- Mark Saxon, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Angels are tired of talking about Yu Darvish already and they haven't even faced him yet.
Torii Hunter told the Orange County Register he's not exactly quaking in his cleats at the thought of facing the Texas Rangers' right-hander for the first time Friday night.
"I'll tell you, I've faced Roger (Clemens), Pedro (Martinez), Kevin Brown when he was nasty. Do you want me to go on?" Hunter asked. "I'm pretty sure he's not Roger. He's not Pedro."
Maybe Hunter's reaction was because he's been asked to talk about Darvish since spring training. Maybe it's because, in the major leagues, you have to prove you're good over two or three years, not two or three months.
Or, maybe, it's because the Angels aren't as willing as the rest of the baseball-watching world to bow before this Rangers juggernaut just yet. The first five weeks couldn't have gone more according to Texas' plan and less according to the Angels', but this weekend -- three games at the Ballpark in Arlington, starting with Darvish against ex-Ranger C.J. Wilson -- could offer a cure for most of what has ailed the Angels.
It's a chance to convince everyone that the vibrant rivalry we thought we'd see, we still might see.
Rangers manager Ron Washington told reporters this week the Angels are a "very good team."
"They just haven't put it together," Washington said. "They'll get it together."
The Angels are actually riding a bit more momentum than Texas entering this series, having won seven of their last 10 games and showing signs of waking up from their offensive slumber. Since Jered Weaver's no-hitter, they're starting to bask in some pretty good vibes, just emerging from the month-long haze of answering Albert Pujols questions.
They'll also be better rested, with the Angels enjoying an open date in Texas Thursday while the Rangers play a nighttime doubleheader in Baltimore before flying into the wee hours of Friday morning to get home for the division showdown.
But the chasm between the two teams' performances since Opening Day might be even bigger than the seven games that separated them in the standings going into Thursday night.The Angels haven't exactly faced a murderer's row of opponents, having just completed their ninth game against the woeful Minnesota Twins, for example.
The Rangers lead the American League in runs, batting average and OPS. The Angels have been shut out seven times, most in the majors, and are in the bottom four in two of those three categories (they're seventh in batting average).
Both teams' No. 3 hitters entered the season shrouded in some mystery, the Angels' because he just went through free agency, the Rangers' because he's approaching it. The Rangers' guy, Josh Hamilton, is leading the league in all three Triple Crown categories. The Angels', Pujols, is near the bottom in everything.
Texas has a better team ERA so far (3.25 to 3.57) and has made only 11 errors to the Angels' 18. So, other than the fact the Rangers have dominated every conceivable category, the teams look pretty evenly matched.
If the Angels are on the verge of taking off, this weekend would be a convenient time to launch. The Rangers are expecting sellouts in all three games. The Angels would love nothing more than to send them all home wondering, at long last, who the best team in the West really is.
Until now, it really hasn't been a question.
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