Yes, it's only May. But now that the season is a quarter of the way finished, it's a great time to figure out how teams measure up to one another. The Texas Rangers have the best record in the majors at 29-15. And they just completed taking three of four from the Detroit Tigers, the team that I believe is their stiffest competition in the American League. So what did we learn -- positives and negatives -- about this Rangers team? Here are a few:
The "no-quit" attitude of this team the past few years extends to this year's bunch. It would have been easy to eventually succumb to the power of Miguel Cabrera last night. He kept mashing homers and when he didn't, Prince Fielder hurt this team. Yet they kept battling. Cabrera was 4-for-4 with three homers and his team lost. That says a lot about the character of this Rangers team.
Lost in the fact that Texas fell to the Tigers on Friday was that Nick Tepesch hung in despite some ups and downs and that the bullpen held the best lineup in baseball to nothing in the final four innings. The Ranger bats couldn't do anything in the one-run loss. But it was the only loss in the series.
David Murphy seems to save his best at-bats for the biggest moments. His three-run homer on Sunday night came with two outs, his club down by two runs and after he fell behind in the count 0-2. He worked it back to 3-2 and then hit the home run to right to put the Rangers on top for good.
Depth has saved the Rangers so far. You would think a team that has lost an 18-game winner, just put its No. 4 starter on the disabled list (Alexi Ogando), has been without its starting catcher the past few weeks and now must deal with its leadoff hitter on the DL would suffer greatly. And maybe they will. But so far, they haven't. Young players have stepped up. And those that have dealt with slumps have battled back, like Geovany Soto. The catcher has had some key hits in the past few series after not getting many opportunities in playing behind A.J. Pierzynski.
Right now, the biggest priority for this team at the trade deadline is not starting pitching. It's some more relief help. Manager Ron Washington's decision to pitch Yu Darvish an extra inning on Thursday, not to mention bringing in Michael Kirkman into the sixth with the bases loaded in a two-run game show he doesn't have a whole ton of options in the pen he trusts. I think he wanted to save Robbie Ross for the later innings (we can debate that decision) and felt like he had no other choices. Right now, outside of Ross, Tanner Scheppers and Joe Nathan, who do you trust? I know for some of you Nathan doesn't even go in that category, but I think that's an overreaction to his velocity decline. He's still getting the job done.
Jurickson Profar is here and the timing, for him, might be good. After a slow start, Profar has been quietly picking up his game. His average may be a bit down, but it's up from where it was even a few weeks ago. He's shown some power, speed and defensive work. Now he'll get a chance to show that in the big leagues.
How about Leury Garcia? He's had to stay ready despite limited playing time, but seems to take advantage of any and every opportunity.
That was a fun series between two good teams. The Rangers, as they seem to do, took advantage of a Tigers weakness when they needed it most last night. Detroit has a decent rotation and a great lineup. But the bullpen is a big question mark and the Rangers managed to grab the lead late and hold it. By the way, Texas has still not lost a game in which it's led by two runs or more from the seventh inning on.