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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Weekend Buzz: Rangers hitting (and pitching) on all cylinders


The Weekend Buzz while you and Barry Bonds were waiting for the government to shut down. ...

1. Rangers set their Cruz control: Good thing Texas didn't roll up its on-deck circles and pack away its pitching rubber after Cliff Lee skated to Philadelphia last winter.

While some thought the Rangers should have, Ron Washington's crew simply re-adjusted its 10-gallon hat, fine-tuned its swagger and now is knee-deep into a start that matches the best in club history.

Nine games in, the Airborne Rangers are 8-1 for the first time since 1989 and have opened the largest divisional lead in baseball, three games over the Los Angeles Angels of Wish We Could Catch Up to Arlington. They've already have clubbed 40 extra-base hits. By comparison, the slumping Minnesota Twins have -- count 'em -- 16.

Nelson Cruz has smashed five homers and collected 10 RBI. Fielding wizard Elvis Andrus has seven RBI. And designated hitter Mike Napoli, who didn't play Sunday, has three home runs, five walks and zero strikeouts.

Suddenly, the Michael Young trade story has receded into the background. Suddenly, with lefty Matt Harrison the latest of Texas' young arms to blossom, Lee is becoming a distant memory.

Harrison, who held Baltimore to one run over seven innings Saturday, now is one of only three pitchers this year to have worked seven or more innings and allowed one or fewer earned runs in at least two outings. The others are San Francisco's Tim Lincecum, and the Angels' Dan Haren.

But Haren alone can't help the Angels keep pace with Texas. Nor can Jered Weaver, who was sensational in striking out 15 Blue Jays as the Angels won 3-1 on Sunday.

Until they threw 9 1/3 innings of scoreless relief Saturday in a 14-inning victory against Toronto, Angels relievers ranked ninth in the AL in ERA, 14th in walks per nine innings, 14th in home runs allowed and had blown three save opportunities in eight games.

The Rangers, who head to Detroit for a series beginning Monday, are on a mission.

"The reality is, there are a lot of teams that have gotten there once," Texas general manager Jon Daniels said this spring of his defending AL champions. "That doesn't take anything away from it, but that's not our goal.

"First of all, we want to win it. And second of all, we don't want to be a one-hit wonder. And we need to prove that. I think there are still some skeptics out there who question our pitching, question some different things."

The Rays will stop selling Manny Ramirez T-shirts and jerseys. (AP)  
The Rays will stop selling Manny Ramirez T-shirts and jerseys. (AP)  
2. Rays lose Manny, gain self-respect: Tampa Bay canceled Manny Ramirez bobblehead day on May 29. The Rays also will immediately stop selling Ramirez T-shirts, jerseys and dreadlock wigs. And Manny, whose failed performance-enhancing drug test and cowardly departure was insulting to all, can cancel his Hall of Fame hopes.

3. Bonds trial goes to the jury: Juror No. 1: "Have you guys ever seen a head that big?" Juror No. 2: "Linus called and wants his Great Pumpkin back."

4. Giants receive World Series rings: Best part is, the diamond-encrusted jewelry isn't nearly as sparkly as Tim Lincecum (1-1, 0.64 ERA). Not only is Lincecum stronger this year, he's smarter and his delivery remains as smooth as ever. The torque, the flying hips and, as manager Bruce Bochy so aptly says, "his arm's just along for the ride."

5. Red-faced Red Sox: After losing seven of their first eight, the Red Sox deflect attention by handing Clay Buchholz a four-year contract extension worth roughly $30 million. Lose a few more, and what will Boston do next, give Adrian Gonzalez a new deal for, say, seven years and $154 million?

6. Rain in San Diego: Four delays Friday night, and the Padres-Dodgers finally are suspended in the ninth inning, at 1:40 a.m., and finish Saturday. Only thing more shocking than that much rain in San Diego would be if Manny was stupid enough to fail a second test for performance-enhancing drugs. Oh, wait. ...

7. In the Fuld: In non-Manny Tampa Bay news, if you haven't seen Rays right fielder Sam Fuld robbing Chicago's Juan Pierre of an extra-base hit Saturday, you must.

8. A Pirates booty: Pittsburgh is donating concession-stand leftovers to area shelters and soup kitchens. This is historic: First time Pirates have been mentioned in Weekend Buzz without a joke to follow. Great idea, Bucs.

9. Jack Wilson's War: Mariners second baseman pulls himself after failing to turn a mid-game double play, attempts to throw manager Eric Wedge under the bus afterward by saying it was the skipper's decision to pull him, then walks smack into aforementioned bus when a livid Wedge tells Seattle reporters the truth and calls Wilson's behavior "unspeakable." You know things are bad in a clubhouse when Milton Bradley is the model citizen.

10. Zack Greinke getting closer: Brewers say he'll make two minor-league rehabilitation starts near the end of April. Then, if he beats pitching coach Rick Kranitz in a game of H-O-R-S-E, he'll return in May.


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