These three games kind of speak for themselves, don't they?
By the end of this weekend's series in Texas, the Angels could be anywhere from first place (by a game) to barely clinging to contention, five games out with 29 to go.
But what doesn't speak for itself is the direction the teams have been heading lately. To catch up on the state of the Rangers, we checked in with our friend from ESPNDallas.com, Richard Durrett:
MS. Richard, What has happened to the Rangers? From your seat, is it just that they've been playing a tough team, the Red Sox, or are there indications of more systematic breakdowns?
RD. No question, the Red Sox came in with their bats swinging and ready to go. But two big concerns came out of the series. First, the starting pitching didn't do the job in the final three games. CJ Wilson has been great, but other than that, it's a trend for the whole month, really. Derek Holland, Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando have all pitched more innings this season than they ever have and it might be taking a toll. They say they aren't tired, but they look it. Second, the offense struggled to do anything. They are batting .197 in the last 8 games, which includes that walkoff win by Trumbo, and are 2-6. The Rangers must get those trends turned around to win this series.
MS. Momentum is fickle in baseball. Do you see it as a factor in this series?
RD. Momentum can change quickly. We saw that last week in Anaheim. It's a factor early in the series, in that both teams come in on vastly different runs. But once the game starts, it just depends on who can get on a roll. I think it's more critical for the Rangers to score early just to feel like the bats can get going and that they have a lead. They haven't really had that feeling in three days.
MS. I read Nolan Ryan's comments about the pitching looking tired. Can you draw this out a little bit? Which guys, specifically, are wearing down?
RD. As I mentioned earlier, it's the young guys like Holland, Harrison and Ogando, though Lewis has struggled at times too. Harrison's velocity was down in his last start, which makes me wonder if that's also fatigue. But he said he felt good physically out there. The Rangers know it's an issue and they are meeting after the series to decide if they want to spot start someone and how to work the rotation with the off days. I think they'll do something to try to give these guys a little bit of a break.
MS. Everyone talks about the heat of Texas. This year it's been more ridiculous than usual. Something about a high-pressure system. Is it too late to build a retractable roof, can you give us some details about first-pitch temperatures and is it a factor in this series? In this season?
RD. It's been triple-digit first pitches for much of July and August. And it is more ridiculous than normal. A retractable roof isn't possible. Way too costly. I do wish there was a way to configure Cowboys Stadium for baseball, but I can't see that happening. So everyone will just have to deal with it. Even starting the game at midnight wouldn't help much. It's just hot here all the time right now.
MS. What's your prediction for the next three games?
RD. Though the Rangers are clearly struggling, I'll say they win 2 out of 3. I don't think either team will sweep and I can't think the offense can struggle like this much longer. But it should be very entertaining. What the Angels have done is make this a great race.