Triumph Over Tragedy: Rangers Roll Into All-Star Break

Thursday: The lowest point in the history of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Sunday: The high point of Texas' baseball season.

Was sitting at a blackjack table in Las Vegas when I looked up and saw Nolan Ryan in front of a microphone on TV. As the closed caption scrolled "Josh is very distraught," my initial thought was uh-oh, relapse.

Then I read the news. Then I saw the video.

And then I was amazed at what happened in Arlington over the weekend.

In the wake of a fan death that could've spiraled a younger, more psychologically fragile team into a loss of focus and games, the Rangers instead swept the Oakland A's and head into the All-Star break with a season-high seven-game winning streak.

A year ago the Rangers were swept by the Orioles heading into the break and stood at 50-38 with a 4.5-game lead over the Angels. This year they have baseball's sixth-best record at 51-41 and a one-game lead on Anaheim.

Not bad for a team that played five weeks without Josh Hamilton, that was repeatedly forced to hand the ball to Dave Bush and Mark Lowe, and that desperately, dramatically soothed last week's darkness with weekend of fireworks.

With Craig Gentry playfully pulling on Matt Harrison's goatee as Neftali Feliz nailed down Sunday's 2-0 win, the Rangers zip into the break with some impressive stats:

*10 shutouts, most by the club before the break.

*3 starters -- Harrison, C.J. Wilson and Alexi Ogando -- with ERAs under 3.20.

*5 All-Stars in Tuesday night's mid-summer classic in Phoenix, including Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, Hamilton, Wilson and Ogando. All to be managed by Ron Washington.

Josh is inexplicably still struggling in day games, drawing a walk before Beltre's homer yesterday but hitless in 35 of his last 36 at-bats in the sunshine. Yet his resolve to combat adversity was reiterated Saturday night.

Given the option to take a day or two off after his flip of a foul ball into the stands led to Brownwood firefighter Shannon Stone losing his balance and then his life (Contribute to his memorial fund here), Hamilton instead capped a Rangers' rally with a dramatic two-run, walk-off homer.

Here's hoping the Rangers only losses after the break are on the field.


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