I’ve expended more words than some would have liked on the idea that the Rangers’ bad 9-8 loss to the Angels on July 20 might have galvanized a Los Angeles club that, having lost four of five and on the verge of getting swept at home by Texas and pushed to what would have been a six-game deficit in the West, was hurtling in the wrong direction a week and a half before the trade deadline.

It’s probably unfair to suggest that game galvanized Derek Holland’s season, considering he’d fired two straight shutouts before the Anaheim disaster, but man, he’s been good in the two months since that night.

Nine quality starts out of 11 trips to the mound.  A 7-1, 2.61 record – including 3-0, 1.61 in three starts against the Angels and Red Sox.  A .239/.299/.347 slash, 61 strikeouts and 20 unintentional walks in 69 innings.

This afternoon he makes his final appearance before his first playoff start.  He’d be working on one extra day of rest if asked to go in Game Two on Saturday, three extra days if given the ball in Game Three.

I suppose there’s going to be some sentiment to decide where Colby Lewis fits once it gets sorted out whether Game Two will be in Arlington (if Texas maintains its current one-game edge over Detroit) or in New York (he’s been better on the road this year, and of course outstanding against New York last October).

And Matt Harrison was very good against the Yankees in the season’s first month and a half, and on a solid roll himself.  Maybe he gets Game Three in Arlington, and Holland gets Game Four.

And maybe Texas won’t play New York at all – until the ALCS, for the second straight year.

But the idea that Holland could, under conceivable circumstances, figure in as this club’s fourth playoff starter, considering what the other likely playoff contestants will roll out at Number Three, is, you know, pretty galvanizing.

I’m really happy for Holland, whose World Series meltdown a year ago overshadowed what had been a very good post-season in middle relief, and for Harrison, who didn’t even make the post-season roster in 2010.  Without the job those two lefthanders did this year, would we be talking about 162+ at this point?

I’m also happy for Adrian Beltre, who has stunningly appeared in the post-season only once (for the 2004 Dodgers, who got ousted in the NLDS fairly easily by St. Louis), and for Mike Napoli, whose three years of playoff experience with the Angels (2007-2009) resulted in relatively little work (36 plate appearances in 16 games, and a .194/.306/.419 slash).  Two massively huge additions here.

If Texas has to go through one AL East club to get back to the World Series, and maybe two of them, C.C. Sabathia or Jon Lester or David Price will be out there pitching a bunch of key games, having that extra right-handed firepower in Beltre and Napoli to go to battle with in place of Vladimir Guerrero feels pretty good, not to mention the colossal value added defensively.

I’m happy for Mike Adams and Koji Uehara, neither of whom has been to the post-season.  Can’t wait to see what Koji’s October dugout celebration looks like.

And for Steve Busby, who’s had a tremendous, tremendous year teaming up with Eric Nadel.  Buzz makes Rangers baseball better on a daily basis.

And I’m happy, too, for the good guys on the beat in this market, and the columnists who cover the baseball team.  The stories are sometimes more provocative when the team is losing, but ultimately what they write about, for so many of us, is hope, and from that standpoint it’s more compelling (and maybe more fulfilling? – it certainly draws a bigger reading audience) when the team is winning.

My weekly column for the 2011 season concluded Thursday, as we spent the year pegging 25 players from the Rangers’ farm system in building a hypothetical long-term contender’s roster.  The entire group, with links:

No. 1 starter: Martin Perez
No. 2 starter: David Perez
No. 3 starter: Neil Ramirez
No. 4 starter: Cody Buckel
No. 5 starter: Luke Jackson
Long reliever: Barret Loux
Right-on-right: Johan Yan
Left-on-left: Joseph Ortiz
7th-inning reliever: Justin Grimm
RH setup: Roman Mendez
LH setup: Robbie Ross
Closer: Tanner Scheppers
Catcher: Jorge Alfaro
First baseman: Chris Davis
Second baseman: Luis Sardinas
Shortstop: Jurickson Profar
Third baseman: Mike Olt
Left fielder: Engel Beltre
Center fielder: Leonys Martin
Right fielder: Nomar Mazara
Designated hitter: Ronald Guzman
Backup catcher: Kellin Deglan
Utility infielder: Leury Garcia
Corner infielder: Christian Villanueva
Fourth outfielder: Jordan Akins

If Davis had already been traded when I wrote the first base piece, and Guzman had already been signed, the 16-year-old would have been the choice at that position, and Tomas Telis would have replaced Guzman at DH.

Quick aside: This is crazy-undeserved.

After Holland and his teammates take on Seattle this afternoon, they’ll get on a plane to head west, and so will I.  The next couple reports will come to you from Surprise, where I’ll be taking in a little Fall Instructional League action before the playoffs get underway.

It will be the same setting in which Holland first opened my eyes, four years ago.

That was my first annual trip to Instructs, and now I head out for the fifth time, and while this one will be different because of Mazara and Guzman and Rougned Odor, and Kevin Matthews and Will Lamb and Yohander Mendez – all six left-handed, incidentally – it will be a lot like my fourth fall trip to Surprise, in that I’m squeezing it in between Magic Letter X and the first of what we hope are several Game One’s over the next month.

This trip is always galvanizing in its own way, and I’m looking forward to getting out there and writing a little bit.

But not as much as I’m looking forward to getting back, and writing a lot.

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