On May 3, the Texas Rangers were 8-16 and in serious jeopardy of having the season get away from them. Well, they’ve since gone14-7 and have won seven of eight – including six straight – to get to 22-23.
Oddly enough, a lot of this winning has come away from Arlington. the Rangers are 6-13 at home but 16-10 on the road.
“For whatever reason, we’ve played really well on the road,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “We went into Houston, swept them. We played Tampa tough, split there. Like you said, Boston, New York. I think even when we were scuffling early, there was a certain competitiveness, a fight. If you watch our games, our guys are in every game. We were losing some early. We were struggling a little bit in the bullpen. That’s probably been the biggest single area for turnaround. Obviously our lineup’s putting up some big runs as well.”
The Rangers have scored 40 runs in their last four games.
“But I guess my point,” Daniels said, “is even early on when we were struggling, you could see with this club there was a confidence, kind of an expectation that they believed – we believe – that we’re better than I think what a lot of other people think about us, and especially with the players on the field having that confidence. And now here in the last 10 days you start to see that execution on the field.”
As for the bullpen, the Rangers got a clutch outing from Alex Claudio in Monday’s 10-8 win over Cleveland. Starter Phil Klein allowed seven runs – six earned – in two innings before Claudio came on in relief and allowed just one run in 3.1 innings.
“That was a big one yesterday,” Daniels said. “We had a late night game – a national televised game – in New York Sunday night, don’t get into Cleveland until 3 or 4 in the morning. (It’s an) early game for Memorial Day, and . . . the starter only goes two innings.”
And then along came Claudio – a “kitchen sink” pitcher who throws a lot of strikes and induces a lot of ground balls.
“For him to go almost four innings put us in a position to win the game – I thought Jeff Banister, our manager, did a really good job of getting a lot out of the pen yesterday,” Daniels said.
Banister is in his first year with the Rangers. He replaced Ron Washington, who parted ways with Texas last September. Daniels said Banister and Washington are two “very different guys” coaching at “two very different times” for the franchise, but explained that they both connect well with players.
“They do it in different ways,” Daniels said. “Banister has a big-time presence. Really, really good communicator with players. Some guys (with) big names, big backgrounds that don’t necessarily connect with everyone, he’s found a way to get them to buy into the team concept. Very intelligent, very prepared and competitive. He and our staff do a ton of work before every series and boil it down and communicate that information in a way that the players can hang on to and take into the games. I think he’s smart. He’s a smart baseball guy. He’s experienced. He’s got a development background. He managed in the minor leagues (and was a) big league coach. He’s paid his dues along the way (and) picked up a lot of different things. He’s pretty talented.”
So, good bullpen, good manager, and, oh yeah, good Prince Fielder. The 31-year-old has been mashing this season. He leads the American League with a .365 average and leads Texas in home runs (nine), RBIs (35), OBP (.417) and hits (66).
He’s completely changed the dynamic of the Rangers’ lineup.
“Yeah, no doubt,” Daniels said. “Any really big-time team has a middle-of-the-order presence, (a) run producer that’s both tough to get out and tough to keep in the ball park. Prince has stepped up for us in that regard here in the last couple months.”
Daniels said that Fielder, who missed most of last season due to neck surgery, was really engaged this past winter. He’s taken several young players under his wing, and he always hustles out of the box. That’s a lot to ask from your best hitter, especially one who’s, well, a little thicker.
“(He really) sets the tone for the club,” Daniels said. “So yeah, the numbers are there – he’s swinging the bat great – but he’s been better potentially than even we could have expected from a leadership standpoint.”