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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

With mightier pen, aggressive Rangers pulling away from Angels

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Newly added reliever Mike Adams has not allowed a run in his past seven outings. (US Presswire)  
Newly added reliever Mike Adams has not allowed a run in his past seven outings. (US Presswire)  

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The now seven-game gap between the Rangers and the Angels in the AL West standings is nothing compared to the distance that separated them on July 31.

A single-minded zealousness came over a Rangers organization operated by one of the game's smartest braintrusts. Inertia suffocated an Angels club that right now looks as tired as yesterday's news.

In Texas, the Rangers struck boldly and swiftly to acquire set-up man Koji Uehara from Baltimore on July 30, and San Diego's Mike Adams the next day.

"Special," is how Rangers manager Ron Washington describes the duo. "Adams has been very special for us. Both of these guys help us shorten games.

"We needed to help our bullpen a lot, and we did. You can't ask for much more."

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The Angels were so quiet at the trade deadline, you could have heard the Rally Monkey peel a banana.

"We didn't have the depth in our minor leagues to do something," Angels manager Mike Scioscia says. "With what was out there ... the first name everybody wanted to talk about was Mike Trout."

No way anybody is going to bait-and-hook Trout away from the Angels.

But it is really difficult to believe that general manager Tony Reagins couldn't have found some avenue short of the Trout stream to snag relief help. Any relief help.

With Texas on the verge of blowing this race wide open -- and I wrote a month ago, even before the Angels whiffed at the trade deadline, that this Rangers club should win the AL West by at least 10 games -- here are a couple of numbers to chew on:

  The ragged Angels bullpen leads the majors with 20 blown saves.

  The silent Angels lineup is scoring 3.85 runs per game (12th in the AL). No team since the 1988 Dodgers has qualified for the playoffs averaging under four RPG.

  The Angels are 51-12 when they score at least four runs in a game, 14-47 when they don't.

Trailing Texas by two games on July 31, it was clear that the Angels either needed to score more runs, or prevent more. Because given their lack of offensive production, they're going to be in low-scoring or close games, and the current recipe isn't working: They're 22-24 in one-run games.

Scioscia insists the Angels have the bats, though he conducted a 20-minute clubhouse meeting with his hitters after Tuesday's game, then shook up the lineup Wednesday -- benching Bobby Abreu, among other things. Didn't matter: Texas won 4-3 and can sweep this four-game series on Thursday.

However you view it, Texas has led the division since July 6, and the Rangers significantly improved themselves at the end of the month while the Angels remained bystanders, assuming the Carl Crawford position from last winter's failed negotiations there.

How much better is this Rangers team than the one that lost two of three in Anaheim a month ago?

"Last year, Darren Oliver had a terrific year setting up, and Neftali Feliz closing," Scioscia says. "No doubt, the guys they acquired at the trading deadline give them a deeper pen.

"It's a pen you really have to stay in front of. Early runs are more important than any time we've seen them."

Look, it was clear there would be no miracles performed by the Angels. So many pitching prospects already have been sucked out of the organization. They dealt three to Arizona last summer for Dan Haren, including lefty Tyler Skaggs. (Another pitcher, veteran Joe Saunders, also went in that deal.) Two more young pitchers went to Kansas City last summer for Alberto Callaspo. Another went Tampa Bay in 2009 for Scott Kazmir.

The tragic death of Nick Adenhart in 2009 also thinned out young Angels pitching. It's rarely mentioned because, really, how do you even relate that incredible sadness to a club trying to stay in the playoff chase? You can't. But the fact is, this would be Adenhart's third year in the rotation.

All of these are contributing factors as to why the Angels' system is too depleted to swing major trades. And as the Angels try to keep pace with the defending AL champs, they've used two starting pitchers -- Tyler Chatwood (23 starts) and Garrett Richards (two starts) -- who are young enough to be in Double-A.

But, come on. It doesn't cost a Trout to find bullpen arms that, at the very least, add depth.

Angels relievers have been tagged with 21 losses this season, second-highest total in the AL.

Who leads in bullpen losses? Texas, with 22.

And the Rangers popped for Adams, who leads all major-league relievers (minimum 50 innings pitched) with a 1.12 ERA. And Uehara, who is holding opponents to a .192 on-base percentage (second-lowest among all major-league relievers).

Both Adams and Uehara are effective against righties and lefties, which will allow the Rangers to keep from overworking ageless lefty Darren Oliver (OK, he's 40) down the stretch.

Pitching coach Mike Maddux goes back with Adams to 2004, when he was Milwaukee's pitching coach and Adams was a kid.

"He gives you a lot to look at," Maddux says. "Knees and elbows."

Maddux grins.

"When you're young, that's out of control," he says. "When you're older, it's deceptive."

Uehara?

"He throws the invisi-ball," Maddux says. "You look at the radar and you say, 'How is this guy getting it done?' He's got some special deception."

There will come a time when the Rangers will need the deception of both Adams and Uehara, October nights in New York or Boston, the crowd roaring, the tension screaming.

They will not need it against an Angels club that has been grossly out-flanked since at least last December, when Reagins memorably said that the Angels already had made a "huge splash" during the winter in signing Hisanori Takahashi.

If that's what you consider a huge splash, maybe second place is where you belong.

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