With so many injuries to the rotation and starting lineup, the Rangers were just supposed to survive April until reinforcements arrived. Instead, they’re thriving.
If the Rangers win Wednesday and sweep Oakland, they’ll grab not only first place in the division, but have the best record in the American League.
And they’re doing it with an everyday lineup that looks more like something that would take the field in Surprise, Arizona, not Arlington.
The Rangers are winning with reserves and role players, as well as a few youngsters who aren’t quite ready for the majors but are having success anyway.
Like righthander Nick Martinez, who started just his second game in the majors Tuesday night and kept the Rangers in the game for five innings.
Josh Wilson, not Adrian Beltre, doubled in the tying run. Then Wilson scored the winning run on a single by Michael Choice, a former A’s prospect who was traded to the Rangers in the offseason.
In fact, Tuesday’s 5-4 win, much like the Rangers’ 4-3 win over the A’s on Monday, was won with a lot of no-name players. It’s the reserves, many of whom are thrust into starting roles, that are carrying the Rangers right now.
The irony is that Oakland used to beat the Rangers with a bunch of so-called no-names a couple of years ago. When the Rangers, coming off back-to-back World Series appearances, were supposed to dominate the AL West, the A’s beat them with a bunch of guys most fans had never heard of.
Now it’s Oakland, after winning consecutive AL West titles, who has the "name" players while the Rangers are beating them with a collection of scrappers.
The biggest scrapper of all is Kevin Kouzmanoff, a veteran who joined the Rangers this season just in time to admirably fill Beltre’s spot at third.
While Beltre nurses a strained quad, Kouzmanoff has been hitting lights-out. He was named the AL Player of the Week for last week when he knocked in eight runs and hit four doubles.
Although Kouzmanoff is hitting .362 with a pair of homers, there’s no way he’s replacing Beltre when the Rangers’ leader is eligible to return from the DL on Friday.
But Kouzmanoff has earned the opportunity to get more at-bats while he remains hot, probably at the expense of DH Mitch Moreland who’s hitting .255.
Infielders Josh Wilson and Donnie Murphy have also had their moments while filling in for injured second baseman Jurickson Profar.
Robinson Chirinos was supposed to be the Rangers’ third catcher but has played like a first-stringer while Geovany Soto rehabs a knee injury.
The starting rotation has been led by another unlikely source: youngster Martin Perez who came into Wednesday’s start with a team-best 3-0 record.
The rotation has been hit as hard by the injury bug as the everyday lineup, but has held together while waiting for the wounded to return. Colby Lewis has already completely his comeback while Matt Harrison appears close to returning. Derek Holland could be back by summer.
Once those starters return along with Beltre, Soto and Profar, the Rangers will have a formidable lineup. But what they’ve got right now is doing the job quite well, thank you.