The Daily Six Shooter April 4, 2011

1. What a great start to the season for the Texas Rangers. They had Boston’s number last year, but not like this.

Ranger hitters are off to an unprecedented historical start to the season. Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler each homered in the team’s first three games as Texas had no problems teeing off against the AL East favorite.

It used to be that that’s all that Texas had in the bag.

Prior to last season’s World Series run, Texas was entertaining because they could put lots of runs on the board, but they could never put together a winner because of their lack of pitching. Even with Cliff Lee back in Philadelphia, the Rangers are off to a solid start, especially Matt Harrison, who threw seven great innings yesterday giving up only one run and striking out eight. His last was the biggest, getting out of a bases loaded jam on a changeup.

It’s great to see a guy like Harrison produce results right away. Inconsistent as a starter and coming out of the bullpen last year, he earned his spot in the rotation in spring training, but was no guarantee to succeed. He really did an excellent job of hitting his spots and mixing things up to keep Boston off balance throughout the game.

2. Among the other Rangers that had a great opening weekend was David Murphy, coming off the bench so that Josh Hamilton could switch over to left field.

Randy Galloway of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram thinks that Murphy has already proven that the move was a mistake.

3. Houston’s weekend was the polar opposite as the Astros were swept by the Phillies. Luckily, none of the other games were as painful as their opening day loss. But losses all count the same and Houston is off to an 0-3 start this year after starting out last year 0-8.

The lone bright spots in the Astros 9-4 and 7-3 losses were the performances of Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee, who went a combined 4-8 and 4-7 respectively. Pence had a nice game yesterday with three hits including a home run. The problem was that Michael Bourne and Angel Sanchez failed to get a hit, so he didn’t even get a chance to advance any runners let alone drive them home when he stepped to the plate. As for Lee, he WAS the Houston offense on Saturday night with three hits, a homer, and four RBI’s.

4. As for the Rockets, they got two huge victories over the weekend with wins over San Antonio at home in overtime and in Atlanta yesterday.

The big man in each game was Kevin Martin, who scored a combined 68 points in both games and looks unstoppable right now. The problem that might kill Houston’s season and lead to a disappointing loss that eliminates them from the playoffs is their defense. Both the Spurs and Hawks shot better than 50% in each game and were able to hang around despite Houston playing a superior game.

The Rockets remain three games back of both the Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Hornets. When play resumes tomorrow, Houston has the tough task of hosting the Sacramento Kings and then visiting the Hornets on Wednesday while New Orleans gets two days off to prepare for the Rockets. As we’ve said many times before, Houston needs to win out to even have a shot at a playoff spot so every game is a must-win. But it looks like it’s going to come down to that game in New Orleans. If the Rockets lose, they’ll be eliminated. If they win, they’ll climb within two games of the Hornets, New Orleans will feel them breathing down their necks and could continue their struggles and collapse out of the playoff picture.

5. And then there’s the San Antonio Spurs, who are developing a disturbing trend of blowing leads late. At first, it was attributed to the absence of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and/or Tony Parker, but it’s now happened against Houston, Memphis, Portland twice, and Denver.

Luckily for San Antonio, they took their frustrations out on a Steve Nash-less Phoenix Suns team yesterday and the Nuggets did the Spurs a huge favor by beating the LA Lakers for LA’s 2nd loss since the all star break, giving San Antonio a two-game edge in the standings again. It shrinks the Spurs “magic number” to clinch the top spot in the West down to 4, meaning that San Antonio can lose in LA on April 12th and still clinch the #1 seed.

While Gregg Popovich is likely to give his starters, stars and veterans rest in the final games of the regular season, considering how poorly the team has played in the final month of the season, the best idea has to be to get some wins and play good basketball so that they can get back into a rhythm heading into the playoffs. Six straight wins heading into the playoffs, including a win in LA, would be a huge statement that would give the team (and the fans) a ton of confidence that the losing streak was an aberration during a successful season.

6. Of course, the biggest game of the weekend was a women’s basketball game in Indianapolis. Texas A&M, appearing in their first ever Final Four, knocked off their 2nd straight #1 seed to advance to the championship game to face Notre Dame.

Read our recap of A&M’s stunner over Stanford and get ready for a heck of a game on Tuesday night as the Aggies try to win the first championship in the Playmaker Magazine era. Just hope that Gary Blair coaches better in that game than he dances.

 

About Javi Perez

Javi Perez is a contributing editor with Playmaker Magazine heading up the sports desk, as well as covering the San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, Texas Longhorns, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, film, and TV. He currently lives in San Antonio.