Rangers making most of schedule
Having rolled with a few punches, the Rangers just keep rolling.
Despite injuries and maladies, the Rangers have won six in a row, and nine of their last 10. They swept their last two series over the Padres and Astros.
As they begin a 10-game homestand Friday, they hold the best record in baseball at 43-27.
And yet things could be better.
The Rangers may not ever play as well as they did at the start of the season, when they were a white-hot 12-2. They will never be that healthy, rested and mentally sharp.
But as the injuries have crept up, the schedule has softened, and the Rangers have taken full advantage.
The sweep of the Astros included a win by a pitcher, Justin Grimm, making his first major league start. It didn't include the gifted Josh Hamilton, who was downed by an intestinal virus.
Hamilton is one of a handful of Rangers who have been slowed, to varying degrees, but a gut virus. It's believed weakness from a stomach malady is what led to lefthander Derek Holland's shoulder fatigue that currently has him on the disabled list.
The Rangers lost another position player, first baseman Mitch Moreland, to a hamstring injury during the series in San Diego.
Two other starters, Neftali Feliz and Alexi Ogando, are also on the DL, putting a pinch on a Rangers rotation that wasn't that deep to begin with. In fact, Ogando started the year in the bullpen but was called on to take Holland's spot.
The Rangers have survived the hits to the rotation because Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison have been rock-solid, and the bullpen has consistently come through.
Now here comes Roy Oswalt, a May 29 signee, who, if healthy, can bring more stability and strength to the rotation. At 34 no one is expecting Oswalt to be what he was in his prime, but if he can provide innings and consistency, the bullpen should be able to take care of the rest.
Oswalt will get his first Rangers start on Friday, the first of three against Colorado. The Rockies are fourth in the NL West, just ahead of the recently vanquished Padres.
Both the Rockies and Padres have worse records than the Astros, who are fifth in the NL Central.
Needless to say, interleague play has been good for the Rangers. They are 12-3 against the NL and will be returning to American League rules this weekend.
The Rangers have 13 of their next 16 games at home prior to the All-Star break. None of the home opponents – the Rockies, Tigers, A's and Twins – is above .500 at this point.
The schedule gives the Rangers a chance to have a full head of steam heading into the All-Star Break. It also gives them a chance to put as much as distance as possible between themselves and the charging Angels, whose rapid revival increases the possibility of an AL West showdown in the second half.
Until that race materializes, all the Rangers need to do is what they've been doing the last 10 games: beat the teams they're supposed to beat, and not let injuries break their focus.
Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire