A funny thing happened in Texas the other day: There was a walkup crowd of 11,000 fans and it wasn't for a high school football spring scrimmage but rather an actual, live Major League Baseball game. The Texas Rangers truly are the hottest team in baseball, having won seven in a row, swept the Los Angeles Angels in their statement series and drawn 105,000 people to The Ballpark in Arlington for those three games.
The Rangers? The same team that only last year finished last in runs allowed and last in defensive efficiency in what was a fourth straight losing season? Actually, no, not those Rangers, but a whole new Texas team that knows how to pitch the ball and catch it. Have no fear, Texas fans: After suffering though eight losing seasons in the past nine years, the Rangers are for real. They are good enough to win the AL West. Let us count the ways:
Most important, the Rangers installed rookie
The Rangers have jumped from last in defensive efficiency to second, similar to the worst-to-first improvement by the 2008 Rays.
"In the past couple of years we had people to pitch the eighth and ninth innings," Daniels said. "We just couldn't get to them. Now, with the starters going deep into games, you're not at risk of overexposing your bullpen and you're able to pitch people in roles they were intended to pitch in."
Only Toronto has received more innings from its starters in the AL than Texas.
Texas is breaking in Holland, 22, the way
Similarly, hard-throwing right-hander
"He has a chance to improve our club at some point this year," Daniels said.
In fact, Feliz and Holland could both be pitching in the Texas rotation down the stretch of a pennant race with the Angels.
"It's possible they could be two of the best 12 guys," Daniel said. "So the last thing you want to do is have to shut them down or lighten up on their workload down the stretch. So we'll cut it on the front end."
"Winning is the best marketing tool you can have," Daniels said. "And winning is the best recruiting tool, too."
"We hope we're playing meaningful games in September and beyond," Daniels said.
The Rangers aren't quite yet guaranteed to be cutting deep into the Cowboys' season. They are 2-7 against teams with winning records and 21-7 against teams at .500 or worse. The next four weeks might show just how good they are: 19 of their next 26 games are against the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Tigers and Dodgers. Still, only two Rangers teams in franchise history ever began better than 23-14, and those teams (1996 and 1998) won the division. What the Rangers have done over the first quarter of the season is to establish themselves as one of the most exciting teams in baseball and, more important, the one team to challenge the Angles in the AL West.