By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Lee's first start for the Rangers against Baltimore the following night draws the largest walk-up crowd in the history of the ballpark—14,300—but he allows six runs, including three homers.
"It was exactly what we expected, really," Daniels says of his new ace, who tossed a complete game and didn't issue a walk. "He's going to come in, work quick, pound the strike zone, and he's gonna put the good guys in the dugout pretty quickly."
Lee pitches much better in his second start in Boston—just two runs in nine innings—and wins his first game with the Rangers in his third outing with a strong performance against the Angels. The Rangers rebound from the four-game sweep against Baltimore to win three of four against the Red Sox, two of three against the Detroit Tigers and extend their lead over the Angels to six games after Lee's victory.
Rhyner of The Ticket says this Rangers team is very good relative to past ones, but he notes that they've "benefited mightily" from a forgiving interleague schedule. And even if they make it into the postseason after tough September road trips to Minnesota and Anaheim, a home series against the Yankees and four games against the Angels at home to end the season, the playoffs are an entirely different animal.
"Just like in football and basketball, you start seeing different guys play different ways, different teams do different things," he says. "There's always a thing or two that you see in the postseason that you just weren't seeing from someone in the regular season, and I just wonder if maybe the Rangers are not giving everything they've got just to get where they are."
With Lee heading a rotation that features Wilson, Lewis, Hunter and depth at the fifth starter's position; one of the best bullpens in baseball; and a lineup that features MVP candidates Hamilton and Guerrero, the Rangers almost seem destined not only to return to the playoffs for the first time since 1999, but maybe, just maybe, finally compete for a World Series Championship.
Daniels certainly seems to think so, as he doesn't appear to be done shopping just yet. Reports claim he's shown interest in upgrading at first base where Chris Davis has struggled mightily at the plate, and he's explored the available left-handed relief options on the market as well.
In the meantime, who does he think of when someone says Rangers owner?
"I think about Tom until such point that Chuck and Nolan buy the club," he says. "That's just the fact of the matter. And, obviously, we're all looking forward to that time. We're all looking forward to getting out of the situation we're in right now."