Are They Real or Fake?
Starting tonight at Yankee Stadium, the Rangers play their next 13 games against baseball's best teams - New York, the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Dodgers. Each of those teams is at least five games above .500. Against similar opponents this season, Texas is 2-10.
In other words, come June 15th the Rangers will either still be in first place in the AL West, or the countdown to Cowboys' training camp will commence in earnest.
Whether they prove fluke or legit, arriving into June with a 30-20 record courtesy of pitching and defense has been refreshingly unfamiliar.
At the 50-game mark star outfielder Josh Hamilton was hitting .240 with only six home runs while spending time on the disabled list with injured ribs and a sore groin. First baseman Chris Davis was on pace to become the first player in Major League Baseball history to strike out 250 times in a season. Supposed spark plug David Murphy's batting average was a paltry .226. Starting pitchers Matt Harrison and Vicente Padilla were temporarily shelved with arm injuries and prized prospect Derek Holland's ERA was an unsightly 5.96.
Considering Hamilton's dramatic decline in production and the failures of counted-on pitchers Kris Benson and Josh Rupe, the Rangers' resurrection from annual and early afterthought to division leader is baseball's biggest story in 2009.
But will it last?
The Rangers just completed their best-ever May (20-9) and their second-best month in franchise history behind only September 1978 (21-10). Granted we're less than 1/3rd of the way through the baseball marathon, but because this team pitches (a starting rotation ERA of 3.57 in May), plays with fundamentals (only the 20th-most errors) and doesn't solely try to win games with home runs (they still lead all of baseball but also are among the league leaders in stolen bases), the Rangers are good. And, if the hitters ever start hitting like they're supposed to hit, they could be getting better.
But remember, the Rangers were 30-20 in 2005, went 10-17 in June and finished under .500. So far it's just another lifted skirt in the annual teasing and tormenting of desperate baseball fans.
So what does it take over this 13-game stretch to get you believing in these Rangers?
10-3: They're real, and they're spectacular.
7-6: Division favorites and we can start whispering playoffs for the first time since 1999.
4-9: Fake. How many touches is enough for Felix Jones?