The Texas Rangers took the field on Sunday trailing the AL West-leading Angels and Athletics by only four games. They are only two games under .500.
Remember, this is the same Rangers team that everyone was writing off two weeks ago, saying this is a team that can't win and won't win. I'm not saying the Rangers will win the West and their first World Series, but there are some good signs to take from the way these Rangers are playing.
Over the past 15 games the Rangers have won 11. Their current winning streak is five games, and all this came after a seven-game losing streak.
So why all of a sudden are they winning games? Here are a few reasons.
The Rangers rotation, except for a few instances, has been one of the most reliable in baseball over the past two weeks. Shutouts, quality starts, and wins are terms that Rangers fans are not used to when speaking about their starting rotation.
Sidney Ponson has been everything the Rangers had hoped for and more in his attempts to re-establish himself in the majors. Vicente Padilla has been the best Ranger pitcher all season and dare I say All-Star worthy.
The Ranger bullpen has even been nearly perfect during this stretch, and that's the biggest pitching news because the bullpen was a big problem earlier in the season.
Hitting with Runners in Scoring Position (RISP)
All of us who watched or listened to the Rangers at the beginning of the season remember the countless opportunities the Rangers had with runners in scoring position slip past their bats.
At one point in the month of April, the Rangers were hitting .150 in these situations. Twice in April, the Rangers had a runner at third and no outs and couldn't score the run.
The worst came in an extra-inning loss to the Blue Jays. However, in the past two weeks, the Rangers have been knocking the cover off the ball and improving their RISP hitting to near .300.
Call-ups from Oklahoma City
The Texas Rangers have had 35 players in uniform this season, tops in the majors. Normally, having that many players means that your team is having injury issues and struggling.
The Rangers are having some injury issues, but they haven't been struggling with the call-ups from Triple-A. The most notable of these is Brandon Boggs, who was brought up for the injured Marlon Byrd.
Boggs is hitting .357 with 2 HRs and 8 RBI. The Rangers have also promoted C/1B Jarrod Saltalamacchia (pictured above), 1B Chris Shelton, and INF German Duran.
Salty went to Triple-A to work on his catching and his ability to work with the pitching staff. He did that and also hit the ball well at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Chris Shelton was brought up as another right-handed bat in place of the forever -struggling Jason Botts and to play first base for the recently demoted Ben Broussard.
German Duran has been giving the opportunity to prove he can play at the major league level. While his hitting is coming along slowly, his fielding has been superb in place of the injured Hank Blalock. Not only has the hitting benefited from the Triple-A promotion, so has the pitching.
Sidney Ponson, Scott Feldman, and A.J. Murray all started the year in Oklahoma City. The three have combined for a 4-1 record in their starts over the past 15 games.
Scott Feldman has performed admirably when the Rangers have asked him to make spot starts, and now with more injuries he might became a regular in the rotation. Murray's stay at the majors was short, but it was fairly productive and he will be back soon.
These are all good signs for the future. I know fans hate to hear this, but the Rangers are a team that can compete in 2010, maybe 2009.
The best thing that a general manager and manager can do to help that process is what we are seeing: let the young guys play. This is a style that has worked in numerous instances around all of baseball.
Of course, all Ranger fans say, "well, we have done this before, and then Tom Hicks trades them away."
Since I don't own the team I can't guarantee that it won't happen again, and if it does, I will write about how it is a mistake.
In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy the play of a younger version of the Texas Rangers than we started the season with, and I hope to see these players around for years to come.