If you were to conduct a poll of Texas Rangers fans as the month of April comes to a close, you would probably get near unanimous agreement on this statement: The Rangers are the worst first place team in the majors.
After dropping three of four to the Blue Jays, it’s easy to see why we’d feel that way. With injuries to Neftali Feliz, Tommy Hunter and Darren O’Day along with the general ineffectiveness of Mark Lowe and Michael Kirkman, the Texas pitching staff bears little resemblance to the corps that dispatched the Rays in 5 games and the Yankees in 6 to get to their first World Series. Already, the Rangers have used almost as many pitchers in the month of April (17) as they used in the entire 2010 season (22).
Offensively, Josh Hamilton has missed half of the first 25 games of the season. Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Nelson Cruz and Julio Borbon are all off to slow starts at the plate. And, as was prominently on display in Thursday’s series wrap-up with the Blue Jays, mental errors have been piling up. Thursday alone, Kinsler missed an easy double play chance, allowing a Jays runner to safely reach second. Fortunately, that didn’t cost the Rangers. It just might have cost them the go-ahead run when Kinsler led off the 5th with a double and promptly got picked off second base. I don’t have the stats, but I know Texas baserunners have been picked off at least four times already this season- David Murphy twice.
Nothing topped the mental lapses of the 9th inning Thursday when first, Adrian Beltre committed his first error of the season on an easy grounder, bringing home an insurance run. Then, when time hadn’t been called, the Jays’ Jose Bautista made a mistake taking off for 3rd when it was already occupied. Instead of getting an easy out and getting out of the inning with no further damage done, Darren Oliver threw the ball past second and into center field, allowing the 5th and final run to score.
And yet, through all the bleakness, the Rangers are still in first place in the AL West. With a successful West Coast swing for seven games against the A’s and the Mariners, they could even put some more distance between themselves and the rest of the pack.
To do that, though, they’ll have to get their heads back into the game. It’s been woefully lacking of late.