Before last night, the Texas Rangers had lost five in a row and eight out of ten. What was so important about last night? It was the start of the second round of interleague play for the 2011 season. The Rangers looked like a completely different team last night in Atlanta as Colby Lewis pitched 6 2/3 innings with ten strikeouts and Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz each had 3 RBIs as they defeated the Braves 6-2.
If you recall, the 2010 version of interleague play might have been the turning point of the Rangers’ season. Texas was 14-4 against the National League (NL) including an 11-game winning streak. If the Rangers can come anywhere close to matching their interleague success of last season, they will be in good shape.
In 2010, the Rangers lost two of their first three interleague games against the Chicago Cubs; each game was decided by one run. The Rangers started interleague play this season by losing two out of three against the Philadelphia Phillies in late May. Every game was competitive with each being decided by one or two runs.
The Rangers will play their next 14 games against teams from the NL, including two more games against the Braves this weekend, six games against the Houston Astros, and three games each with the New York Mets and Florida Marlins. Just by looking at the standings, it seems to set up well for the Rangers. The Astros have the worst record in all of baseball, the Marlins are in the midst of an eight-game losing streak, and the Mets have been inconsistent all season. Looking at the current standings, the Rangers have a better record than the Astros, Mets and Marlins, so it will be a chance for them to take care of business.
When the heart of the interleague schedule began in 2010, the Rangers had just a 0.5 game lead on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the AL West. By the time interleague play was over, the Rangers’ lead stood at 4.5 games. When the meat of the 2011 interleague schedule began last night, the Rangers had a 0.5 game lead on the Seattle Mariners. Let’s see what the Rangers are able to accomplish over the next two weeks leading up to the end of interleague play on July 3rd.