With the red-hot A’s playing lights-out and with the dominant Angels just hitting their stride, the two-time defending American League Champion Texas Rangers, even with the acquisition of Ryan Dempster, face a final two months of the season with serious starting pitching problems. If the A’s continue their excellent play, could the Rangers actually end third in their division? Even with a second wild card team added this year, could the Rangers miss the playoffs? Could they get one of the wild card spots and then be one and out. This could happen.
In this week’s head-on battle, the Angels have made mince meat of the Rangers top starters, scoring six runs in 6.2 innings off of Derek Holland yesterday, which followed Monday’s rout of Roy Oswalt (eight runs in 5.1 innings). Then today, they scored seven runs in five innings against Yu Darvish. That’s 21 runs in 17 innings against three “top” Rangers’ starters, for an ERA of 11.12.
With Colby Lewis and Neftali Felix each out not just the rest of this season, but likely well into next year, and with Oswalt now banished to the bullpen, Holland, Darvish, Dempster, and Scott Feldman are pretty much what Texas has, after the one guy that has been solid all year, Matt Harrison. Feldman, though, has been sharp of late, winning five in a row and lowering his ERA from a one-time hight of 7.01 to 4.76, and right now must be thought of as their number three starter.
Tomorrow, Dempster makes his Ranger debut in the final game of the Angels series. No pressure on him, but the Rangers have their entire season depending on his performance over the next two months.
Despite the Angels’ bullpen blowing two late-inning leads, including the three-run lead the Angels took into the bottom of the 10th inning, there was a key moment in tonight’s game for the Angels. The Angels have had virtually ZERO production from the catching spot since trading Mke Napoli before last season. Last year’s catchers, Jeff Mathis, Hank Conger, and Bobby Wilson, were offensive disasters, but the team felt this season with the acquisition of Chris Iannetta, those problems would be solved. After a slow start, an injury kept Iannetta out of the lineup for much of the season, and replacements Wilson and Jon Hester barely kept up with the numbers produced by the three catchers last year. Iannetta was just activated this week, and tonight, leading off the top of the 10th inning, he hit a home run to give the Angels the extra inning lead, which was extended to a three-run lead a few moments later, on Luis Pujols’ second home run of the game. The lead was then blown by a total meltdown by the bullpen in the bottom of the tenth, but Iannetta’s home run was great to see, and hopefully he will be a big factor in the weeks to come.