ARLINGTON, Texas -- After watching the defending AL champion Rangers get blown out two nights in a row, team president and CEO Nolan Ryan is starting to have concerns as Texas' lead in the AL West has been cut to 2½ games.
"I think I've learned about this ballclub that they'll go through periods where they don't play as well as you'd like to see and then they'll bounce back," Ryan said after Wednesday's 13-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox. "I'm not as worried about the offensive and defensive side of it as much as I am the pitching.
"They're just not sharp. They looked fatigued. These are the dog days, and this is when you have to push yourself."
The Rangers' starting pitchers -- a strength for much of the season -- have struggled of late, going 1-4 in the last five games with opponents batting .333 against them. Starters have given up at least five runs in three of those games.
In back-to-back lopsided losses to the Red Sox, Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison each allowed seven runs on a combined 20 hits. The bullpen also has had its difficulties, turning in a 9.60 ERA in that five-game span.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Angels continue to creep closer to the first-place Rangers in the AL West. Texas and LA begin a three-game series Friday in Arlington.
Rangers manager Ron Washington said this week the club is monitoring its young pitchers and would consider spot-starting and utilizing the off-days to get them some breaks. Ryan, though, remains confident in his team.
"I think they'll bounce back," Ryan said. "I wouldn't be surprised if they came out smoking against the Angels. About the time you start getting concerned, they come out with a whole different attitude and find a way. There's not any telltale signs that lead you to make a prediction."
Inside the clubhouse, veteran leader Michael Young isn't worried.
"I don't think I need to say anything to them," Young said. "We've proven ourselves over time and we know what we're capable of doing. We'll come out tomorrow and play hard. We know we're a good team, we know we're capable of winning a lot of games and we know we're capable of going on a hot streak."
Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.