For the last three years, I have experienced some serious heart break as a fan of the Texas Rangers. Most recently, I saw Yu Darvish’s bid for a perfect game end with two outs in the ninth inning. Before that, losing two consecutive World Series titlesùone that we were one strike away from. Even with these letdowns, however, the Rangers are still one of the most dominant ball clubs in all of Major League Baseball.
Over the offseason, the Rangers lost key players such as Josh Hamilton and Michael Young. They also lost the heart of their bullpen in Mike Adams and Koji Uehara. But with the addition of veterans Lance Berkman and A.J. Pierzynski, I believe the Rangers still have the weapons to shoot for another World Series title.
Those who oppose this feeling seem to forget that we still have good starting pitching as a consistently powerful offense.
On Monday night, in the midst of Darvish almost throwing a perfect game, the Rangers had five players with a multi-hit game. And this wasn’t against just any bad pitcher. It was against Lucas Harrell, who lead the Astros in ERA last season at 3.46, which was lower that Darvish’s 3.90.
Defeating the Astros in 2013 will not be as easy as it used to be. I have to give them credit where credit is due. Harrell is not the only good Astros pitcher. Bud Norris and Phillip Humber can also do some damage to a team’s lineup. Norris earned a win on Opening Night against the Rangers and Humber threw a perfect game last year against the Seattle Mariners.
Houston also has valuable hitters in Justin Maxwell, Jose Altuve and Rick Ankiel. The three seemed to have no trouble hitting against Ranger ace Matt Harrison. I could also argue that the three went 0-9 against Darvish in his perfect game bid.
Darvish showed on Tuesday night the pitcher he truly isùa guy who loves to get most of his outs at the plate. He faced 27 batters and struck out more than half of them (14). If he can be half as dominant as he was Tuesday night all year, he will be in the conversation with Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander for American League Cy Young contenders.
I am just scratching the surface of the Rangers’ staring pitching. Along with Harrison and Darvish, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando also have very impressive resumes. And with the return of Colby Lewis after his elbow surgery, Texas could very possibly have one of the strongest starting rotations in the AL.
As of yet, the Texas bullpen has been nothing special. But when former closer Neftali Feliz returns and Robbie Ross gets hot, the Rangers bullpen should be just as stable as it was before.
Offense will not be a problem for the Rangers, as usual. Every starting hitter for the Rangers either has a powerful bat or is fast enough to steal bases. Some players, like Ian Kinsler and David Murphy, can do both.
Because of these reasons, I expect the Rangers to take at least 15 of the 19 games they play against the Astros. I will also predict that the Astros will have their third consecutive 100 loss season.
With this strong Ranger team, the Dallas/Fort Worth area can be proud of their baseball team and silence former player Josh Hamilton by becoming a the “real baseball town” of Texas.