Commentary

Texas Rangers focused on winning

There should be no doubt -- even on the East Coast -- about who's AL's best

Updated: April 26, 2012, 2:33 AM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- We can now dispel all the offseason discussion and spring training chatter about the Texas Rangers having a World Series hangover as poppycock.

Whether they're playing the American League's best teams -- the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees -- or those considered among the worst -- the Seattle Mariners and Minnesota Twins -- all the Rangers do is win.

Somewhere D.J. Khaled is smiling.

[+] EnlargeIan Kinsler
Jim Cowsert/US PresswireThe Rangers own the AL's best record at 15-4, and their 5½-game lead in the AL West is the largest division lead in the big leagues.

You know things are going well when the Rangers methodically beat the mighty Yankees in a game in which they used five relievers because a doubleheader last weekend in Detroit forced the Rangers to use a pair of starters on the same day.

Long reliever Scott Feldman pitched into the fourth inning and Robbie Ross, Neftali Feliz -- who's skipping his next start -- Mike Adams and Joe Nathan retired 17 of the 19 batters they faced.

Texas 7, New York 3.

The Rangers have now won a franchise-record six consecutive series to start the season after winning the last two games of their three-game series against New York.

In doing so, there should be no doubt -- even on the East Coast -- about who is the AL's best team.

It's not debatable.

Feel free to ask the question again at the end of May. Right now, the Rangers have let every other AL team know the road to the World Series is going through Arlington.

Again.

They own the AL's best record at 15-4, and their 5.5 game lead in the AL West is the largest division lead in the big leagues. The Los Angeles Angels trail the Rangers by 8.5 games.

The Rangers can't win the division in April, but the Angels, who spent more than $300 million in the offseason to sign C.J. Wilson and Albert Pujols, are doing the best they can to lose the division in the season's first month.

The Rangers lead the AL in runs scored (107), run differential (55) and fewest runs allowed (52).

It can't really be this easy, right?

The disappointment of being one strike away -- twice -- from winning the World Series last season was supposed to have much more of a negative effect on the Rangers.

"We believe in one another and we believe in the way we play baseball," manager Ron Washington said. "Whatever happens, we move forward. We just do the things the game asks us to do.

"Do that, and you're going to have fun. We've been having a lot of fun."

Winning is fun, especially for a franchise that essentially spent its first 38 seasons in Dallas-Fort Worth being irrelevant.

No more.

The Rangers beat the big, bad Yankees the past two days with superior pitching.

Imagine that.

The Rangers shut out the Yankees, ending their four-game winning streak, Tuesday and allowed just four runs in the last 22 innings of the series.

The strength of this team, as it was last season, is that it can win games a myriad of ways.

Phil Hughes, who was 0-2 with an 11.42 ERA in the 2010 ALCS against Texas, failed to survive the third inning. And to think, he was 11-2 in his past 16 starts following a Yankees' loss.

Adrian Beltre gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead on a 441-foot blast onto Greene's Hill in center field in the second inning, and in the third inning, he delivered a two-out RBI single to center.

Michael Young followed with two-out RBI double, pushing the Rangers' lead to 4-0.

Homers by Mike Napoli and Mitch Moreland combined with the bullpen's efforts ended any thoughts the Yankees had of a comeback.

Obviously the Rangers aren't going to play this well all season, but what they're showing us is that when they pitch, hit and play defense to their standard, beating them becomes quite difficult.

"We love to win and we love to compete," Ian Kinsler said. "Everyone on this team is like that.

"You can go 0-4 and still be a winning player. We have a lot of guys who understand that. We're on a different level. It's an expectation. We expect to win."

So there's no need to dwell on the past; the Rangers are too focused on winning today.

And every other day.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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