Up Next: Rangers could very well be tops

Rangers ace Yu Darvish has struggled throughout the second half of the season.

Rangers ace Yu Darvish has struggled throughout the second half of the season.

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:37 PM ET

And now comes the third in the run of three first-place teams to visit Rogers Centre.

Their record might not be better than the New York Yankees, who lead the American League East, and it’s better than the Chicago White Sox who have left the building.

Yet, the Texas Rangers might be the best of the three, when all cylinders are clicking as they were Thursday afternoon knocking around Ivan Nova in a 10-6 win at Yankee Stadium.

The Jays’ record this season against the three first-place teams: 4-6 (.400) against the White Sox, 3-5 (.375) vs. the Yankees and 2-4 (.333) against the Rangers.

The Rangers are not a sit-on-their-hands type team. They added free-agent Roy Oswalt May 29 and he made his debut June 22. And at the trade deadline they acquired Ryan Dempster of Gibsons, B.C., from the Chicago Cubs, bumping Oswalt to the bullpen.

The Rangers rotation now consists of Matt Harrison, Yu Darvish, who starts the opener Friday night against the Blue Jays, Derek Holland, Scott Feldman and Dempster.

A week before the deadline the Atlanta Braves thought that they had a deal for Dempster. As a 10-and-5 player (10 years in the majors, the last five with the same team), Dempster had the ability to block a trade to Atlanta. Dempster will become a free agent at the end of the season and could sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

With the Rangers, Dempster, 35, is 1-1 with an 8.31 ERA in three starts, after going 5-5 with a 2.25 ERA in 16 starts and with the Chicago Cubs, the lowest ERA in the National League.

Dempster has won 118 games — second most ever by a Canadian — trailing only Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins of Chatham, Ont. who won 284 games.

The rest of the top five are Kirk McCaskill of Kapuskasing, Ont (106 wins), Reggie Cleveland of Swift Current, Sask. (105) and Russ Ford of Brandon, Man. (99).

Dempster, with 2,164 career innings pitched, second amongst Canadians behind Jenkins, also has 87 saves from his three years with the Cubs as the closer (2005-07).

The right-hander returns to his original club, being drafted in the third round from the North Shore Twins of the British Columbia Premier League. Outfielder Randy Winn and Bronson Arroyo were drafted the same year.

The Jays selected infielder Jeff Maloney in the third round back then. Maloney a high schooler from Basking Ridge, N.J., was out of the game after his 1999 season at class-A Hagerstown.

The Rangers also have infielder Jurickson Profar, considered one of the top prospects in the minors, who might be a September call-up.

ELLIOTT'S TAKE

The Rangers went to the World Series losing Game 7 in St. Louis last October. And the year before they lost Game 7 in San Francisco.

To repeat they will have to win on the road, if a Game 6 or 7 are needed, after the National League won the all-star game.

This is a powerful, well managed operation from president Nolan Ryan to general manager Jon Daniels to manager Ron Washington to the kid who took over in the clubhouse for Perry Minansian, current director of Jays pro scouting.

PREDICTION

Rangers win two of three.

HOT

* OF Josh Hamilton is hitting .333 (20-for-60) with five homers and 17 RBIs this month.

* David Murphy is batting .364 (28-for-77) since June 24 with nine doubles, a homer and 11 RBIs.

* SS Elvis Andrus owns as .371 average (23-for-62) with three doubles, a triple and 10 RBIs this month.

COLD

* Yu Darvish is 2-3 with a 7.11 ERA in the second half.

* Michael Young was 1-for-his-previous-14 when manager Ron Washington gave him Wednesday night off, his first off day in two months.

* C Mike Napoli, a Blue Jay for 3 1/2 days in the Vernon Wells deal, is on the DL with a strained left quad muscle.


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