The 2009 Texas Rangers were able to shake off a slow April beginning then burst onto the baseball scene with youthful exuberance stirring up very realistic playoff dreams for this season. After 75 wins and a fourth-place finish in his first season as Texas Rangers skipper 2007, Ron Washington led the Rangers to an improved 79 wins and a distant second place finish to the Los Angeles Angels last season. Remarkably, the Rangers appeared poised to make a serious move in the race for either the American League (AL) West Division or the fluky AL Wildcard but, as luck would have it poor hitting, inexperience on the mound coupled with miscues in the field have all but dashed any playoff hopes for this season. After last night's 6-1 home defeat to the Oakland A's the Rangers are now a full five games out the wildcard race and six games out of the division race with only 18 games remaining, rapidly bringing the 2009 campaign to an all too familiar end for fans.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BATS?
The team scored a hefty 31 runs last week against the Indians and is ranked ninth in hitting in the AL with a .261 team average and .455 slugging percentage but the Rangers bats have only managed to plate nine runs in the last 36 innings losing three out of the last four games played. No serious playoff-contending team can endure that kind of drought and still expect to make the post-season. In the brutal 162-game season injuries are a major part of the team's overall success. The Rangers have had to deal without two of their top sluggers Josh Hamilton and Michael Young. Two weeks after suffering a strained left hamstring Rangers third baseman Michael Young returned to action against the A's last night as the designated hitter, hoping to bring some pop back to the line-up but his return was short lived as he quickly left the game after only one at-bat. Hamilton still remains on the 15-day DL (disabled list) nursing a pinched nerve in his back.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE PITCHING?
After the All-Star break the Rangers got hot primarily on the strength of some very clutch pitching performances from their rookie-class. Right-hander Scott Feldman (26) has been a force to be reckoned with on the mound notching a very respectable 16-5 record. Many had whispered aloud that he be mentioned for Cy Young consideration. Barring his recent forgettable outing against the A's where he was tagged for six runs on six hits in a 9-0 pummeling to open this crucial nine game home stand one would have to agree. Unfortunately, the rest of the Rangers' rotation and bullpen has been logging a lot of innings but with very poor results.
CAN YOU HEAR THE LADY TUNING IN THE BACKGROUND?
There is an old sports saying that goes "It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings." Well, the rotund sister may not be singing yet but she making a mighty loud ruckus rehearsing at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and if the Rangers don't find a way to recapture that winning spirit she will be playing to a full house this weekend when the Angels come to town to finish off the Rangers.