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Monday, August 9, 2010
What did we learn on this last road trip?

By Richard Durrett

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Rangers finished up a nine-game trip through the AL West on Sunday and went 4-5. They started the trip 8.5 games up on Oakland and 9 up on the Angels. They finished it 7.5 games up on Oakland and 9 up on the Angels. It's a trip that could have been better, but could have been worse. Overall, I think the club will take it considering they lost just one game off their lead.

Here are some things we learned about the club on this road trip, one that started less than 24 hours before the non-waiver trade deadline:

* Texas added two new major leaguers while on the road as corner infielder Jorge Cantu and second baseman Cristian Guzman joined the team in Anaheim.

Guzman is still trying to find some consistency at the plate, but has played the majority of games at second base since his arrival in place of Ian Kinsler, who is still on the disabled list. Kinsler is scheduled to get an MRI on Monday that should give the team a better idea of when he can start full baseball activities.

Cantu has given the Rangers a right-handed bat that plays against left-handed starters (though he’s also played against a righty if the Rangers see a steady diet of them). Cantu even filled in for Michael Young one game on this trip while Young was the DH to get some rest. Cantu is hitting 5-for-16 (.314) as a Ranger so far.

*Outfielder David Murphy is hitting so well that he’s getting more playing time these days. That’s coming at the expense of Julio Borbon. We’ll see how that plays out down the stretch. Murphy was 11-for-32 (.344) on the trip with two big homers in Seattle.

*Left-handed reliever Matt Harrison showed in Seattle that he can come in and get key left-handed hitters out in a tight situation, giving Washington an important second lefty in the bullpen when workhorse Darren Oliver isn’t available. Harrison and Scott Feldman can also pitch multiple innings when a starter struggles, as Feldman showed on Saturday in Oakland.

*Taylor Teagarden has returned to the majors with some confidence. He hit homers in consecutive games, keying a win on Friday with a two-run shot that gave Cliff Lee the lead. He’s also impressed his manager with his defense and ability to call games.

*We saw the good and bad of Rich Harden. He was great against the Angels, shutting them down to help the Rangers claim their only win in Anaheim. But in Oakland, a place where he’s had success, Harden’s fastball was all over the place. He walked five, gave up three runs and lasted just 2 1/3 innings. It now leaves questions as to whether he should make his next start or if the Rangers need to make a change again.

* Cliff Lee is really good. Do I need to say any more? (Note to Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan: Do everything you can to get him re-signed).

*The offense as a whole still isn’t hitting consistently. They batted .234 on this road trip and Michael Young, usually very reliable, is going through a bit of a funk. He hit 4-for-38 (.105) in the last nine games away from Arlington. Several Ranger players talked about the need to make adjustments and come up with the big hit. They did have spurts where they did that – they scored 10 two-out runs in an 11-6 win in Seattle and came up with key swings late on Friday in Oakland.

It will be interesting to see how the club does against Boston, New York and Tampa Bay. For more on that and this trip, check out my column here.