With another winning July (17-8) and a couple of days into August, the 2009 Texas Rangers find themselves right in the thick of a race for both the AL West Championship and the AL Wild Card.
The 17 wins in July was the second most in the entire American League, but here is the problem: The most wins came from the Los Angeles Angels (19-7).
Even though Texas was able to win the series against the Tigers (2-1) and the Mariners (3-1), the team still finds itself a full four games behind the incredible, red hot Angels. In the wild card race, the Rangers are currently two-and-a-half games behind the Boston Red Sox, who trail the New York Yankees for the AL East lead by only a half game.
Monday: W, 5-2 (55-42)
Tommy Hunter took the mound for the Rangers against the Detroit Tigers, who to this point had won all six games against Texas this season. The first batter of the game, Curtis Granderson, bombed his 20th home run of the season, but that is all the Tigers would do against Hunter.
Hunter went seven solid innings, giving up the one run on five hits and striking out six. His opponent Armando Galarraga, a former minor leaguer of the Rangers, looked just as solid through four shutout innings.
Nelson Cruz tied the game in the fifth with his 24th home run of the season. The next inning Texas took the lead for good with three runs highlighted by a Hank Blalock two-RBI double. Michael Young added his 14th homer, a solo shot in the eighth and C.J. Wilson got his 11th save.
Tuesday: W, 7-3 (56-42)
Doug Mathis made a spot start for an injured and fatigued Rangers' rotation, he would go four innings and only struggle in the second. Mathis allowed three Tigers to score in the second, but the Rangers' offense responded, scoring four in the bottom half of the inning.
Texas would add single runs in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings and then get five near perfect innings of relief from the bullpen. Jason Grilli, Eddie Guardado, Darren O'Day, and Guillermo Moscoso allowed only one hit and struck out two, combined.
The Rangers' offense was highlighted by Elvis Andrus, who went 3-4 with a HR, three runs, two RBI, and a SB, and Ian Kinsler, who finished 1-3 with a 3B, run, and three RBI.
Wednesday: L, 5-13 (56-43)
Texas then failed to sweep Detroit, a team that has swept us twice this season, taking the series 2-1.
Granderson again hit a lead-off home run and then hit a two-run shot in the second inning. Miguel Cabrera also had a big game nabbing four hits, including a home run and double, and also knocked in four runners as well.
The Tigers would score a run in each of the first seven innings in this blow-out win. The Rangers' only highlight was Andruw Jones hitting his 16th and 17th home runs of the season, his second multi-HR game of the season.
Thursday: W, 7-1 (57-43)
Amidst the talks of being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in a package deal that would send ace Roy Halladay to the Rangers, Derek Holland took the mound and made a statement. With team president Nolan Ryan and general manager Jon Daniels in attendance, the Rangers' young prospect was nearly perfect.
Holland didn't allow a Mariner baserunner, until Jack Hannahan's broken bat single up the middle in the fifth inning with two outs. Through eight innings, Hannahan would be the only Mariner to get on-base. Holland struggled in the ninth inning, allowing a walk and single, and with only one out away from his first career complete game, manager Ron Washington took him out.
I was in attendance and as hard as it was to take Holland out of the game, he was losing his control in the ninth and threw 118 pitches. It was an amazing performance and hopefully a glimpse into what the future holds for this young man. Holland was given a standing ovation and there have been few times it has been more deserved.
Aside from the masterpiece that Holland showed the near 24,000 fans, the Ranger bats had some pop in them as well. Blalock hit his 20th and Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit his eighth in second inning, Young launched his 15th and 16th home runs in the third and fifth innings, while Marlon Byrd in the seventh inning got his 10th of the year.
Friday: W, 5-4 (58-43)
Finally recovered from the lingering effects of "swine flu," Vicente Padilla took the mound in the second game against the Mariners. Again, Texas pitching had allowed a first inning home run, as Jose Lopez hit a two-run shot.
Padilla would calm down after the first inning and pitch six quality innings, allowing three runs on six hits, good enough for the victory.
The Rangers cut the deficit in half with a sacrifice fly from Taylor Teagarden in the second inning scoring Josh Hamilton. But the offense took the lead back for good with a four run fifth inning, highlighted by long balls from Teagarden and a three-run shot from Byrd.
During Young's at-bat in the seventh inning, the game went into a two hour and 18 minute rain delay before the Rangers could finish off the win. The playing time before and after the delay was only two hours and 10 minutes.
Saturday: L, 2-7 (58-44)
Once again the Rangers had allowed a first inning home run; this time it was Ken Griffey Jr., fifth all-time in home runs, with his 622nd homer of his career (a three-run blast).
Ranger starter Tommy Hunter would have his worst outing of the year in this one, however, he would calm himself down after the early long ball from Griffey. Hunter would go five innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on five hits and three walks.
The only highlight for the Rangers was a huge one in the fourth inning when Cruz hit his 25th home run of the season. It was a shot that nearly hit the back railing of the visitor's bullpen. The tape measure shot was estimated to have travelled 458-ft., the fourth longest home run in the history of the Rangers' Ballpark.
Sunday: W, 4-2 (59-44)
On three days rest and coming off his worst outing of the season, Scott Feldman took the mound in the final game of the four-game series. This outing would go much better for Feldman as he would earn his 10th win of the season.
Feldman would go seven innings, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks while striking out four.
The Rangers' offense again used the long ball early when David Murphy hit an upper deck shot to right field in the bottom of the first, his ninth of the season.
After falling behind 2-1 in the top of the sixth, Young answered in the bottom of the inning with his 17th home run of the season, a solo shot. The Rangers completed the comeback when Saltalamacchia hit his ninth of the season in the seventh inning, a two-run shot off of the right field foul pole.
The Rangers also got big news off the field as well.
Kinsler and Grilli both were put on the 15-day DL, Kinsler with his lingering right hamstring tightness and Grilli with elbow inflammation. Frank Francisco was activated off of the DL before the game and pitched a perfect eighth inning, striking out two.
Warner Madrigal was demoted back down to Triple-A and the Rangers promoted Doug Mathis back to the Majors. The Rangers' No. 1 prospect Neftali Feliz was also promoted and could make his Major League debut any game now.
Even with Texas winning five games this week and 11 of their last 14 games, the Angels have won five straight games and 13 of their last 15 games, averaging over 7.5 runs a game.
Texas (59-44) now trail the Angels (63-40) by four games with two months to go. The Mariners (54-51) have now fallen 10 games out of first, while the A's (44-60) are 19.5 games back.
In the wild card race, the Red Sox (62-42) lead the Rangers by 2.5. The closest team trailing the Rangers are the Rays (57-48) by three games.
This week, Texas begins a long road trip that starts off with four games in Oakland before playing the Angels for three games in Anaheim.
The Angels are in Chicago for three games before hosting Texas, the Red Sox go to Tampa Bay for two games before travelling to New York for four, and the Yankees are at Toronto for two before hosting Boston.