THE NEWBERG REPORT — JULY 25, 2007

Force yourself to drop the Ranger-centric point of view for a minute — imagine how miserable you’d be right now if you were a Mariners fan.

Seattle comes in here, winners of 19 out of 26 (to move from 7.5 games out of the division lead to one game back) before dropping its last two games in Toronto, ready to get back on track with a trip to visit the last-place Rangers, against whom the club had won six of eight this year. The Angels were reeling, having lost five of seven going into its Monday series against Oakland.

Time to fatten up.

Instead, the Mariners have lost three games to the Rangers, each by one run.

On Monday, their first five batters reached against Kevin Millwood, whose first 19 pitches included 12 balls and just seven strikes — three of which turned into singles. Seattle was up, 2-0, with the bases loaded and nobody out.

Yet when Millwood was finally chased in the sixth inning, Seattle had scored only three runs.

Mark Teixeira scored behind Michael Young on a Sammy Sosa double in the third. Or did he? The umpire said he did.

And the game ended on a spectacular Marlon Byrd-to-Teixeira double play. With Ichiro waiting on deck.

Stomach ache for Seattle fans.

Then on Tuesday, a twinbill. A chance not only to erase Monday’s could’ve-been’s but get on top of the series.

An opener against John Rheinecker, who in his last 12 months was an 0-3, 11.39 big league pitcher (five starts, eight relief appearances) with an opponents’ batting average of .412 — but who promptly went seven strong innings to get the daytime win, giving up an unearned run on six hits and a walk, before Joaquin Benoit and Eric Gagné each fired a scoreless, two-strikeout frame to seal the 2-1 win.

And then a nightcap against Kameron Loe, who had struggled with his command the last two times out. With Jarrod Washburn on the hill, having won three of his last four decisions. But despite being arguably gifted two runs in the fifth to take a 3-1 lead, Seattle couldn’t make it stand up, as Washburn failed to execute the shutdown inning and let the Rangers tie it right back up, with the second run coming in on a wild pitch.

Veteran Chris Reitsma enters the tie game in the eighth to face the bottom three in the Rangers’ order. Gerald Laird singles. Ramon Vazquez bunts him over to second. Up steps Travis Metcalf, who is in the big leagues only because Hank Blalock is hurt. Metcalf, who was hitting .184 when this series began.

Metcalf, who has gone 7 for 11 in these three games, with three doubles and a triple.

The final of those three doubles plated Laird with the decisive run, sandwiched between shutdown efforts by C.J. Wilson and Gagné, who combined to punch out four Mariners among their seven recorded outs. It’s the first two-save day in Gagné’s career.

Remember that Rangers series in Tampa last August, the one that followed the huge series in Detroit and effectively ended the club’s 2006 hopes and Buck Showalter’s hold on his job here?

Bet this one feels like that if you’re a Mariners fan.

But you’re not, and so aside from the good feel that this series has provided, your focus is probably on Tuesday’s trade deadline. The rumors are flying now, and since I’ve never been one to sit here and list story links, this would be a pretty masochistic time to start.

Here’s the thumbnail sketch: the Braves, Dodgers, and Angels are reportedly the most aggressive clubs in Teixeira talks, with the Yankees, Red Sox, Giants, and Orioles lurking as well. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports suggests that Atlanta might part with 22-year-old catcher-first baseman Jarrod Saltalamacchia after all, especially since he’d have no position if the Braves, who aren’t about to displace Brian McCann behind the plate, were to acquire Teixeira or another frontline first baseman.

An MLB.com story out of Atlanta suggests that the Braves might even include 18-year-old shortstop Elvis Andrus (who is holding his own in High A) and a pitching prospect, possibly 22-year-old lefthander Jo-Jo Reyes, along with the switch-hitting Saltalamacchia. Wow.

But before you take that story to the bank, consider that the author reported that Teixeira is in the final year of his contract. How do you get something that important that wrong?

Several stories report that the Rangers might be willing to pad a Teixeira deal with a reliever (most likely Joaquin Benoit) in order to get the prospects they want, regardless of which team they’re dealing with.

Since the Angels won’t trade John Lackey or Kelvim Escobar or Jered Weaver, and the Rangers probably wouldn’t trade Teixeira within the division if the pitching piece coming back were Joe Saunders or Ervin Santana, it sounds like the chance of hooking up with the Angels might depend on whether Los Angeles would be willing to include Nick Adenhart (probably with first baseman Casey Kotchman) and whether that would be enough to persuade Jon Daniels to forgo other available deals.

Boston apparently won’t deal Clay Buchholz or Jacoby Ellsbury, and the Yankees are hoarding Philip Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, meaning those two clubs are probably going to fall short of getting Teixeira — unless one of them gets nervous that the other is going to step up.

Marlon Byrd: Triples ma-CHINE.

I watched Ichiro take batting practice on Monday, and what they say is true. I have no doubts that he could be a devastatingly good cleanup hitter, if that’s what he set his mind and his approach to. Just about every one of his swings produced a Jim Thome moonshot or a Julio Franco laser into the seats.

Blalock and Ian Kinsler took B.P. on Monday as well. Kinsler is set to kick off a rehab assignment tomorrow or Friday, likely in Oklahoma.

Righthander Akinori Otsuka probably won’t be activated before Tuesday’s trade deadline.

Righthander Vicente Padilla made a rehab start for Frisco last night, giving up one hit in two scoreless innings, throwing 30 pitches as planned. Second baseman German Duran hit his 18th home run in the game.

Oklahoma righthander Edinson Volquez improved his AAA mark to 2-0, 1.38 after holding Portland to one run on two hits and three walks in six innings last night, fanning eight. In his two RedHawks starts, he’s allowed only three hits in 13 innings.

Oklahoma outfielder-DH Jason Botts should be eligible for activation from the disabled list today.

Baseball America ranked Eric Hurley as the number 68 prospect in baseball before the season. The publication issued an updated list this week, and the RedHawks hurler now sits at number 19.

Bakersfield third baseman Chris Davis went deep for the 23rd time last night, and DH Taylor Teagarden hit his 19th and 20th homers.

Clinton first baseman Mauro Gomez has eight home runs in his last 10 games.

Nineteen-year-old Spokane righthander Jacob Brigham is 4-1, 1.49 in seven starts, scattering 18 hits and 18 walks in 36.1 innings, fanning 29.

I’m still shaken every time I read or hear more about Mike Coolbaugh’s tragic death on Sunday night in Little Rock. The former Rangers farmhand (1996 with High A Charlotte and AA Tulsa) had been the hitting coach and first base coach for Tulsa (now a Rockies affiliate) for only three weeks when he was struck in the head by a line drive off the bat of 28-year-old Drillers backup catcher Tino Sanchez.

It was Coolbaugh’s first coaching job after 17 years as a player. He leaves a wife and two children, plus a third due in October. Coolbaugh’s older brother Scott, who played for the Rangers in 1989 and 1990, is currently Frisco’s hitting coach.

The Drillers have set up a memorial fund to benefit Coolbaugh’s family. If you’re interested in contributing, checks can be made payable to the Mike Coolbaugh Memorial Fund and sent to:

Mike Coolbaugh Memorial Fund
c/o Spirit Bank
1800 S. Baltimore Avenue
Tulsa, OK 74119

Former Rangers catcher and current USC coach Chad Kreuter has hired Tom House to be his pitching coach. Kreuter and House were with the Rangers when Scott Coolbaugh had his swim through Arlington.

The White Sox optioned righthander Nick Masset to AAA.

Oakland designated righthander Colby Lewis for assignment.

I was at Monday’s Texas-Seattle game, and I’ll be at tonight’s, not only to see if Texas can pull off what would be an impressive sweep of a good team, but also to see what very well could be the last Rangers home game for any number of veteran players.

It’s a bit of a surreal time to be a Rangers fan.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

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