The Mariners' losing streak has almost directly coincided with a Rangers 12-game winning streak that has obliterated Seattle's hopes of contention, while putting Texas in control of the division.
The Mariners’ losing streak has almost directly coincided with a Rangers 12-game winning streak that has obliterated Seattle’s hopes of contention, while putting Texas in control of the division.
The Rangers’ streak was built around strong pitching that resulted in five shutouts and two other games in which they gave up just one run. Those seven pitching gems were against the rest of the AL West: two shutouts and two one-run games against the Mariners; two shutouts against the A’s; and one shutout against the Angels.
Texas had a 1.92 earned-run average during the winning streak. Manager Ron Washington didn’t take kindly to the suggestion the Rangers were cleaning up against bad teams (including three wins against Baltimore to start it all off).
“All the other clubs — Boston, New York — they’re playing the same teams,” Washington told the Dallas Morning News. “Did they sweep them? I don’t know. But when you’re playing good baseball, it doesn’t matter. If you want the opportunity to play in the postseason, you’ve got to play well in the division.
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“I’ll take the way we’re playing baseball. If we play that way against anybody, we’ll beat them. Maybe not 12 in a row, but we’ll beat them.”
Twins bounce back
Maybe the flailing Mariners can take some inspiration from the Twins, who fell to 20 games under .500 — 17-37 — on June 1 after a loss in Detroit.
On Thursday, they returned to Detroit, having turned their season around. The Twins went 29-14 over the next 43 games to pull within five games of the Indians and Tigers, who were tied for first in the AL Central.
“We’re playing good baseball, and I don’t think we’ve played our best baseball,” third baseman Danny Valencia told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Eventually, when we do click on all cylinders, I think we’re going to be a really tough team to beat.”
One good sign for the Twins: Joe Mauer is back to hitting like Joe Mauer. Through Friday, he had raised his average from .186 on June 24 to .295.
Notes and quotes
• White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen went off on his team after a loss to Kansas City on Wednesday, as only Guillen can.
“(Bleeping) pathetic,” he said. “No (bleeping) energy. We just go by the motions. We take the day off instead of (Thursday). … One day we’re good, three days we’re bad. We don’t have energy in the dugout. A horse(bleep) approach at the plate for the 90th time.”
Other than that, he was pleased with their performance.
• Speaking of the White Sox, struggling Adam Dunn has essentially become a platoon player, facing only right-handed pitchers. That’s because Dunn is 2 for 64 against lefties.
• Chien-Ming Wang has fallen off the radar since winning 19 games for the Yankees in 2006 and 2007. Shoulder surgery nearly wiped out his career, but Wang is on the verge of returning.
The Washington Nationals are likely to activate Wang off the 60-day disabled list before the end of July. His first major-league appearance in two years is targeted for their July 29-31 home series against the Mets.
Wang, who had surgery to repair a torn capsule in his throwing shoulder in 2009, signed a $2 million contract with the Nationals in February 2010. They expected him to pitch last year, but he never was healthy enough to even make a minor-league rehab appearance.
Washington nevertheless re-signed him for $1 million, and it’s finally paying off. Wang has made five starts since beginning a rehab assignment on June 27 and has a 1.90 ERA with a 12-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio while pitching at four levels of the minor leagues. He has one more start scheduled Sunday for Class AAA Syracuse before his 30-day rehab expires. If all goes well, he’ll then join the Nationals.
• The Nationals might have another injured pitcher back in the majors before the year is over. Stephen Strasburg, coming back from last year’s Tommy John surgery, pitched a simulated game at the Nats’ spring-training complex in Viera, Fla., on Monday and reportedly hit 95 mph.
Five days earlier, Strasburg threw 45 pitches in a live batting practice session. General manager Mike Rizzo isn’t ruling out the possibility Strasburg will pitch in the majors in 2011, though he stressed that no decision has yet been made.
“I think it’s in play, yeah,” Rizzo told reporters. “If his rehab progresses on schedule, there’s a chance he could get a major-league start in September.”