The post title will probably elicit some scattered objections from the "Los Angeles is better on a true-talent basis" crowd, but the fact of the matter is that the Rangers are, at this moment, the best team record-wise in the American League, with a 2.5-game cushion over the second-place Mariners and a mildly stunning 4.5-game lead over the last-place Angels. The next couple of weeks aren't very likely to yield the same .800-caliber baseball we've seen thus far, but it's evident that the Rangers came into this season ready to go, and that the Angels -- who are currently on pace to finish 76 games behind Texas -- already have some serious catching up to do:
● Yu Darvish struggled this past weekend. So, too, did Neftali Feliz, albeit in a slightly more expected manner -- after retiring the first 10 batters that he faced on Sunday, the Twins adjusted, and with Feliz being neither as sharp nor quite as adaptable nor as efficient as he was in his season debut, you ended up with a rather lackluster five-inning, three-run end result. That, in itself, isn't concerning, given what we knew about the rotation learning curve and the logical expectation that Feliz would suffer some bumps and bruises along the way. The debut was brilliant, and we'll see him do something along those same lines again in the near future, but we're also going to get plenty of mediocrity, and I'm good with that.
What might be a little concerning, though, is the effect on the bullpen with Darvish and Feliz being iffy propositions duration-wise on back-to-back days, and to that end, the Rangers are discussing a move that would slide Matt Harrison back into the No. 4 spot and between Darvish and Feliz. I imagine there's going to be at least a little thought along the lines of "don't mess with what's working," but with Darvish still trying to get his feet underneath him stateside and Feliz being the highest-beta arm in the rotation, your chances of bullpen obliteration increase with the pair stacked back-to-back, and the Rangers are already working with a relatively thin bullpen margin as it is.
● It was during the 10th game of the 2011 season when third-base coach Dave Anderson was caught up in a swirling torrent of controversy after his decision to send Josh Hamilton plateward on a foul pop-up in Detroit, which culminated in Hamilton being tagged out, fracturing his arm on an ill-advised head-first slide, and then calling out Anderson in a fit of frustration. Hamilton, of course, took quite a bit of heat for his part in triggering the brouhaha that ensued, but the incident concurrently functioned as a prime opportunity for the message-board crowd to tee off on Anderson, the poorness of the decision to send Hamilton, and the quality (or lack thereof) of his decision-making. Those weren't fun times.
So, during the 10th game of the 2012 season, Anderson green-lights Adrian Beltre as he attempts to complete the first-to-home sprint on an opposite-field double by Michael Young, and Beltre gets cut down at the plate with Texas trailing by a run to end the sixth inning, and ... well, judging by the Twitterverse's roughly mixed response, I guess we're making progress. The Twins executed the cutdown well on their end -- sans the initial bobble in right that prompted the dash for home -- and did their part to make Anderson look bad for waving Beltre home, but the reality is that aggressive baserunning has been a defining attribute of this team for years now, and that the probability of something going awry with that play on the Twins' end was likely high enough to justify the decision to send Beltre. The result sucked, but I liked the process, and I think the public at large is beginning to catch on.
● On Saturday, Robbie Ross extinguished a leverage-packed bases-loaded jam in a knotted 2-2 game, and lived long enough to record another out in the next half-inning. On Sunday, Ross coolly put out the sixth-inning flames in a 3-1 game that was threatening to slip away from Texas, and then went ahead and pitched a scoreless seventh inning for good measure, totaling six outs -- three of which were swinging strikeouts -- on just 25 pitches. To say that Ross has been good thus far would be a vast understatement, and it's apparent that he's quickly emerging as a default high-leverage option for the Washington/Maddux regime, which is about as positive an outcome as one could have possibly imagined back when Ross launched his spring campaign to overtake Michael Kirkman for that lefty relief spot.