Will the Rangers win the AL West?

YES
NO

Pitching cavalry is on the way

Wills By Todd Wills
ESPNDallas.com
Archive

The Texas Rangers had the 2012 American League West title stolen from them by the Oakland Athletics.

The Rangers will get their revenge over the next two and a half months. They will overtake the A's to win the AL West.

Oakland's lead stands at two games as the season resumes Friday. It should be bigger, given all of the pitching injuries the Rangers have had to overcome during the first 95 games of the season. Oakland will regret not having a four- or five-game lead.

Why is it the Rangers turn to pass the A's?

The Rangers will get healthy, and with a full arsenal, Texas is the better team. Alexi Ogando is returning next week. Colby Lewis will come next. Anything after that -- Matt Harrison, Neftali Feliz -- will be a bonus.

The Rangers basically played the A's to a dead heat before the All-Star break with two inconsistent rookie pitchers, Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm, in the rotation. They will be replaced by experienced pitchers.

A healthy pitching staff gives the Rangers the edge.

The offense will be better too. The Rangers are 13th in the AL with a .245 batting average with runners in scoring position. Only Seattle and Houston have been worse. The law of averages says that number will improve.

The Rangers have stayed close -- in fact, they led the division at one point by seven games -- despite getting almost nothing from important bats like shortstop Elvis Andrus and left fielder David Murphy. History says that will change in the second half of the season.

Manny Ramirez will provide a stretch-drive boost. From all appearances, he still has enough bat speed to add a right-handed bat to the lineup. It's just another player with a pedigree and a winning background.

General manager Jon Daniels will make a trade -- or trades -- that will inject life into the Rangers. That player appears to be Cubs starting pitcher Matt Garza, who has won five of his last six games and is one of the hottest pitchers in baseball.

Look for Daniels to also trade for another bullpen piece and maybe another right-handed bat, possibly Alex Rios of the Chicago White Sox.

The schedule does not favor either the Rangers or the A's. Both teams have 13 games left against the Angels. The Rangers, however, play their final seven games at home while the A's are on the road for their final six. That gives Texas a slight edge.

The Rangers have been the best road team in the AL. They're 6-4 against the A's this season.

All of it adds up to a Rangers rally in 2013. It's their turn.

Pitching problems will catch up

Taylor By Jean-Jacques Taylor
ESPNDallas.com
Archive

When the Texas Rangers went to the World Series in 2010, they used 22 pitchers. In their 2011 World Series run, they used 25.

The Rangers have already used 21 this season.

Sorry, that's not a winning formula -- not in a division in which Oakland has a plethora of pitching.

The injuries to the starting rotation have forced Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm to make 33 starts and be vital parts of the rotation all season. As we've seen, they simply aren't ready.

Those of you who believe in the power of positive thinking can dream about Colby Lewis, Alexi Ogando and Matt Harrison returning from the disabled list and delivering quality start after quality start after the All-Star break.

Those who deal in reality know Ogando, who has 10 starts this season, is the only member of that group who's capable of being a key piece of the rotation this season. And he's been on the disabled list twice already this season.

Having Tepesch, Grimm, Ogando and Martin Perez regularly in the rotation has forced manager Ron Washington to blow through the bullpen. Relievers Tanner Scheppers, Robbie Ross and Joe Nathan are among the league leaders in appearances.

The addition of Joakim Soria helps, but it won't matter if the Rangers' starters keep getting knocked out of games in fifth and sixth innings.

Even Yu Darvish hasn't helped lately because his high pitch counts have kept him from consistently pitching into the seventh inning. That's not good enough for an ace like Darvish, who has proved he should be considered among the best pitchers in the American League.

All of this might not matter so much if the Rangers had one of the beer-league softball lineups from previous years, but they don't.

These Rangers have an inconsistent lineup prone to scoring droughts because Ian Kinsler, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz are the only consistent offensive threats.

The Rangers have been shut out five times and are just 9-35 when scoring three runs or fewer. In 46.3 percent of their games, the Rangers have scored three runs or fewer.

Let that marinate.

The Rangers have done well to maintain one of the American League's best records, but the rigors of the 162-game season expose all of a team's flaws.

The Rangers will still make the playoffs, they just won't win the AL West.

103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS

Fitzsimmons & Durrett: Nolan Ryan

Nolan Ryan joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the Rangers at the All-Star break and the possibility of Manny Ramirez being called up in the second half of the season.

ESPN Dallas GameDay: Ron Washington

Ron Washington joins ESPN Dallas GameDay to discuss Manny Ramirez and the Rangers at the All-Star break.

Fitzsimmons & Durrett: Chris Singleton

ESPN's Chris Singleton joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett live from the All-Star Game to talk about who might shine and how the pennant races may shape up in the second half of the season.