a 2009 Texas Rangers: The Texas Rangers are sitting in first place in the West
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Texas surprisingly woke up Thursday morning leading the West with the best record in the American League. These are the same Texas Rangers that have finished above .500 just once this century; the only team in the West without a division championship since 1999. They have a three game lead over the Angels, despite losing two of three series since sweeping Los Angeles in Arlington over the weekend of May 16.

There is for sure excitement in Texas for the team. They are now 55,000 fans ahead of last year’s attendance after 23 home dates. A closer look at the schedule indicates the Rangers have been very fortunate. Their record is a nondescript 5-10 against teams with winning records. They are where they are in the standings because they have beat up sub-.500 teams to the tune of 22-9. Certainly good teams usually beat up lesser teams. However, if the Rangers are to be a good team, they are going to have to beat other good teams too.

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The favorable schedule is about to change. When the calendar flips from May to June, the Rangers’ first four series are against teams that are currently over .500. There is no question the most important reason for the Rangers’ success over the first two months of has been their starting pitching, and this stretch of the schedule comes at a time when the starting pitching seems to be fraying. Vicente Padilla is already on the disabled list, though he’s expected back next week. Matt Harrison will be skipped when his rotation spot comes up Saturday, and he may be headed for the disabled list too with soreness in his left shoulder. Kris Benson was in the rotation when the season began, but he hasn’t pitched well either as a starter before being placed on the disabled list, or as a reliever since returning to the active roster. He’s more likely to be released than to shore up the rotation. Kevin Millwood has been the workhorse. He’s third in the league in innings pitched behind Roy Halliday and Zach Greinke, but he appears to be wearing down, as two of Millwood’s last three starts have been his only starts of less than seven innings. Derrick Holland has been hit hard recently too He has an 8.78 ERA in his last three appearances, including two starts he’s made in Padilla’s rotation spot. Tommy Hunter will be summoned from AAA Oklahoma City to start one of the games in Friday’s doubleheader with the A’s, becoming the eighth pitcher to make a start for the Rangers this season.

Also, when May turns to June in North Texas, temperatures regularly hit the 90’s. The oppressive heat in June, July and August has beat down more than one Ranger pitching staff, especially on the days when 90’s turn into 100’s. The first two months of 2009 have been a lot of fun for Ranger fans, but the next few weeks will go a long way to determine how much fun the last four months will be.



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By: Richard W. Humphrey
MLBcenter.com Texas Rangers Correspondent

> View all of the 2009 MLB team previews from Pro Baseball Fans