The Texas Rangers look to continue the majors' longest winning streak of 2017, as they enter Friday looking for their 10th straight victory.
The club's reemergence in the win column on a consistent basis has come at a perfect time. The Rangers appeared lost in April, finishing with an 11-14 record, and were dealt with a tough blow after losing Cole Hamels to an oblique injury. To make matters increasingly dire, they have yet to see veteran Adrian Beltre play this season as he recovers from a calf strain.
Without two savvy, important pieces to the roster, the Rangers have rebounded admirably as of late thanks to an improved bullpen led by Matt Bush, clutch hitting, and a weak schedule.
Here's why the Rangers are back over .500 and how the club can sustain its success moving forward:
In the first month of the season, it appeared the Rangers' rotation desperately lacked consistency and was in dire need of a spark. Texas starters combined to 4.05 walks per nine innings (fourth worst in the majors) followed by a 4.59 FIP, sixth highest in the league among qualified starters.
Since then, though, the group seems to have reformed its approach on the mound causing much better results. Over the past 14 days (13 games), the Rangers' rotation leads baseball in innings pitched (84.1), has posted the sixth-best WHIP (1.17), and has stranded opposing baserunners at a league-leading pace of 86.1 percent.
There could be some regression on the horizon, however, so the Rangers should tread carefully. A.J. Griffin and Andrew Cashner have posted quality ERAs (3.15 and 2.45, respectively), but a spiked FIP of 5.10 (Griffin) and 4.82 (Cashner) could spell trouble down the road. One pleasant surprise, though, has been Martin Perez, who owns a 2.79 ERA and a 16-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his past three starts.
Sam Dyson, make way for Matt Bush
Sam Dyson's previous injury turned out to be a blessing for the Rangers. It paved way for Bush to be named closer, though he probably would've taken over at some point regardless.
Dyson's implosion on the hill (three blown saves and 11 earned runs in his first four appearances) meant the Rangers had a decision to make. Bush, the far better option, has stabilized the bullpen immensely.
He's converted four saves throughout the Rangers' win streak, while limiting opposing hitters to a .162/.220/.189 line. Bush needs help around him if the Rangers expect to continue their surge. Dyson, who has struck out only two batters this season, has been relegated to a setup role, but even that might not benefit the team moving forward.
A win is a win and nine straight is nothing to scoff at, but it should be noted who the Rangers have beaten throughout their streak, and, conversely, how much they struggled within their division (combined 1-8 record against Houston and Seattle).
Their run of success has come against the San Diego Padres, Oakland Athletics, and Philadelphia Phillies (combined winning percentages of .385). Even better for the Rangers, all these victories came in the safety confines of their own ballpark.
Balanced offensive approach
Despite losing Carlos Gomez to injury, and being without the services of Beltre, the Rangers are finally starting to get production from other key members of their lineup.
Jonathan Lucroy (.372/.429/.535), Elvis Andrus (.299/.365/.448), and Nomar Mazara (.333/.426/.569) are leading the pack in the month of May. Mazara, in particular, has been the Rangers' most consistent hitter this season in general. After a terrific rookie season, he's continued where he's left off. Entering Friday, he's managed a very respectable .265/.335/.449 on the season, including a team-leading 29 RBIs.
Mike Napoli, who returned to the Rangers in the offseason, has five home runs so far this month and despite putting up alarming strikeout totals, Joey Gallo has matched Napoli with five dingers (12 on the season) of his own in May.
(Photo courtesy: Action Images)
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