Top 5 Advantages Rangers Hold over the Halos
The Texas Rangers have three games remaining against the hot-on-their-heels Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim—the last three games of the regular season, in "The Big A."
That being said, if the Rangers are to make the postseason for the second straight season, something the franchise has only accomplished once before (1998 and 1999), they're going to have to win their fair share of games against some tough opponents.
The Angels aren't going to just go away—they had their chance last month when they found themselves trailing the Rangers by seven games.
True to form, the over-acheiving Angels met the challenge.
Regardless, let's face it: the Angels just aren't better than the Rangers.
In other words, for the Angels to sneak off with their first AL West championship since 2009, they're going to have to be up in first place by four games when the Rangers head to their hacienda at the end of this month.
Don't misunderstand, this is not going to be an easy cruise for the Rangers. They're going to have win and put together some semblance of a strong September—without Nelson Cruz, the team's leading home run threat.
The 2011 Texas Rangers will be up for the challenge.
The Rangers have many things on their side for the September stretch run—and here are the top five advantages the Texas Rangers hold over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the final month of the season.
Advantage No. 5: Adrian Beltre and the Rangers' Depth
Adrian Beltre's back from the disabled list—gone since July 22nd—and the Rangers couldn't be happier.
Beltre's return makes the Rangers so much better in so many different ways.
Michael Young has been absolutely phenomenal hitting in the cleanup spot since Beltre's absence. However, with Beltre back in the mix in the No. 4 spot, he adds more power to the slot and thus alters the pitches that Josh Hamilton will see (look for Hamilton to get hot).
Plus, Michael Young can hit just about anywhere, and he'll rake.
Beltre's return also puts Young where he needs to be defensively—at designated hitter. I'm not hating on Young, but he's not quick enough anymore for the "hot corner." He can now add even more depth, spelling Beltre at third, and providing spot starts at first, second and even shortstop.
The Texas Rangers easily have more depth than the Anaheim Angels (or any other team in the American League for that matter). As teams begin to tire and breakdown, no one is in any better shape to plug in the holes than the Rangers.
Beltre kept the Rangers from having a significant offensive drop-off with the loss of Nelson Cruz (who is now back in the designated hitter role.)
Advantage No. 4: Jered Weaver Is Pitching Like Jeff Weaver Lately
Jered Weaver is easily one of the best starting pitchers in the big leagues.
However, since his little meltdown against the vastly superior Justin Verlander on July 31st, Weaver hasn't been the same.
Since that heated game, and what a great game it was, Weaver hasn't pitched like himself. Going into that Detroit showdown, Weaver's ERA was sub-two—which of course is amazing. Since then, however, his ERA has been a far more pedestrian 4.73.
And if you want to talk a more recent snippet of his performance, check out his numbers since Mike Scioscia's gamble against the Texas Rangers late last month when he decided to pitch Ervin Santana and Weaver on three days rest.
Since that really ill-fated, and obtuse, decision (even if the Angels had swept the Rangers, they'd have been up by one game, with their two best starters worn out), Weaver's ERA has been 10.64. Yikes.
Weaver is still on pace to strikeout 200 batters for his second straight season, and will most likely end up with either the best or second-best ERA of his career, but he's going to have to have a solid September to keep the Angels in the AL West race.
Advantage No. 3: Schedule Shift
As has been noted ad nauseam, the Texas Rangers have had a tougher schedule the last two weeks than have the Angels.
Much like the "cooling" Texas weather, however, that is about to change.
The Angels will have a much tougher go in the waning weeks of the 2011 schedule.
After the Rangers return home from Tampa, they can take solace in the fact that they have a three-game set with the Oakland Athletics—who are terrible, yet not quite as bad as the Mariners. Regardless, the A's be looking to play spoilers, but the Rangers are 9-4 against them this season so far.
After that, it's a day off (one of three they'll have before the end of the season), and then they welcome the Cleveland Indians, a team over .500—but barely. The Rangers have won six of seven games against the Tribe thus far this year.
Then it's the Mariners—basically a Triple-A caliber tuneup—and then into Oakland for the A's again..."Thank you, sir, may I have another?"
The M's uno mas tiempo, and then into the final three-game series against the Angels in "The House that the Rally Monkey Built."
And for the Angels, once they finish embarrassing the M's, it's an off-day (they'll have two before the season's conclusion) to take on the NY Yankees—have fun trying not to get swept, Halos.
Then it's three in Oakland—and you'd better believe they'll be going for blood—and off to Baltimore. The Orioles play baseball like a good premise for a Seinfeld episode; one that involves a "good bad" team.
And then up to Toronto, who are basically a better version of Baltimore, and then back home to close out the season with the Rangers—who have won nine of 16 this year versus the Halos.
Advantage No. 2: Scott Feldman
No, I don't think Scott Feldman is a singular September advantage over the Angels.
That'd be silly.
But, Scott Feldman is a long, lanky, symbolic figure of a huge September advantage the Rangers can call their own: depth.
Alexi Ogando hasn't been so hot in the second half. Plug in Feldman for a spot start. Matt Harrison needs a breather—let the team's tallest man nicknamed "Scooter" slide on in for a start.
It's a key consideration as to why the Rangers didn't panic when Cruz went down—plenty of options to to replace him defensively, and offensively. Especially since the rosters have expanded to 40.
Esteban German, Andres Blanco, Leonys Martin...you get the idea.
The Rangers' unbelievable depth is arguably their biggest September advantage over the Angels.
Advantage No. 1: Return of the Boomstick
Nelson Cruz is injured. I think we pretty much all know that.
You know what, though? He'll be back, and ready—quite possibly for the final series against the Angels.
Believe me, I'm a lifelong Texas Rangers fan. It started way before last year's AL championship. Approximately 25 years ago, to be exact.
Here's the point—I've seen plenty of terrible teams. Some made the playoffs, only to be embarrassed by far-superior NY Yankees teams.
And I've seen plenty of Rangers teams that are far inferior to the current Angels in recent years.
It hurts. No one wants their favorite team to be inferior to any other team. I understand that 100 percent.
With a healthy Nelson Cruz et al, the Texas Rangers are so much better than the Angels, it's silly.
Sorry, Angels fans, the time is now for the Texas Rangers.
Better luck next year.