Rangers rout Astros in finale
Owner Hicks believes club could be turning the corner
HOUSTON -- The Rangers took two of three from the Houston Astros this weekend but are still only ahead of the Kansas City Royals for the worst record in the American League.Throw in the Washington Nationals, and there are only two teams in the Majors with a worse record than the Rangers, and owner Tom Hicks knows that better than anybody. But he watched from his home in Dallas on Sunday as Victor Diaz and Mark Teixeira each hit two home runs, Ramon Vazquez drove in five runs and Brandon McCarthy pitched the Rangers to a 14-1 victory over the Astros at Minute Maid Park, and Hicks is far from ready to give up on the season. "We're not nearly as bad as we've shown," Hicks said. "We've just played lousy baseball. We haven't played nearly as good as we should. We haven't gotten the big hits, we've made errors that are uncharacteristic of our guys and have put pressure on our pitchers. The pitching has been reasonably good with the exception of some meltdowns. "But I think we're starting to see signs of turning it around." There were plenty of signs to savor on Sunday, beginning with McCarthy extending his winning streak to three straight by holding the Astros to one run on four hits in six innings. He's 3-0 with a 2.31 ERA in his last four games. "He's just been outstanding the whole month of May," manager Ron Washington said. "He's hitting his spots with his fastball and changing speeds. He's done that on this roll." Then there was the offense. Teixeira, who has also been on a roll in May, gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the first with a home run off Woody Williams. Doubles by Nelson Cruz and Gerald Laird and Vazquez's two-run home run made it 4-0 in the second, and the Rangers stayed in control the rest of the way. They finished 2-4 on the road trip but Washington said, "We've played six pretty good ballgames. We only won two but we're playing pretty good baseball. If we keep doing that, things are going to work out. I just like the way we've been playing." The Rangers have had big wins before. They clobbered the New York Yankees, 14-2, on a Thursday afternoon in the Bronx and then proceeded to lose seven of their next nine. They took two of three from the Astros but are still 9 1/2 games behind the Angels.
"We had a couple of good games here but consistency is going to get us where we need to go," Teixeira said. "First of all, we need to get back to .500, and we're not going to do that in one day. We need to get within striking distance of the rest of the teams in our division. You can't say you're going to turn it around and turn it around and then, all of a sudden, you're out of it. We've got to turn it around soon."Hicks understands that as well. He met with general manager Jon Daniels on Saturday and he spoke with Washington on the last homestand. He made it clear his confidence and trust still stands. "I think the players are still getting used to Ron and he's still getting used to them," Hicks said. "He felt like the players were pressing too much, pressing offensively and pressing defensively. But he said they were still out there busting their tails and that gave him reason to be optimistic that they were going to turn it around. "I asked him if this was what it was like in Oakland when the A's would go into a slump and he said, 'Absolutely.'" The Athletics always had starting pitching; the Rangers are still getting theirs together. McCarthy has settled down and Robinson Tejeda has been terrific when healthy. But Hicks is not ready to hold a general manager or manager accountable when his team is 4-12 with Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla on the mound, no more than he's blaming them for Michael Young hitting .228 with a .268 on-base percentage. The Rangers desperately need Millwood and Padilla, and they need something from their outfield. Their outfielders had the lowest batting average (.228), on-base percentage (.282) and slugging percentage (.370) of any unit before Diaz, Cruz and Kenny Lofton went 6-for-14 with two walks, five runs, three home runs and five RBIs on Sunday afternoon. Diaz, getting playing time while Brad Wilkerson is down with a pulled hamstring, was 8-for-20 with four home runs on the road trip. "This is just an opportunity to go out and have fun, help the team win," Diaz said. "I'm just trying to take advantage of all the opportunities that Wash gives me." The Rangers also know that the middle of their order may suffer with Hank Blalock gone for 10-12 weeks because of shoulder surgery. They'll settle for somebody who can catch the ball and play situational baseball, but Vazquez did more than that by going 6-for-8 with two home runs in two games in Houston. "I just want to play the game when they give me a chance," Vazquez said. "There are still a lot of guys here who can play third. I'm just trying to win ballgames." So does two-of-three over the Astros constitute a turnaround? No. Teixeira said they need to be in striking distance by the All-Star break. Hicks isn't satisfied either but he's not ready to write off the season or seek draconian measures. He knows what the problems are, he trusts Washington and Daniels can fix them, and he knows there won't be any quick fixes. "I just know we're not as bad as we've played," Hicks said. "We've played lousy but we're showing signs of turning it around. I'm not going to predict anything. I'm just going to watch and see."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.