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What we learned the last three weeks

5/10/2010

The Rangers get a much-deserved day off today after playing 20 straight days. You can learn plenty about a club when it plays three straight weeks in various cities. So what did we learn about this team? Here are a few things:

* They went 13-7 in the 20-game stretch, which included winning 13 of the last 18. They also swept two series -- a three-game set on the road in Seattle and a four-game set at home against Kansas City. They lost two of three in Boston and in Oakland, but split with Detroit and took a three-game series from the White Sox.

* Vladimir Guerrero is a monster, as Darren O'Day referred to him in his blog entry Monday morning. He was 23-for-69 (.333) with five homers and 21 RBIs (he also had three stolen bases and was caught stealing twice) in the 19 games he played in that 20-game stretch.

* The Rangers sure enjoy having Ian Kinsler back in the lineup. Not only does he have the power of persuasion (manager Ron Washington talked about giving him a day off in Oakland and at home against Kansas City and Kinsler ended up playing all the games), but he has had a solid start to his season. Kinsler is 12-for-37 (.324) with six walks and two stolen bases. He has two RBIs, but is certainly getting on base and helping his team. The Rangers are 8-2 when he's in the lineup.

* Elvis Andrus is suited to the leadoff role. He was 19-for-67 (.284) with 15 walks. He gets on base (.415 on-base percentage) and makes things happen once he's there. Since becoming the leadoff hitter, Andrus is batting .288 with two doubles, seven RBIs, 16 walks and 12 stolen bases. He has 19 runs scored.

* Neftali Feliz has put his stamp on the closer's role. There were questions after his first attempt at back-to-back games, but answering those questions now. Since allowing two runs on three hits (but still getting a save) against the White Sox in late April, Feliz has pitched six scoreless innings and is 6-for-6 in save opportunities. He saved three games against the Royals, including back-to-back games Saturday and Sunday, needing just 25 pitches combined for those two saves. In the stretch of six scoreless innings, Feliz has allowed one hit, no walks and has six strikeouts.

* The bullpen as a whole has produced 10 consecutive scoreless innings after Thursday's marathon 13-12 game with the Royals.

* Scott Feldman is still looking for his 2009 form. He managed to get through just four innings, throwing 100 pitches. Rich Harden showed his stuff in Oakland, but is still searching for consistency.

* David Murphy is taking advantage of his playing time recently. He was 8-for-17 against the Royals.

* Justin Smoak's fielding is a work in progress, but be patient. There's little doubt he'll figure it out (and get plenty of help from Dave Anderson and Ron Washington).

* We also learned this team will battle. They easily could have lost that Thursday game, blowing an 8-0 lead. But they didn't, fighting to comeback after falling behind late. That set up the rest of the series. It shows character and it's something they can draw on as the temperature gets hotter and the pressure increases.

* This team can win a variety of ways. They can handle a slugfest, as Thursday's 13-12 win showed. They can play small ball and find a way to scratch out runs and win in one-run games. They have the pitching to hold opposing offenses down (eight of their 13 wins in this 20-game stretch included the opponent scoring three or fewer runs). They also take advantage of mistakes by the opposing team (the Seattle series showed that).

What else did we learn?

It should be an interesting rest of the month and into the summer. Texas takes on Oakland, who sits just one game back of them in the AL West, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (we'll be live in-game chatting from all three of those, by the way).