What A Difference One Week Makes

On Monday, June 17th, the Rangers were the owners of a six-game losing streak, having won just one of the first seven games of an 11-game homestand. They sat three games back in the AL West fresh off being swept by Toronto. The team was 4-11 in the month of June, scoring just over 2.5 runs per game and hitting a measly .153 with runners in scoring position (17-for-111). Simultaneously, the club had too many inexperienced players being asked to fill core roles, and too many aging players that were playing their age. 
On Monday, June 24th, the Rangers are the owners of a five-game winning streak, having taken three out of four from division rival Oakland, and sweeping St. Louis in their ballpark to regain a one game lead in the AL West. All of a sudden, Ian Kinsler and Mitch Moreland returned from the disabled list, Nelson Cruz got freakishly hot, and things are looking good in Rangerland again today.

Over the last week, the Rangers have hit .340 with runners in scoring position (18-for-53).

The bullpen has been called on to pitch 24.1 innings in the last seven games, and has produced a 1.48 ERA.

Ron Washington spoke to the team after the Rangers’ 7-2 loss in the final game of the Toronto series last Sunday. Since then, there has been an increased level of effort and intensity by the Texas club, and the results have shown it. A skeptic may say that the Rangers were due for some positive regression to the mean, that they wouldn’t keep playing so poorly no matter what, but I don’t think any of those players would say that. If there is one time this season when the “intangibles” of Ron Washington made a tangible appearance, this was it.

The best part about the last week of baseball is that it has been a very symbiotic effort from the team. There hasn’t been one component that has carried the club, but all parts working in unison. Of the Rangers six victories in the last week, five of them were by a margin of two runs or less. The Rangers also had to come from behind in five of those victories as well. It hasn’t been perfect baseball, but it has been timely baseball. Sometimes the breaks have to go your way, and after the first two and a half weeks of June, the Rangers really needed and got some good breaks, like last night when a routine soft line drive to Pete Kozma at shortstop hit off the heel of his glove for no real reason, allowing an inning to continue that would give the Ranger the go-ahead run.

The first 15 games of June were about no victories by a starting pitcher, putrid offense, and sinkholes. The last seven games of June have been about playing Ranger baseball, timely hitting, and a lockdown bullpen.

The exorcism of June was complete when the Rangers went into Busch stadium and came out with a series sweep against the best team in baseball. For the Texas fans, the fact that two of the three games were nationally televised and heavily focused on the 2011 World Series and how impressive the Cardinals are made this sweep that much sweeter. Three times, the Rangers had to hold onto a lead in the 9th inning of two runs or less, a situation doomed to bring up 2011 World Series flashbacks as if we were all war veterans. All three times, Joe Nathan escaped unscathed.

Now, it’s on to the next one, with a three-game series in New York. But first, the team gets the day off today before Yu Darvish takes the mound on Tuesday.

Thinking about the weight that must have been lifted from the Texas players’ shoulders as they boarded the plane in St. Louis at 2am after breaking out of their slump, conquering in their return to Cardinals territory, and regaining first place, I can’t imagine a more happy flight. 

Peter Ellwood is a Senior Staff Writer for Shutdown Inning. You can email him at Peter.Ellwood@shutdowninning.com or reach him on Twitter @FutureGM
Peter Ellwood

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