Life after Cruz can still mean wins

Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Matt Garza will be key to the Rangers' ability to compensate for the loss of Nelson Cruz.


Major League Baseball silenced the Texas Rangers' "boomstick" for the rest of the season, which came as no surprise.

Nelson Cruz, known for the powerful bat he swings, is gone.

And he ain't coming back for 50 games, which means he won't play again this season unless Texas makes the playoffs.

That has you mad. And frustrated. And disillusioned.All of that's understandable.But the Rangers' season isn't over just because Cruz used a performance-enhancing drug to regain the weight and strength he said he lost after a gastrointestinal issue caused him to drop 40 pounds during the 2012 offseason.

This is no time for a pity party.

That's the message manager Ron Washington and general manager Jon Daniels must deliver to their club.

The starting pitching is good enough to win.

The bullpen, deep and versatile, is good enough to win.

The key?

The Rangers must accept their reality.

We all know there's no way to adequately replace Cruz's team-leading 27 homers and 76 RBIs. Or his presence in the lineup, because he affects the way guys get pitched.

Cruz, Adrian Beltre and Ian Kinsler have been the Rangers' only consistent offensive weapons much of the season. Daniels couldn't deal for a bat at the trade deadline, and getting a difference-making hitter through waivers is nearly impossible.

The days of the Rangers abusing the right-field jet stream and masquerading as a beer league softball team are over ... at least for now.

Although the Rangers' record is 9-26 when they don't homer, they can still overcome their 2½-game division deficit in the season's final two months by embracing the idea of winning games 4-2, 3-1 and 2-0.

The best way to do that is to reduce the ridiculous number of dumb baserunning mistakes, because their offense isn't good enough to overcome it.

Now that doesn't mean the Rangers have to be passive on the basepaths. It's OK if a guy makes a perfect throw to get Leonys Martin at third; but there's zero excuse for any player getting picked off first. Or second. Or because he rounded first too far.

Do that -- and execute the game the way we've seen the Rangers do it when they play their best baseball -- and the pitching is easily good enough to carry this team into the postseason.

Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Matt Garza give the Rangers a better-than-good chance to win every time they step on the mound. For the most part, Alexi Ogando and Martin Perez keep the Rangers close enough for them to have an opportunity to win, which is all you really want from a starter.

These Rangers rank fourth in the American League with an ERA of 3.70, and they're tied for fourth with nine shutouts.

Darvish is an ace and he appears to have rediscovered his fastball and a chemistry with Geovany Soto during this latest run of excellence. Holland has been the Rangers' most consistent starter all season, and Garza has been impressive in three starts after being acquired from the Chicago Cubs.

Reinforcements are on the way.

Colby Lewis needs one more rehabilitation start before the Rangers have to figure out what move they must make to add him to the rotation. Matt Harrison is beginning a rehab process that might allow him to start a game sometime in September.

So if the Rangers decide they need to move Ogando -- who has been on the disabled list twice -- to ease the strain on his right arm and fortify their bullpen, they can.

Joe Nathan, with his 32 saves, has been a lock in the ninth, and Tanner Scheppers has been quality in the eighth inning.

Joakim Soria and Neal Cotts also can pitch in the eighth, so Scheppers doesn't have to be overworked like he was before the All-Star break. Robbie Ross and Jason Frasor usually handle the seventh.

Cotts and Ross are lefties, so Washington can match up, if he chooses.

The Rangers' bullpen is tied for second in the AL with 25 wins and tied for third with 33 saves. They've blown six saves, the second-lowest total in the AL.

Only 48 of 165 inherited runners have scored against the Texas bullpen, good for fourth in the AL.

Baseball has always been about pitching, which is why the San Francisco Giants have won two of the past three World Series.

Their pitching is good enough for the Rangers to make the playoffs. They just have to believe it.