The bad thing about this ridiculous run the Angels are on (eight straight, 12 of 13, 22 of 28, 29 of 38) is that the Rangers, despite winning five of six and 13 of 20, have fallen to 4.5 games back in the division, 3.5 games behind Boston in the Wild Card chase.
It's the furthest out of first place Texas has been all season.
The good thing? An organization positioned to be stronger in 2010 and beyond is not only breaking in key young players like Elvis Andrus, Derek Holland, Tommy Hunter, Taylor Teagarden, and Doug Mathis, and maybe Neftali Feliz and Justin Smoak and Julio Borbon and a rejuvenated Chris Davis, but breaking them in not as the 2007 Devil Rays (66-96) but as a team that has yet to play a game that felt like it didn't really matter.
It's a tricky time if you're Jon Daniels, with payroll constraints and a seller's market and, now, a standings issue, as the trade deadline arrives once more through the rotation.
Last night was a difficult loss, especially the way the offense was once again victimized by a Baseball 101 game plan that a very good young pitcher was able to execute (toolsy Luke Hochevar punched out 13 Rangers and walked none in seven innings, quite the departure from his 6.1/2.5 rate this season, and lifetime 5.3/3.0). But Holland will benefit long-term more from the fact that the game was one that Texas needed than he would have if the club had been 12.5 games out, just as Hunter's win on Tuesday meant more because it came against Josh Beckett and kept the Rangers within three games of the Angels as opposed to the mere novelty of coinciding with Beckett taking the ball in the home half of each inning.
And I'll say it again: the fact that Texas is where it is in the standings, despite dramatic dropoffs from several key players and an epidemic offensive haplessness most nights, is a lot more encouraging than if the club were 4.5 games out with half the roster playing at an absolute peak, if not completely out of their minds.
I'm not writing 2009 off yet, in spite of the Angels' persistent unconsciousness. But even if Los Angeles and Boston and New York don't allow Texas to get any closer to the two playoff spots at which the club has a shot, it's a very good thing for this franchise's immediate future that every game this season, so far, has mattered.
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(c) Jamey Newberg
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