Jays enter Texas heat factory

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:17 AM ET

TORONTO - Timing, as they say, is everything and if you’re the Blue Jays this might not be the greatest opportunity to be heading for Arlington and a weekend series against the Texas Rangers.

It’s hard to know what is hotter right now: the Texas weather, or the Rangers themselves. With temperatures in excess of 100 degrees (F) expected all weekend, the Jays are going in against just about the hottest team in baseball this month.

Since the page on the calendar changed from June to July, the Rangers have won 13 of 17, matching Boston for the best record in the majors over that time period. The good news for the Jays is that the Angels cooled the Rangers off by beating them twice, Wednesday and Thursday.

This 13-win month includes a 12-game winning streak that was snapped off Wednesday when the Angels overcame a five-run deficit to nip Texas 9-8.

The winning streak was the second-longest in club history behind a 14-game run in 1991, and it put the Rangers (56-41) a season-high 15 games over .500. They outscored opponents 77-24 during this stretch, and the pitching staff yielded two earned runs over the last six games of the streak — including four shutouts.

Over the course of July, the Rangers’ offence has been scoring runs at a rate of nearly seven per game, pushed along by a .316 batting average and an OPS of .920. They’re averaging 11 hits per game.

Meanwhile the pitching staff has limited its opponents to 3.3 runs per game with a 3.15 ERA, allowing just 116 hits in 143 innings with 127 strikeouts and a strike-to-ball ratio of 65/35.

“This isn’t a group that gets satisfied,” said designated hitter Michael Young. “We’re happy with the way we’re playing, but we’re never satisfied. We’re always thinking about bigger things and continuing to improve as a team. The biggest thing is we’re playing our style of baseball. We’re running the bases, catching the ball, swinging the bats and pitching well. Things are going good, but we have to keep it up.”

The letdown that allowed the Angels to score six runs in the sixth inning to overcome an 8-3 lead Wednesday is something that hasn’t happened to the Rangers previously this season. The Angels and Jered Weaver made one run stand up in the series finale, so now the Rangers are actually on a two-game losing streak.

“I don’t care, a win is a win and a loss is a loss,” Young told reporters after Wednesday’s game. “I’m not complaining about the way it went. We’ll come out and be ready to play and have the same approach. That’s one of the strengths of this team. Whether we lose a tough one or not, we move on quickly.”

Reigning AL MVP, Josh Hamilton, who missed 36 of the first 47 games, is back in full production and anchors the offence. In 60 games he’s driven in 54 runs. Free agent hire Adrian Beltre and right fielder Nelson Cruz are the main power sources with 20 and 21 homers, respectively. Another free agent, Endy Chavez, has become a fixture in centre field and is hitting .339 for the season.

This is the first homestand for the Rangers since the All-Star break and they have announced plans to raise protective barriers by a foot to about 42 inches in the wake of the death of fan Shannon Stone who fell to his death on July 7 while trying to catch a ball thrown by Hamilton.

Meanwhile, team president Nolan Ryan is resting at home after a recurrence of a heart problem that sent him to hospital last weekend.


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