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1. The Texas Rangers managed just seven runs in a three game series against the LA Angels this weekend as they lost two out of three on the road, wasting a solid pitching performance from Derek Holland on Friday and having Alexi Ogando’s struggles cost them yet another game.
Darvish saved them from having this weekend turn into a complete disaster. He had 11 strikeouts in seven innings, allowing just two runs and nailing down his 11th victory. But no matter how well Darvish keeps pitching, he’s starting to be overshadowed by how inconsistent the offense has been.
Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, and Nelson Cruz are all still struggling. This weekend, they were carried by some strong performances by Craig Gentry and Mike Napoli, but they didn’t get much help because when both went cold on Sunday, no one else stepped up. Elvis Andrus’ numbers boggle my mind. He’s on a 10-game hitting streak and has reached base safely in 11 straight, but his OPS and average have both gone down over that time.
The answer to a winning streak and a resurgent dominance of the AL is for the bats to come back, especially with guys like Hamilton and Cruz. Because this pitching staff may be able to still get them to the playoffs, but there’s no way you can count on them to win the World Series because they’re younger and have less experience.
Photo by Javi Perez/Playmaker Magazine
2. Speaking of experience, Roy Oswalt has pitched well in the last couple of weeks but he’s been scratched from tonight’s lineup because of back problems.
This is exactly what the Rangers and their fans feared when they brought Oswalt on. His back problems were among the reasons he started struggling in Philly and were pretty much the only thing that could derail his chances to make a big impact in Texas. We’ll see if this becomes a long-term problem. Neftali Feliz is close to coming back as he’s making rehab appearances for the Round Rock Express right now, so the Rangers are really close to having a full slate of major league starter again in their rotation. It’ll be nice to not have to see Scott Feldman or any of the Triple-A call-ups start because the starting pitching is carrying them and keeping them ahead of the rest of the division with the offense struggling right now.
3. As for the Houston Astros, they were swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks this past weekend as the quest to set a new franchise record for losses in one season is still on. On this day last year, the Astros were 33-66 and right now they’re 34-62. But Houston is sliding at a worse pace right now than they did in 2011. In June and July of 2011, the Astros racked up 40 losses. With nine games to go this month, they’ve got 36 so far in June and July of this year.
The ones that hurt the most are losses like Friday’s, where Houston scored eight runs with Bud Norris on the hill but still lose. Once again, Jose Altuve was pretty much the lone bright spot as he finished the weekend 4-7, batting from the leadoff spot on Saturday and Sunday. He’s starting to get used to that spot a little better, but he’s still a far superior hitter when he’s batting 2nd. Jordan Schafer, Justin Maxwell, or somebody should be batting 1st, but manager Brad Mills must figure that since Altuve is his best hitter and doesn’t hit for power that he has to put him at the top of the lineup.
That lineup card changes pretty wildly on a daily basis as well. Mills should really give a group of guys in a specific order a chance to succeed with time without so many changes. What else has he got to lose? Patience is basically all this franchise has left to cling to.
4. The Astros are one of the few solid sellers at the All Star break as they traded away closer Brett Myers over the weekend and got a couple of minor league pitchers from the Chicago White Sox in return. They also sent some cash to Chicago because… why not? They’re going to save money on Myers because they won’t have to pay out performance bonuses that Myers will likely hit before the end of the season.
The dealing isn’t done either. Wandy Rodriguez is still a coveted asset for potential playoff teams as they look for a push with some help from a solid lefty in the rotation.
Photo courtesy Russ Isabella/US Presswire
5. As we’ve mentioned before, the debate about this year’s Team USA basketball team matching up against the Dream Team is ridiculous. Sadly, it’s going to make for some too-close-for-comfort games in the Olympics and could result in them bringing home a medal that isn’t gold. They certainly had their hands full against Argentina this weekend as they were just able to hold on for an 86-80 victory.
Naturally, Argentina was led by Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs who scored 23 points on 7-13 shooting. Former Houston Rockets post Luis Scola added 14 points. Kevin Durant led Team USA with 27 points.
The problem for Team USA is that they’re not big enough and often not tough enough in the paint. Argentina hung with the USA all four quarters and the ultimate difference in the game was that the Americans just shot better from three-point range, making 13 from beyond the arc while Argentina only managed nine long range buckets.
This could have very well been a preview of a medal round game in the Olympics, possibly for the gold.
6. Have you seen The Dark Knight Rises yet? If not, that’s hard to believe considering all the coverage we’ve given to Christopher Nolan’s amazing Batman series. And there’s still more to come. Here’s a collection of everything we’ve written over the past week on the caped crusader’s past, present, and future:
The Top 10 Nolan-verse Batman Characters