The Rangers just completed twenty games in twenty days in the most remarkable fashion possible.
When they set out on this stretch three weeks ago, knowing that half of those games would be played over a three-city, ten-game road trip, most would have been satisfied if the Rangers went 11-9, maybe 12-8.
But this team went 16-4. That is .800 baseball. And that is phenomenal. They lead Houston (yes, Houston) by ten games.
It’s the result of everything clicking. Almost every player on offense contributing. The starting rotation mostly coming through game after game. And the bullpen beginning to sort itself out after a few Wilhelmsian moments of horror.
So much credit has to go the Rangers new pitching coach, Doug Brocail, and new hitting coach, Anothny Iapoce, who must be in the witness protection program because you never see a lick of him or hear a word from him or about him. Whatever his assumed name is, he is doing a wonderful job.
Of course, credit for all of that goes to Jeff Banister, who has the team playing a brand of baseball the Rangers have never seen. It’s not home run or bust.
Usually after going 16-4, with a day of rest and celebration, a team would be riding a high note.
But questions abound. Dark clouds hang overhead.
What started out as a rotation with an embarrassment of riches in wondering how the Rangers were going to squeeze in enough starts for six quality arms has turned in to a comedy of injuries and the biggest question of all: who is going to start tomorrow? And the next day? And the next?
Remember when Hamels, Darvish, Lewis, Perez, Holland, and Griffin seemed like an over-crowded luxury? Remember when there was legitimate talk of a six-man rotation?
Now a two-man rotation seems prudent. Because now the Rangers rotation is Hamels and Perez.
Maybe A. J. Griffin starts tomorrow. In all likelihood he will. But he’s coming off a seven-week injury that is coming off a two-year injury. How deep will he be allowed to go in games from here on out? About as deep as a Hollywood producer.
Darvish is supposed to come back after the All-Star break. Which narrows it down pretty well, like the cable guy coming to your house tomorrow between nine and five. July is after the All-Star break. So is August. And September. And next April. So, expect him back in one of those four months. Or later. Mark your calendar.
Colby Lewis had to go back to the workshop to be rebuilt. His parts had to be special ordered and are not expected to arrive until August. How many times have you ordered parts and the wrong ones were sent and you have to send them back and you had to wait for them to send you the new ones and you had to hope they sent you the right parts this second time? Colby will be back when he is back.
Derek Holland went on the fifteen-day DL yesterday. A.J. Griffin’s fifteen days was seven weeks. Darvish’s fifteen days is going on three weeks.
Overcoming the obstacles of a suddenly depleted starting rotation is going to rely on two things.
One is grim. One is not.
The grim is the Rangers system. It is pitching rich like Hot Pockets are nutrition rich. Already this season we have witnessed that the steady stream of pitchers coming up from the Rangers farm system is only remarkable for the frequency and immediacy that they return.
The not grim is the fact that the Rangers have some pretty remarkable non-pitching pieces to deal.
The next twenty games will be very illuminating. How do the Rangers win those with just two reliable starters?
You cannot expect this team will fall off the face of the earth. The bats are just too strong to let that happen. And guys like Nick Martinez and Caesar Ramos have shown the ability, at times, to keep the Rangers close.
But you cannot expect there won’t be a slippage in Rangers victories. How could there not be with two quality starters instead of six?
Two starters and three catchers. Who would have thunk?
There sure are a lot more questions facing a team that’s coming off total domination should expect to have.
Now Doug Brocail really has to go to work. The question is, on who?
NO GAME TODAY