The Rangers played only three games last week, though it seems like half the clubhouse was at the 83rd All-Star Game on Tuesday in Kansas City. That didn't go real well, and the Rangers didn't do anything outstanding in the American League's 8-0 loss to the National League. The one Rangers All-Star who fared the worst, though, is the one who fared the best as the second half resumed at Seattle.
The Rangers took 2 of 3 from the Mariners, who were saved by Felix Hernandez's dominating performance Saturday in a 7-0 victory against Yu Darvish. Rangers lefty Matt Harrison, who allowed a three-spot in the All-Star Game, returned the favor with a five-hit shutout Sunday as the Rangers won 4-0. Derek Holland tossed 7 1/3 shutout innings Friday before Joe Nathan avoided disaster in the ninth of a 3-2 win.
The series victory at Safeco Field allowed the Rangers to boost their AL Weat lead to five games.
The road doesn't get any easier this week, despite two off days. The Rangers are off today before playing the next two at Oakland, which is 9-1 in July. The A's are hitting better than they are pitching, which is really stunning. Roy Oswalt and Colby Lewis will try to cool them off, and the returns of Alexi Ogando and Koji Uehara to the bullpen might also help stop Oakland.
Another off day arrives Thursday ahead of a three-game series at second-place Anaheim. The Angels will have had no rest since the All-Star break, which could play in the Rangers' favor. While they'll tee up Holland, Darvish and Harrison, the Angels could send Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana and Garrett Richards to the mound.
Meanwhile, the Rangers will have scouts spread out across the majors in advance of the July 31 trade deadline. Rangers scouts have watched starters Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke and Ryan Dempster. By default, they have also seen outfielders Shane Victorino and Justin Upton.
To obtain Hamels, Greinke or Upton, the Rangers would likely have to put together a package that includes their top prospects. The Rangers don't seem too keen on that, especially for two-month rentals like Hamels and Greinke, but have enough organizational depth behind Jurckison Profar, Mike Olt and Martin Perez to put together a strong bid.
One Rangers player, though, said they don't need any deadline additions barring a significant injury over the next two weeks.
But it would be completely out of character for general manager Jon Daniels to not have scouts doing the work just in case. As in, just in case there is an injury. Or, just in case they decide that Oswalt isn't the answer in the rotation. Or, just in case the Rangers decide that they'd rather see a player fall to them than the Angels.
While the attention is on the big names available, some of Daniels' best moves the past two years have been lower-profile deals for Bengie Molina, Jeff Francoeur and Mike Gonzalez. The Rangers could definitely upgrade their bench with a veteran bat with pinch-hitting experience.
-- Jeff Wilson