Two weeks ago I said that on June 15 - hello! - we'd know if the 2009 Texas Rangers were authentic or artificial.
A pinch here. A jiggle there. Couple of healthy squeezes. And, of course, the taste test of a 5-7 stretch against some of of baseball's best teams and the verdict is ...
I mean, the Rangers are still in first place by 2.5 games. But those ominous sounds in the distance are the Angels charging and Rangers optimism melting.
Didn't see a lot of Rangers' games whilst on vacation. (The only game I went to - last Wednesday - was monsooned out.) I'll need your help on catching me up on the details of the decline, but re-entering Rangers' atmosphere it seems like ...
*Derek Holland, as we anticipated, is a little overwhelmed at this point. 0-3 as a starter. ERA diving toward 7.00. Trouble throwing fastball for strikes. Repeat after me: 2010 is the year, not this year.
*For the first time in a long time, the Rangers' bats are failing them. Last week their only two wins came via shutouts and I think they scored about 2 runs per game. I know Josh Hamilton is still out, but if Michael Young, Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz continue to tumble this team is cooked.
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*Losing two of three to the Dodgers is no sin, but might we look back at Friday's game - Scott Feldman was pitching a shutout gem - as the point in which the lights went out on this bright season?
*Manager Ron Washington received a contract extension? What?! Not saying the guy doesn't deserve credit for his unyielding optimism, but if we're convinced Kevin Millwood is better pitching for a contract why don't we make Washington manage for an extension? I don't know, just seemed a strange time to fix something that - for a change - wasn't broken. Whether on edge or motivated or whatever, the team was in a good place. Now, via security, that dynamic has been altered.
*I don't wallow in baseball strategy like some of you, but riddle me this: Down three in the 8th inning with no outs yesterday, why was your catcher trying to steal second?
A 5-7 record in the toughest stretch of the season isn't cause for panic. The lack of offense is cause for concern. But mostly, the combination of temperatures soaring, the Rangers sliding and the Angels surging is cause to take note of this week's happenings in Carrollton.