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Series Twenty-One: Rangers at Marlins

Marlin baseball continues to be as ugly as Miami weather of late. One would like to think that will turn around this weekend, because sooner would be better than later, but it's hard to hope for that as the Texas Rangers and their high-octane offense invade Joe Robbie Stadium beginning tonight. About the only fortunate thing regarding this series is that the Rangers are visiting the Marlins, so they will be forced to leave their designated hitter on the bench (although Bud the Stud hints that may change with interleague play as early as next year - meaning that we could see designated hitters in National League parks and pitchers hitting in American League parks - for interleague games only).

Since there's not much else positive to talk about, let's get right into the meat of my discussion with Ranger Captain, from the Rangers.

: Welcome to Fish Stripes, Captain!

: Thanks for having me, Grover. What's up with your club lately? I tuned in to the Mariners series - since I thought I could scout both clubs - but I was surprised at what I saw.

: I know what you mean. If you'd told me at the start of the week that Ichiro would go 3-for-14 against the Marlins, with 3 strikeouts, I would have felt pretty good about things. Luckily the Fish got a start from Dontrelle Willis in that series - and fortunately for the Rangers, they'll miss the D-Train - otherwise the Fish could have been looking at a sweep.

There seems to be a lot wrong in Marlin-land of late. Not so much "wrong" I guess, but not right at the same time. Media types are starting to talk about tension in the clubhouse. That's not something that the Marlins are used to. When this club has been successful, egos have been left at the door and it's been about "fun and excitement" - as Dontrelle Willis used to say. That edge has been lost though.

It's something of a chicken-and-egg debate. I'm not sure which comes first - the fun and excitement or the winning, but the Marlins have neither right now.

: We Rangers know that feeling - or at least we did. So far this year it's been a pleasant ride. The Rangers are a surprising (at least to the "experts") 32-26, which has them just a game and a half out of the division lead.

As expected, the offense has been fantastic. Teixeira (.944 OPS), Dellucci (.952), and Soriano (.873 with 15 homers) have all been spectacular. The Rangers already have six players with double digit home run totals. Normally - like other than when they're playing the Marlins, and facing their great pitching staff - you expect to see an offensive show when you tune into a Rangers game.

What's been a big surprise this year is the pitching. The team ERA of 4.48 doesn't exactly jump off the page at you, but when you consider that the Rangers play half of their games (the home games) in a band box and that as recently as 2003 their team ERA was a full run higher, it's pretty impressive. Pitching coach (and former Dodger great) Orel Hershiser has been huge for this staff. Miraculously, Kenny Rogers, at age 40, has been phenomenal. He's 8-2 with a 1.62 ERA. The Marlins will see him on Saturday.

: Will we get to see former Marlins' top pick Adrian Gonzalez this weekend?

Captain: Nope. Gonzalez is down in the minors. His bat could play in the bigs at this point, but the Rangers are just too deep right now. Adrian got some limited opportunities earlier in the year, but wasn't able to do much with them (.194/.237/.417 in less than 40 plate appearances). He'll be back, eventually. Actually, his return to the majors might not be with the Rangers, as - assuming this run of good play continues - the club may be forced to use him in a trade to acquire a player or two for the stretch run. Maybe the Marlins will get him back if they trade Burnett to the Rangers.

: Not funny. Any predictions for tonight's Chan Ho - Alois matchup?

: I'll take the Cowboys over the Dolphins 14-10. With those two on the mound, it should be a high scoring affair.

: On that note, this conversation is over.