The Texas Rangers and Their Holland Tunnel

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The Rangers' past is sucky and their future is murky. There are frightening skeletons in the closet and financial potholes down the road.

The present, however, smells delicious.

That's why Derek Holland should be taken out of the starting rotation and replaced by Dustin Nippert. Love Holland. He's 23 with tremendous potential. But with the Rangers throwing meaningful pitches in September for only the fifth time in the franchise's 38-year history, the ball should be handed to their best pitchers and right now Holland's not one of the top five.

In this afternoon's doubleheader in Cleveland, Tommy Hunter and Brandon McCarthy get the chance to beat a sub-.500 the Rangers just have to sweep. But on Sunday Holland provided his third consecutive stinker in an ugly 7-0 loss to the Orioles.

Same ol' story: When he doesn't have command of his fastball and falls behind in the count, he gets pounded.

On Aug. 26 Holland surrendered 6 runs in 6 innings at Yankee Stadium. Then came last week's abortion - 10 runs in 3 innings - against Toronto and on Sunday he lasted only 3 innings. In his last 12 innings: 22 earned runs. Despite all the sparking starts mixed in during the season, Holland's ERA is flirting with 6.00.

Nippert: 3.79.

Of course all the machinations about who pitches and why the hell does manager Ron Washington have the speedy Julio Borbon in left field instead of center are moot points if the Rangers can't hit. How do you lose two of three to the second-worst team in the AL? By going scoreless in 15 consecutive innings, that's how.

Considering Michael Young's hamstring and Josh Hamilton's back and Tom Hick's empty pockets, it's going to be a colossal struggle.

But I said before this stretch that the Rangers needed to go at least 8-2 in games against Toronto, Baltimore and Cleveland - teams that long ago raised the white flag and are a combined 50 games under .500. So far they are 4-3.

Unless Texas sweeps the Indians, this is how the West was lost.

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