First place, thanks to 1st base.
With his 11th-inning homer to beat the looming storm last night in Arlington, Mitch Moreland not only provided a walk-off win over the Houston Astros but also further cemented our confidence that he's the Rangers' 1st baseman of the present, and the future.
It's been a long, laborious search.
The Rangers have an, um, interesting history at 1st base. Mike Hargrove was AL Rookie of the Year in '74. Pete O'Brien was solid, if not spectacular in the '80s. And then came Rafael Palmeiro and Will Clark -- you probably heard of them -- in the '90s.
Guys named Carlos Pena ('01), Travis Hafner ('02) and Adrian Gonzalez ('05) had sips of cappuccino at 1st in Texas. Mark Texeira assumed the position in '03, but left a gaping hole with his departure via trade in '07.
In his wake the Rangers tried some Hank Blalock, a little Ben Broussard, a lot of Chris Davis, a pinch of Justin Smoak and even picked up Jorge Cantu for last year's playoff run. This year Mike Napoli and Michael Young were scheduled to help tag-team the corner void.
Sorta lost in the mix: the '07 17th-round draft choice.
Not only did the Rangers set a goofy record with 33,000 people wearing sunglasses at night and improve their record when trailing after 7 innings to 2-25, Moreland homered for the second straight night.
In the clubhouse he was doused with beer. On your lineup card he's making more and more sense.
By now 1st base was supposed to belong to Smoak, the Rangers' No. 1 pick (11th overall) pick in the '08 draft. He was sent packing in last summer's Cliff Lee trade, and is hitting .260 with 12 homers in Seattle.
Instead I think Rangers fans are happy with Moreland, hitting .294 with 10 dingers. He's not the glove of Davis nor the bat of Teixeira, but the kid grinds out at-bats. And, because he's versatile enough to play some outfield, he's sat out only nine of Texas' 75 games.
At 40-35, the Rangers have a two-game lead in the AL West. And at 1st base, they may have finally found a keeper.
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