Jun 3, 2012; Anaheim, CA, USA; Texas Rangers catcher Mike Napoli (25) slides into home plate to beat the tag of Los Angeles Angels catcher John Hester (41) in the ninth inning at Angel Stadium. The Rangers defeated the Angels 7-3. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE
Texas may have lost the series in Anaheim, but that does not mean it was a significant problem.
For Texas Rangers fans, there has probably not been a lower point in 2012 than Saturday night. Fresh off consecutive beat-downs at the hands of the Mariners, Texas was down 0-2 in Anaheim to their surging rivals.
For the first time since April 14th, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were just 3.5 back of the Rangers.
With a nice game on Sunday, and a little perspective, thinks don't look so bad, though.
It is a bit disappointing after the way the season started, no doubt. Before May had even started, the Angels had nearly fallen back by 10 games, and Texas was winning at an unreasonable pace. To suddenly look like the AL West is a bad week away from being a real pennant race is distressing.
It's also better than things were last year. After 54 games, the 2011 Rangers had 29 wins, and were up just one game in the division. 32 wins and a 4.5 game lead on June 3 on Anaheim probably didn't sound to good to you on May 1, but how would it have sounded before the season even started? Despite the prolonged stretch of losing close games, despite the annihilation at the hands of Seattle, and despite the hot stretch by the Angels, Texas is still in fantastic position on the season.
Even losing the series isn't a terribly big deal. Home field advantage counts for a lot (winning about 8% more of the time, to be exact). Despite it not seeming that way for much of the year, the Angels are probably close enough to Texas that expecting a series victory in LA would probably be a little optimistic. Getting one would have been nice, and not necessarily a big deal, but neither is losing it (shy of a sweep, which we didn't get).
A series loss, by the way, in which the Angels were outscored. 11-10, close, but that's kind of the point: it was close. By batted ball profile, the Rangers probably should have expected to outscore their opponents in the opener. Jerome Williams was annoyingly-good, but the Texas pitching started off by Colby Lewis was better than the still-okay four runs allowed suggests. Ground balls aren't going to beat you that often.
Meanwhile, game two was a frustrating loss, with the Rangers shot down by poor defense. The offense being shut down by C.J. Wilson made it even worse. Yet, still, it was a one-run loss. Frustrating does not mean bad.
Then, to avoid the sweep, the Rangers went out and got 14 hits, six walks, and the longest home run of the year. So, Texas lost the series, but actually added to the run differential in the process, and lost a whopping one game in the standings. Angels fans might be excited, but .500 against the Rangers -- which they are against the season -- is not going to win the West.
This is not so much to say we should all be satisfied with a lost series to the Angels, and certainly not necessarily happy. It's just that, as frustrating as the series was, there were no terrible signs, no collapses, and no reasons to panic. Texas is still in firm control of the AL West, and are still the better team.
Barely losing a series on the road to a good team does not change any of that.