Several Rangers hold keys to second half
The Texas Rangers are hoping the third time in the charm this season.
Texas begins the second half of the season Friday at Seattle looking for their third American League West title and their third American League title.
If that happens, the Rangers will hope the season ends with their first World Series title.
And in keeping with the threes, here's a look a three players who need to keep up their strong first halves for the Rangers, three who need to pick up the pace and three who may struggle to live up to their lofty first-half standards.
KEEP IN GOING
3B Adrian Beltre – As good as Josh Hamilton has been in the first half of the season, the Rangers have gotten consistent play from Beltre from Day 1. Beltre's hit at least .310 in each month and after getting off to a slow run production start in April because Hamilton took away so many RBI opportunities, Beltre drove in 21 in May and 18 in June. A consistent Beltre batting fourth also prevents teams from trying to pitch around Hamilton in the No. 3 spot. He needs to be able to keep that going, especially the way the offense has struggled to produce consistently in July.
LF Josh Hamilton – It will be hard for Hamilton to be able to repeat his April and May numbers as he was the AL player of the month both of those months. The Rangers don't need that kind of production from Hamilton in the second half, but it would be nice. Hamilton hit just .223 in June but is still one of the American League MVP frontrunners as he has 27 home runs and 75 RBIs. Production has never been an issue for Hamilton. Health has. If he can stay as healthy in the second half as he did in the first (played in 79 of 86 games), the production will come. A healthy Hamilton makes for a healthy Texas offense.
LHP Matt Harrison – Many though the breakout lefty starter for the Rangers would be Derek Holland, but it's Harrison who's established himself as the ace of the staff while earning an All-Star trip along the way. Harrison is on pace to win 20 games and become the best lefty the Rangers have had in the rotation since Kenny Rogers. There's no reason to think he can't continue to build off his first half. The only game has lost since May was his last start. All he did in that one was pitch a complete game and allow two earned runs. Harrison's ERA has dropped to 3.10 and he's on pace to pitch around 200 innings, just what you'd expect from your ace.
NEED TO GET GOING
C Mike Napoli – While Napoli was an All-Star in the first half, that had more to do with the Rangers drawing more than 1.8 million fans at the ballpark than the numbers Napoli put up. The biggest question about Napoli is what kind of hitter he really is. He's played for Texas for 1 ½ years and has had ½ of a good season, that coming after last year's All-Star break. Not only would a good second half increase Napoli's value as he approaches free agency, it would also give the Rangers a boost as they've gotten little offensive production from either Napoli or Yorvit Torrealba. Napoli already has more strikeouts this season (86) than he had all of last year (85). His power numbers (12 homers, 30 RBI) are more on par from his time with the Angels than his season with the Rangers. The bad news is Napoli starts the second half with no momentum. Since June 1, he's hitting just .213 with five RBIs.
LHP Derek Holland – The good news is Holland is finally healthy and is coming off a six-inning start in his return from a disabled list stint because of a virus that led to left shoulder fatigue. The problem is the Rangers still don't know what Holland they're going to get from start to start. He's yet to put together the kind of run he ended last season with. He finished 2011 by winning 10 of his final 11 decisions and then had the breakout start in the World Series. But Holland, who signed a new deal in the offseason, has been up-and-down this season. He won his first two decisions but hasn't won consecutive starts since April and has an ERA of 5.05. He'll have a chance to start the second half on a strong note for Texas as he'll start against Seattle Friday night.
1B/DH Michael Young – He may be the safest best of the three just because of his track record. Young's never had a season like this in his big-league career. He's on pace to have his lowest home run and RBI totals since 2002, which is not what the Rangers need from a player who spent most of the season batting fifth in the lineup. But at least Young will start the second half with some momentum. He had his first four-hit game of the season Sunday night. He's also batting sixth now, having lost the No. 5 spot to Nelson Cruz. Young's not going to come anywhere close to his 106-RBI season from last year, but he shouldn't be a .270 hitter either. That's not the Michael Young Texas fans have grown accustomed to seeing over the last decade.
CAN THEY KEEP IT UP?
LHP Robbie Ross – If it weren't for Mike Trout and Yu Darvish, Ross would be a legitimate contender for rookie of the year. His story is better than either as he hadn't pitched above Double A before this season. But he's become as valuable as Joe Nathan and Mike Adams in the bullpen and he's been dominant in doing so. He'll start the second half with a 0.95 ERA and a scoreless inning streak of 23, the second longest active streak in baseball. He's also been a relief stopper, as only 4 of 29 inherited runners have scored against him. It will be hard to Ross to keep those numbers going, not because he doesn't have the talent, but just because he's been so good.
CF Craig Gentry – Gentry's come so far this year that instead of being a platoon outfielder who only started against left-handers, he started the final two games before the break against right-handers. Gentry hit .294 against right-handed pitchers. He's also hit lefties at a .360 clip and will come out of the break with a .329 average. Gentry's never hit better than .271 in his limited time with the Rangers before this season. He was a .300 hitter in each of his last three seasons in the minors so it will be interesting to see if that carries over for a full season with Texas.
RHP Yu Darvish – An All-Star in his first season with the Rangers, there's no doubt Darvish has the ability to be a 20-game winner and finish the season as one of the top strikeout pitchers in the AL. The only question for Darvish in the second half will be how will he hold up pitching every fifth day for a full season, especially in the heat in Arlington? If Darvish can master that transition as quickly as he's mastered everything else this year, then there's really no reason to worry about how he'll fare down the stretch.