cheesin'It was just a week-and-a-half ago when we were talking about the Oakland Athletics looking like the team who was going to run away and hide with the American League West title. After games were completed on July 29, Oakland had a six-game lead over the Texas Rangers in the division race. Fast forward to August 8, and there is a tie atop the division. The Rangers, after getting swept by the Cleveland Indians on the shores of Lake Erie, have won nine of their last 10 ballgames. Now they’re the team who looks poised to make serious noise as we come down the stretch of this season. The Rangers swept the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last week at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, then they beat the Arizona Diamondbacks in a make-up game 7-1. After that, they went up to the bay area and took two out of three from the A’s, then came down the California coastline to sweep the Angels again. For icing on the cake, Rangers fans will love to hear this stat. Outfielder Josh Hamilton, the former Ranger who the Angels signed to a five-year, $125 million dollar contract, had zero hits in 12 at-bats with five strikeouts in the second of the Rangers’ sweeps. The Rangers are enjoying a much-deserved day off before they begin a four-game set with the Houston Astros on the road on Friday. Let’s be honest with ourselves. The Rangers have been through a lot this season, mostly with injuries. The team is has seen health start to improve, and the play on the field has improved as well. When all seemed well, the hammer from the Biogenesis investigation dropped from Major League Baseball (MLB) league offices. One of those players who felt the wrath was outfielder Nelson Cruz, who was hit with a 50-game suspension for his link to the Miami-area clinic. This had the look of a devastating blow to the team, who has struggled at times offensively even with Cruz in the line-up. Cruz was leading the team in homeruns with 27 and in runs batted in (RBIs) with 76. Along with third baseman Adrian Beltre, he was the main source of power from the right-hand side of the plate. Cruz will be eligible to play in the postseason if the Rangers are able to make it. In the meantime, the team continues to look for some help in the line-up. That help could come in the form of Chicago White Sox outfielder Alex Rios. The Rangers are reportedly trying to claim him off of waivers. That could definitely help, but the team may be fine if their able to get contributions from the players who are there. First baseman/right-fielder Mitch Moreland and outfielders Craig Gentry and David Murphy are among the people who will be asked to step their play up in Cruz’s absence. Since Monday, when the suspension of Cruz was announced, the offense has kept some potency, scoring 5, 8, and 10 in the three games of the Angels. If they can get that from the offense on a consistent basis, Texas can be scary. Their pitching is some of the best in the majors. A little bit of offense would go a long way with those arms. As it stands right now, things are looking as good as they can for the Rangers. Hopefully, the hot streak continues. The schedule for the rest of August looks really favorable, so this is a good time for the team to build on recent success. Only time will tell.

By Charles Taylor

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