ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's difficult at times to talk about measuring-stick series when Memorial Day hasn't even arrived yet. The baseball season is still in its infancy.
But for a Texas Rangers team that has dealt with injuries to the pitching staff and inconsistency with the bat, a weekend sweep of the club that came in with the best record in the American League is a statement, despite the early date. The Boston Red Sox can pound the ball. They can pitch with the best teams in the league. They came in with plenty of momentum.
And the Rangers beat them at their own game, adding an important element of speed, too, in front of huge crowds all weekend at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Sure, there are flaws. They still can't seem to find a consistent groove on offense, especially with runners in scoring position. David Murphy has scuffled to start the season. Adrian Beltre, who might have found his rhythm this weekend, has needed more than a month to get comfortable at the plate. Several others have been up and down.
But when you can play defense -- the Rangers have done that better than just about any team the past week -- and continue to get solid starting pitching, you can make up for the up-and-down tendencies from the offense. The Rangers held Boston to four runs in the three-game series. They won two games fairly easily, behind great starts from Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando. And with Yu Darvish, one of the early favorites for the Cy Young Award, on the hill Sunday, they won a close game, beating the Red Sox in walk-off fashion on a two-out, two-strike clutch hit by Beltre. It was the Rangers' only hit with a runner in scoring position in the game, but it was the one that counted the most.
In April, the Rangers didn't beat a team with a winning record. In fairness, the Mariners were under .500 in large part because the Rangers beat up on them all month. The Angels were much worse than anyone expected, too. But now the schedule stiffens. And the team with the best record in the AL came in, and the Rangers did more than hang with them.
This team is starting to resemble those that made World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011. Those teams had good starting pitching, timely hitting, solid defense and speed that could put pressure on the opponent. The Rangers weren't as productive on the bases last season. But they are in 2013, as evidenced by Craig Gentry and what he did in getting the go-ahead run in two straight games on infield hits. Speed makes infielders rush. It makes the pitcher think twice about what he's doing with the guy at the plate. And it allows a team to get more runners in scoring position if utilized correctly. The Rangers haven't done a good enough job of getting them in, but if they keep stealing bases and moving runners over, that will come as the season progresses.
Yes, it's early. But the Rangers made a big statement this weekend. They have earned a spot among the best teams this season. Their job now is to stay there.