Rangers’ resurgence hard to predict, easy to appreciate

It’s fun to go to the ballpark again.

Oh, it’s always fun to take in a game at Globe Life Park in Arlington, where Chuck Morgan and crew do a masterful job of keeping fans entertained.

But for those who attend Texas Rangers games for the baseball, April wasn’t a fun month. The Rangers went 7-14 in April, and for those spoiled by back-to-back World Series appearances at the start of the decade, this was a throwback to the bad, old days in Arlington.

The old saying is that you can’t win a pennant in April, but you can sure lose one. The Rangers seemed on doing the latter.

Now, just more than a month later, look at the American League West standings. The Rangers are in second place, just 3.5 games behind the Astros – a team they swept in early May to begin this unlikely turnaround,

At 30-27, the Rangers are just a half-game out of the lead for the AL Wild Card.

No matter how you stack the numbers the Rangers are contenders.

There are three main reasons for this. The first is the Rangers are getting significant contributions from unlikely sources.

Remember, before the season began the Rangers lost their ace pitcher, Yu Darvish, for the year. Then another established starter, Derek Holland, went down in the home opener and hasn’t pitched since.

Yet somehow a staff with stocked with two old guys (Colby Lewis and Wandy Rodriguez)and two youngsters (Nick Martinez and just-up-from the minors Chi Chi Gonzalez) has been amazingly stable and effective. Throw in Yovani Gallardo, acquired in an off-season trade, and the Rangers will have some decisions to make when Holland, Matt Harrison and Martin Perez return from rehab later this season.

Which leads to the No. 2 reason for the Rangers’ revival: general manager Jon Daniels. He got a heap of blame when the Rangers went through their April struggles, but now it’s hard to deny the man knows what he’s doing.

In addition to Gallardo, Daniels’ two big acquisitions from a year ago are producing. It took a year, but both Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo are playing like the players Rangers fans thought they were getting in 2014. Both struggled with injuries in 2014, and Choo didn’t find his rhythm unitl May along with the rest of the team, but suddenly those look like good moves.

It looked like a great move when Daniels got the Angels to pay for most of Josh Hamilton’s salaray in his return to the Rangers. For a brief time that looked like an all-time great deal, until the oft-injured Hamilton came up with a bad hamstring. The final judgemnt on the Hamiltion moves, both his departure and his return, has yet to be decided, but at least the Rangers aren’t hamstrung (no pun intended) by that huge contract.

Daniels should also be given credit for a farm system that has plugged significant holes for the major league team. As it stands right now, both the starting third baseman, Joey Gallo, and starting second baseman, Hanser Alberto, are recent additions from the minors, as is the aforementioned Gonzalez.

The Rangers’ long-term prospects may not be good relying on so many fresh-faced youngsters, but at least there’s talent to plug in temporarily. And that’s even accounting for any young product, second baseman Rougned Odor, who was sent down for more seasoning.

And then there’s Delino DeShields, a Rule 5 claim from the Astros who has provided much needed speed and versatility to the lineup.

The third factor in the Rangers’ return to relevance is sort of a backhanded compliment. The plain fact is there aren’t a lot of great teams in the American League this season. The Rangers have more than held their own against the top teams and would-be contenders, including taking two out of three from the American League champion Royals over the weekend. They’ll get another shot when they host the AL Central-leading Twins this weekend in Arlington.

The Rangers are within striking distance of a post-season spot, and that changes the outlook completely from what seemed sure to be a rebuilding year in April. Instead of pondering what pieces the Rangers could ship off at the trade deadline, there’s growing speculation about adding a big-time arm to the rotation.

All of that will play out in due course. But for now, it’s just fun to see the Rangers relevant again. After being out of the mix last season and the start of this one, Rangers fans should have an even greater appreciation of the good times.

Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire

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