By Mark Miller
Any doubt whether the Texas Rangers remain part of the American League elite was quelled quite nicely this past weekend.
By sweeping the Boston Red Sox, who came to The Ballpark in Arlington with the best record in baseball, the Rangers equaled Boston and the St. Louis Cardinals for that honor at 20-11. And they did it with the combination of hitting, pitching and fielding expected of a leader.
In winning 7-0, 5-1 and 4-3, the Rangers may have played their best series of the young season. Yet manager Ron Washington was careful to put the achievement in proper perspective.
“It’s three games,” Washington told mlb.com. “We’re not going to be overwhelmed by winning three games. I’ll say it again, we can play baseball. On any given night, our best game can compare to anyone’s.”
The same goes on any given week after Texas went 4-2 on its short home stand. The only losses came when the team had trouble scoring runs in the final two games against the Chicago White Sox.
Overall, six Rangers hit at least .300 for the week led by first baseman Mitch Moreland at .450. Second baseman Ian Kinsler was next at .407 and added five runs batted in. Third baseman Adrian Beltre drove in seven with two home runs and a .360 average. Center fielder Craig Gentry hit .313 with four RBI, utility man Jeff Baker had two homers and .a 308 average, and center fielder Leonys Martin hit .300.
The bullpen was stellar, yielding just one earned run in 14 innings. And the starters kept their team in every game led by Derek Holland with a six-hit, eight-inning shutout and Alexi Ogando giving up just one run in six innings. Plus, Yu Darvish struck out 23 batters in two games.
Defensively, the Rangers returned to earlier form with no errors for the week. They’ve made just 11 in 31 games which ranks No. 5 in the majors and No. 4 in the American League. Their .266 team batting average places them exactly the same in hitting and their 3.02 earned run average leads all of baseball.
Not bad for a team some experts expected to start slowly.
Midwest Visit Starts Long Road Trip
Thanks to a rain-out last month, the Rangers will visit three cities this week as part of a four-town road trip.
It starts Monday in Chicago as the make-up of an April 17 game against the Cubs. Texas will face former teammate Scott Feldman for the first time in that game.
Then it’s on to Milwaukee for the first time since 2010 when the Rangers took two of three in Miller Park. Injuries have hurt the Brewers who enter the week at 14-16 after being swept at home by the Cardinals.
First baseman-outfielder Corey Hart has missed the entire season and third baseman Aramis Ramirez all but six games. However, left fielder Ryan Braun is having another good season with seven homers, 23 RBI and a .311 average. Doing their best to help have been center fielder Carlos Gomez (.368, 6, 12) and third baseman Yunieski Betancourt (.277, 7, 22).
On the mound, the Brewers have been led by ace starter Yovani Gallardo (3-1 record, 4.50 ERA) and closer Josh Henderson (2-1, 1.38, 6-6 saves).
The Rangers conclude their week with their second 2013 trip to Houston. The Astros finished last week at 8-24 after losing six straight games. Second baseman Jose Altuve has been one Houston bright spot with a .331 average and 15 RBI. Right-hander Bud Norris leads the starting pitching with a 3-3 record and 3.89 ERA.
5/6 @Cubs 7:05 p.m.
5/7 @Brewers 7:10 p.m.
5/8 @Brewers 7:10 p.m.
5/10 @Astros 7:10 p.m.
5/11 @Astros 6:10 p.m.
5/12 @Astros 1:10 p.m.