- Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPNDallas.com
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IRVING, Texas -- It's time for the malaise that has infected the Texas Rangers for the last seven weeks and 38 games to end.
Injuries have ravaged the rotation. The vaunted offense has left 83 runners on base and hit only .266 with runners in scoring position the past 10 games. The defense, for the most part, has been abject.
And now the Rangers' lead in the AL West -- nine games in April -- has shrunk to three.
For the first time this season, the Rangers face some adversity.
Let's see how they respond.
Based on recent history, the Rangers will concentrate harder, play better and start consistently performing to the standard of excellence they've established the past two seasons. This is certainly no time for a pity party. And with Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, Adrian Beltre, Colby Lewis and Joe Nathan taking leadership roles, they aren't likely to throw one.
Still, every team is different. Just because the Rangers didn't feel sorry for themselves the past two seasons doesn't mean they won't give in mentally right now, especially with the Los Angeles Angels surging. Every team must prove its mettle each season.
There's no better time for the Rangers to find their early-season rhythm than right now. Sixteen of their next 19 games are at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Houston Astros, Colorado Rockies, Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics. The Rangers' only road trip the rest of this month is a three-day escape to San Diego, and the Padres are tied with the Chicago Cubs for the fewest wins in baseball.
Let's keep it real. Most of those clubs stink. Only Arizona is .500. The Rangers should win each of those series.
Then again, the Seattle Mariners and the A's stink and that hasn't stopped them from kicking the Rangers' butts with regularity this season.
When the Rangers play their A-game, they are baseball's best team. They know it. We know it. The rest of the American League knows it. It's the reason the Rangers won their first six series of the season; they are 5-8-1 in their past 14 series.
They've won consecutive games just three times since May 1 and have won more than two in a row only three times. The Rangers followed a four-game winning streak last month by losing four in a row and eight of 12.
Understand, when the Rangers don't play their best baseball, they're just another pretty good team.
The problem, of course, is the Rangers haven't played their best baseball since April, when they were 17-6 and some folks started comparing them to the 1998 Yankees, who won 114 games.
These Rangers are too talented to have as many brain cramps as they do on a regular basis. They give away games like few other good teams.
Kinsler and Elvis Andrus have combined on several spectacular double plays this season, and Beltre has more than a handful of fabulous plays at third base. Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton routinely make diving and sliding catches.
The problem, however, is this group doesn't always make the routine play. They bobble grounders and take circuitous routes on fly balls and popups, giving opponents extra outs. You can do that only so many times in the AL with its deep lineups before the errors lead to losses.
Texas is 18-20 since May 1.
When pitching has been good, the bats haven't delivered. When the offense has scored runs, the pitching has been spotty.
In a 162-game season, there will be times when an opposing pitcher has his good stuff and shuts down the offense. Or the opposing lineup hits some balls hard that find holes.
Hey, as players like to say, the other guys get paid too. We can live with that.
Only the most fanatical of fans believed this club was going to win 100 games this season. Somewhere between 94, 95, or 96 was more realistic, when the season began.
That's only going to happen if the Rangers stop this display of inconsistent, uninspired baseball we've seen since April ended.
They're so much better than that.
But it's up to each individual player to do something about it. They must hold each other accountable and do a better job of doing what the game asks them to do, as Ron Washington would say.
Finally facing adversity, it's time for the Rangers to show what they're made of.