What a Difference a Week Makes

Nelson Cruz has brought some major power to the Ranger lineup recently. Photo Courtesy: Matt Pearce
Nelson Cruz has brought some major power to the Ranger lineup recently. Photo Courtesy: Matt Pearce

By Mark Miller

Whatever Ron Washington said to his Texas Rangers after last Sunday’s game obviously worked as the team had a complete turnaround last week.

Not only did the Rangers erase the memory of their six-game losing streak, they did so against what were at the time the best teams in the major leagues. And in winning three of four games at home against the Oakland A’s and sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals on the road, they moved back into the lead in the American League West division. Their 44-32 record is one game ahead of Oakland.

“We’re right where we need to be,” outfielder David Murphy told mlb.com.

What helped was having second baseman Ian Kinsler the entire week and first baseman Mitch Moreland for the St. Louis series after returning from the disabled list. Kinsler hit .333 for the week with six runs batted in, behind only right fielder Nelson Cruz who had three homers and 11 runs batted in plus a .345 average. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski added two homers, seven RBI and a .280 average.

But it was the relief pitching that proved crucial with a 1.52 earned run average for the seven games. The star clearly was closer Joe Nathan who saved five games including the last four straight games while yielding just one run. Veteran reliever Neil Cotts gave up just four hits in 5.2 innings while winning twice while rookie Tanner Scheppers had no runs and three hits plus a win in 4.2 innings. Plus, rookie Martin Perez allowed just two runs in seven innings in beating the Cardinals.

Yankees, Reds on tap
After playing for 20 straight days with a 9-11 record, the Rangers finally earned an off day Monday before heading to New York to face the Yankees and then back home against the Cincinnati Reds this weekend.

With shortstop Derek Jeter and third baseman Alex Rodriquez missing the entire season so far and first baseman Mark Teixeira out playing only 15 games, the Yankees are just a shadow of their former selves. After splitting six games last week, their 41-34 record has them in third place in the American League East, 2.5 games behind Boston and a half-game behind Baltimore.

No Yankee regular is batting above .300 with center fielder Brett Gardner leading the way at .287 and second baseman Robinson Cano is next at .276. Cano leads New York with 16 home runs and 45 runs batted in.

Hiroki Kuroda is the only starter below a 4.00 earned run average at 7-5, 2.78. The pitching bright spot has been retiring closer Mariano Rivera who has saved 26 of 27 opportunities and a 1.61 ERA.

The Reds are 45-32 and just 2.5 games behind St. Louis and 1.5 behind Pittsburgh in the National League Central after winning three and losing four last week.

First baseman Joey Votto, right fielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Brandon Phillips have been the offensive stars for Cincinnati. Votto leads in average at .326 with 13 homers and 37 RBI. Bruce is best in homers with 18 to go with 54 RBI and a .282 average while Phillips has 60 RBI, 11 HRs and a .260 average.

Mike Leake is 7-3, 2.61 and Mat Latos is 7-1, 3.05 lead the starting staff. Closer Aroldis Chapman is 3-3 with 19 saves in 22 chances and a 2.65 ERA.

Upcoming Schedule
6/25     @Yankees       6:05 p.m.
6/26     @Yankees       6:05 p.m.
6/27     @Yankees       12:05 p.m.
6/28     Reds                7:05 p.m.
6/29     Reds                6:15 p.m.
6/30     Reds                2:05 p.m.