Good hitting beating good pitching.

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In the 19 games that
followed the New York-Boston trip at the beginning of June, Texas faced these starting pitchers:


Casey Janssen

Brian Tallet

Ricky Romero

Hideki Kuroda

Randy Wolf

Chad Billingsley

Wandy Rodriguez

Russ Ortiz

Brandon Backe

Randy Johnson

Matt Cain

Bary Zito

Max Scherzer

Dan Haren

Jon Garland

Walter Silva

Kevin Correia

Chad Gaudin

Sean O’Sullivan


In the four games since
that run, the Rangers’ opposing starters have been:


Joe Saunders

Jered Weaver

Scott Kazmir

David Price


If you were taking on the
Rangers, you might take Billingsley, Rodriguez, Cain, and Haren from that first
group over the foursome Texas has just finished facing, but it wouldn’t be a
slam dunk (Kazmir has struggled this season but is a career Rangers-slayer).


But taking the first
group as a whole, you also have a handful of journeymen, veterans on the tail
end (if not released since the above match-ups), and rookies far less heralded
than Price. 


The Rangers’ offense in
games started by the first group: .212/.277/.365.


In the
Saunders/Weaver/Kazmir/Price games: .307/.389/.606.


Texas was 7-12 in the first grouping,
falling from 4.5 games up in the division to 2.5 games back.


The club went 4-0 in the
next grouping (which included two games started by Rangers rookies who’d never
won a big league start), and is back to a tie atop the West.


Will Josh Hamilton’s
return to the lineup help?  Of course.


But has his absence been a
legitimate excuse for the offensive ineptitude that highlighted the Rangers’ three-week
slide?  Far from it.


It’s beyond obvious to
suggest that if the offense is finally re-finding its stride, and if the pitching
continues to give this club workmanlike efficiency, and if the defense doesn’t
slump (it shouldn’t, but if Chris Davis is taken out of the lineup we’ll notice
a difference), then there’s no reason Texas
can’t stick around in the race all summer.


I still think the bullpen
needs another righthander (though maybe less so than a couple weeks ago), but at
this point it’s fair to expect help to arrive internally, considering the lack of
teams who have fallen into the seller category and the emergence of a handful of
righties at Oklahoma City who could help soon. 


Orlando Hernandez (five
innings, one hit, one walk, six strikeouts) is likely to get the first look, if
for no other reason than his minor league deal permits him to leave for another
opportunity if he’s not added to the big club by July 20.  He’s worked on a day of rest twice and two
days once for the RedHawks.  Expect to
see him used on consecutive days soon.


Neftali Feliz (4.2
innings, one run on three hits and one walk, four strikeouts in three relief
appearances): same issue.  His work has
come on three days’ rest, two days, and two days.  He last pitched on Wednesday.  Chances are Hernandez will be tested on
back-to-back days before Feliz is.


In Warner Madrigal’s last
16 Oklahoma City
appearances, he’s issued zero walks and set 21 hitters down on strikes.  Over that stretch, he’s allowed four runs (2.08
ERA) on 13 hits in 17.1 innings, saving eight games in eight opportunities.  Is he earning some trust back?


Hernandez would cost the removal
of someone else from the 40-man roster, as would Feliz (another reason
Hernandez might get a look before Feliz does). 
Same with Dustin Nippert, who is presently on the 60-day disabled list but
pitching well as Texas
gets him not only back into pitching rhythm but also into a starter’s


Would Nippert be a better
option to reinforce the rotation than, say, San Diego’s
Correia, in whom Texas
is reported (by Peter Gammons) to have shown interest?  It’s an interesting question.  Correia is making $750,000 as a second-year arbitration
player, will have one more season before he’ll be eligible to take free agency,
and had an impressive 5-3, 3.57 run in 10 May and June starts (including eight quality
starts, culminating with a strong seven-inning, nine-strikeout, one-walk effort
in Arlington on June 27), but who does he replace in the rotation?


Kevin Millwood and
Vicente Padilla (whose start in Anaheim
Tuesday night needs to be a lot better than his June 29 home effort against the
Angels) and Scott Feldman are locks. 
Tommy Hunter and Derek Holland are coming off excellent starts against
what had been a hot Rays lineup, and Matt Harrison should be back soon.


Is Correia a better bet
than three of Harrison, Hunter, Holland,
and Nippert?  Maybe.  But Correia would cost Texas at least one legitimate prospect.  Nippert will cost the exposure of the 40th
player on the roster to waivers – or maybe just a transfer of Brandon McCarthy to
the 60-day DL himself – and the other three internal options will cost Texas nothing.


Texas has shown some interest in struggling Yankees
starter Chien-Ming Wang, says Sports
‘s Jon Heyman, but he left his start yesterday with a shoulder
strain and is back on the disabled list.


Oklahoma City outfielder Brandon Boggs
dislocated his left shoulder on routine catch on Friday.  No word yet on how much time he’s expected to


RedHawks catcher/DH Max
Ramirez has been sidelined since Tuesday with continued wrist soreness.


The Rangers released Frisco
left-handed reliever Joe Torres, who had an impressive 28 strikeouts in 22
innings, a 2.36 groundout-to-flyout rate, a .235 opponents’ average, and a 3.68
ERA in 17 RoughRiders appearances, but two things roadblocked any thought of
him helping the Rangers this season: 22 walks in those 22 innings, and the
effectiveness at AAA of fellow southpaws A.J. Murray (1.19 ERA, no home runs, 2.37
G/F, 24/12 K/BB in 30.1 innings, no extra-base hits in 42 at-bats by
left-handed hitters) and Mike Hinckley (2.17 ERA).  Those two were clearly going to get looks
before the 26-year-old Torres if the need for another left-handed bullpen arm were
to arise.


Outfielders Mitch Moreland
(.330/.397/.535 between Bakersfield and Frisco) and
Tim Smith (.342/.406/.476 between Bakersfield
and Frisco) both found spots on Baseball
‘s Mid-Season Minor League All-Surprise Team.


Right-handed reliever
Brendan Donnelly, who got a camp look with Texas,
opted out of his minor league deal with Houston to
sign a big league deal with Florida.  Donnelly posted a 1.75 ERA in 24 relief
appearances with AAA Round Rock (23 strikeouts and seven walks in 25.2 innings,
no home runs) and has joined the Marlins’ pen.


Yes, with 20-year-old Elvis
Andrus in place, shortstop may be the position at which Texas
arguably has the least long-term planning to do, and yet the top two 16-year-olds
the Rangers reportedly signed in the last few days as the international signing
period opened – Curacao’s Jurickson Profar and Venezuela’s Luis Sardinas – are shortstops. 


The two situations are


For a depressing story about
how this organization did a poor job planning ahead at another premium position
in the decade or so before Jon Daniels took over as general manager, click here.


Another questionable Rangers
decision came in 2005, when the club drafted Stanford outfielder John Mayberry
Jr. with the 19th pick in the first round, with Fresno State
righthander Matt Garza among others still on the board. 


Tonight Texas faces Garza, who has a 1.98 career ERA
against the Rangers (and a 2.08 ERA in Rangers Ballpark). 


But Scott Feldman (3.00
ERA) has been effective in his career against the Rays as well, and maybe more
importantly, the Rangers offense – at least over the last four days – seems to
have found a long-lost rhythm at the plate, no matter who is standing 60 feet,
six inches away.



You can read more from Jamey


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