Since the old Washington Senators franchise moved to Arlington, Texas, in 1972, to become the Rangers, it's been consistently known for only two things: hitting and collapsing in the humid north Texas heat.
Though the Rangers have fielded some talented teams over the years and are beloved, more or less, in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, the team is one of only three major league squads never to play in a World Series (the Seattle Mariners and the Washington Nationals are the Rangers' dubious peers). Worse, the franchise has never won a playoff series in its 48-year history, and that's a dishonor they share with no one.
This year looked different. While second-baseman Ian Kinsler and 3B Michael Young have been drilling the ball as per usual, the Rangers have also gotten some quality pitching from Kevin Millwood (7-5, 2.62 ERA), Scott Feldman (5-2, 4.02), Vicente Padilla (5-3, 4.79), Brandon McCarthy (5-2, 4.92), and Matt Harrison (4-4, 5.43). More to the point, the team's been playing like, well, a team -- not a backing band for the rock-star likes of former Rangers Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira.
In fact, things felt different until this weekend just passed, when they began to feel awfully the same -- the first-place Rangers were swept by the San Francisco Giants. Now, getting whiffed by the G-Men's not as degrading as it would have been last year -- the Giants are a respectable 37-31 and in second place in the National League West -- but you could hear a collective "Uh-oh" emanating from the DFW area Monday morning.
It's the fourth week of June, and though Texas (37-31) is, to this point, arguably the biggest surprise of the '09 season, the team and its fans are feeling the hot breath of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Where the Rangers are concerned, it's never too late in June for a swoon.
That can't be anything but good news for the snakebit Arizona Snakes (29-41), who host the Rangers in a three-game set tonight through Thursday at Chase Field. Speaking of getting whiffed, the Diamondbacks were whacked by the Mariners over the weekend, losing the trifecta while handing over two games they could've, and should've, won. The D-Backs' entire season has been a swoon, but the Rangers are the all-time champs of the collapse, so maybe Arizona finally got something right: timing.
Here are the probable pitching match-ups for the series:
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Tonight: Max Scherzer (4-4, 3.58) for the D-Backs vs. Matt Harrison, 6:40 p.m.
Wednesday: Arizona ace Dan Haren (6-4, 2.23) vs. Vicente Padilla, 6:40 p.m.
Thursday: The D-Backs' Jon Garland (4-7, 4.99) vs. Scott Feldman, 6:40 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Arizona. Radio: KTAR-AM 620. More info: www.dbacks.com.