struggled early on but held his composure and pitched seven innings, allowing two earned runs (three runs total) on five hits, no walks, and striking out 13.
Sunday: W, 7-2 (54-42)
In the rubber match of this series, things did not look good for the Rangers early on, as Millwood left the game before the start of the third inning with a reported “tightness in his left gluteus muscle.”
However, Wednesday starter Nippert took the mound in relief and was a shot in the arm for the Rangers pitching again.
Nippert pitched 4.2 innings, allowing one run, one hit, and two walks. It was necessary as the Ranger bats could not solve Royal starter, and former Ranger Sidney Ponson.
Ponson departed the game after six shutout innings and the Rangers feasted on the Royals bullpen. Texas scored seven runs on eight hits in the seventh and eighth innings.
After the rough start, the Rangers finished the game hitting 6-18 with runners in scoring position. The Rangers capitalized and scored all three runs in the seventh inning after Royal second baseman Alberto Callaspo dropped a Kinsler pop fly that would have ended the inning.
Even though the Rangers 5-1 week lost a half game to the Angels, it did put some distance between them and the Mariners and brought the Rangers back into the wild card discussion. Currently the Rangers trail the Red Sox by 2.5 games for the wild card.
Vaulted by their recent hot streak, the Angels (58-39) lead the Rangers by 3.5 games, the Mariners (51-47) are currently on a three games losing streak and now trail the Angels by 7.5 and the Rangers by four games. Oakland (41-56) is 17 games out of first and 13.5 behind the Rangers.
This week, the Rangers play all seven games at home, three against the Tigers and then four hosting the Mariners. Texas needs another solid winning week as the Angels host Cleveland then travel to Minnesota.