Kris Benson is ready for activation. Derek Holland is on the rotation watch. But the Rangers' starting five isn't making any room for either of them, and that's just fine.
The last two times through the rotation, Texas starters have gone 6-1, 3.34. In those 10 starts, they're limiting the opposition to a fairly punchless .251/.299/.357 slash line (the rough equivalent of facing Ramon Hernandez every time up). They're only striking out a batter every other inning, but still maintain a 2.4 K/BB by virtue of a dazzling rate of 1.89 walks per nine innings. They're throwing nearly twice as many strikes as balls, and inducing 1.3 as many groundouts as flyouts.
The average Rangers start over these last 10 games: 6.1 innings, six hits, two earned runs, one walk, and three strikeouts. And 94 pitches (15 per inning), 59 for strikes.
Mariners skipper Don Wakamatsu, who was on the Texas coaching staff when Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla arrived in 2006, said after Millwood's effort last night: "I think at the start of that game, Millwood was probably as good as anyone I've seen this year, as far as command. He was literally unhittable. He topped out at 93 and kept our hitters off-balance. . . . He really had both sides of plate working. That's probably as good as I've seen him since I've known him over a six-year period."
He could have said the exact same thing about Padilla today.
How much of the credit should go to Millwood, Padilla, Brandon McCarthy, Matt Harrison, and Scott Feldman for the run they're on now, and how much should go to Mike Maddux, one of the best off-season acquisitions this franchise has made in years, and how much should go to Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan and Andy Hawkins and former minor league pitching instructor Rick Adair (who watched from the opposing dugout with Wakamatsu these last two days) and any number of other executives and instructors driven to change this franchise's pitching fortunes is tough to say, and not all that important to sort out.
The fact is that Texas has found a solid groove right now, largely due to a surge in rotation consistency, and that's a very cool thing to be able to write.
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(c) Jamey Newberg
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