Red Sox? Rays? How about the Rangers for the AL wild card?

Updated: August 11, 2009

Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire

Scott Feldman's 11-4 record has helped the Rangers stay close in the wild-card race.

The Texas Rangers have gone into Anaheim twice and won a series against the Angels, and they sit a half-game behind Boston for the American League wild card, four back of the Angels and in position to stun the world and make October in Texas mean something other than Sooners-Longhorns.

After rookie Derek Holland's brilliant start against the Angels on Sunday (complete-game, three-hit shutout), the Rangers now enter a critical stretch. On Tuesday night, they begin a three-game series in Cleveland against an Indians team that Tigers manager Jim Leyland predicts will "make a mess of some team's chances." (Leyland had a point, since Cleveland threw a 5-0 shutout at the Rangers on Tuesday night). Then, this weekend, they host the Red Sox for a three-game wild-card showdown, followed by a visit from the Twins before going on the road to Tampa and Yankee Stadium.

If they're still standing alongside Tampa Bay and Boston in the wild card at that point, then the Rangers will be right in it come September.

The Rangers have come this far because of manager Ron Washington's emphasis on defense. For example, All-Star and Gold Glove winner Michael Young was so unselfish that he moved to third to make room for potential rookie of the year, shortstop Elvis Andrus. In a hitters' park, Kevin Millwood, Scott Feldman and the rest of the starters have been, at worst, average; they are 46-34, and in the middle of the pack in starters' ERA and quality starts. C.J. Wilson has taken over as closer and their save percentage is the best in the American League (80 percent).

The reason they're not in first place is because the offense hasn't approached what it was built up to be. Ian Kinsler is hitting .242 with a .313 on-base percentage. Josh Hamilton's OBP is still at .294. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is at .293, and Hank Blalock's rests at .282.

This is one of the reasons the Rangers can win this thing. Hamilton is much better than this, and capable of a tear. They are a far better offensive team than being eighth in the league in runs scored.

The second reason is the influx of young arms. Pitching coach Mike Maddux has done a great job bringing along Feldman. Holland was absolutely brilliant Sunday, and with Tommy Hunter and Dustin Nippert, the Rangers' youth brings freshness into the final seven weeks of the season.

Then there's Neftali Feliz. Oh, my.

General manager Jon Daniels has looked around for veteran starting pitching, and may yet add a body or two. John Smoltz is going to decide his future course on Tuesday, and after Justin Duchscherer gets his next rehab start Friday in San Jose, Oakland GM Billy Beane will explore waivers and see if he can make a deal.

Think back to where the Rangers were last year. Then think about them in the same sentence as Boston and Tampa Bay. Then dream on Holland and Feliz …

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: Aug. 10 | Aug. 9 | Aug. 6 | Aug. 5 | Aug. 4

TOUCH 'EM ALL

Touch 'Em AllWho went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
NAME HR OPPSITUATION
Jason Bay, BOS23LambertBot 2: 0-0, 0 Outs. 2 on.
Troy Tulowitzki, COL22OhlendorfBot 2: 0-2, 0 Outs. None on.
Hideki Matsui, NYY17CarlsonBot 8: 3-2, 0 Outs. None on.
Mike Cameron, MIL16RichardBot 1: 2-2, 1 Out. None on.
Miguel Olivo, KC16DuensingTop 3: 2-2, 0 Outs. None on.
Chipper Jones, ATL15ClippardBot 7: 2-0, 0 Outs. None on.
Jorge Posada, NYY15CarlsonBot 8: 2-1, 0 Outs. None on.

The complete list of Tuesday's homers

ON DECK: WEDNESDAY'S BEST MATCHUPS

Blue Jays at Yankees, 1:05 p.m. ET

Ricky Romero and A.J. Burnett come in with nearly identical numbers. How close are they? Well, Burnett is 10-5 with a 3.67 ERA. Romero is 10-5 with a 3.66 ERA. They also hold the exact same WHIP: 1.37.

Dodgers at Giants, 3:45 p.m. ET

The Dodgers haven't beaten Tim Lincecum this year -- losing both times he pitched, with Lincecum getting the win in one -- but that doesn't mean they haven't fared pretty well. The Dodgers have 12 hits and seven runs in 13 innings against him this year; the 4.15 ERA is Lincecum's highest this year against any team he's faced more than once.

Phillies at Cubs, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

Pedro Martinez makes his debut with the Phillies. Last year, with the Mets, Martinez did not go more than six innings in any of his final six starts. His last start of 2008, oddly enough, came against the Cubs.

For the rest of Wednesday's schedule, click here.

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BBTN ON THE AIR: WEDNESDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
10 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Steve Phillips, Eric Young
12 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: Eric Young, Steve Phillips

BBTN MINUTE: PEDRO'S READY TO GO

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he looks at just how rare Adrian Gonzalez's 6-for-6 night against the Brewers on Tuesday really was.

First basemen with 6-hit game
Expansion Era (since 1961)
Player Year
Adrian Gonzalez 2009
Carlos Pena 2004
Andres Galarraga 1995

WEB GEMS

TUESDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
Adrian Gonzalez• Well, that would have to be the guy with six hits, right? Adrian Gonzalez singled five times and doubled once as the Padres pounded out 23 hits in a 13-6 win against the Brewers. What does a six-hit night do for the batting average? It raises it from .251 to .262.
WORST
Nick Blackburn• Twins starter Nick Blackburn didn't get to see the third inning against the Royals. No, he was gone after 1 2/3 innings of work. He gave up six hits and six runs in his time, then the bullpen coughed up eight more after he exited in a 14-6 loss.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Pedro Martinez

Pedro Martinez starts for the Phillies on Wednesday night against the Cubs (8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN360.com), taking the place of Jamie Moyer in Philly's rotation.

While Pedro was not his Hall of Fame self the past two seasons, replacing Moyer is not that big a task this season. Here's a look at where Martinez will make a difference:

Pedro Martinez vs. Jamie Moyer
Past three seasons
Martinez 2007-08 Moyer 2009
SLG vs. curve/change .308 .542
Walk pct. with curve/change 3.7 6.3
Miss pct. with curve/change 32.4 29.2
K pct with changeup 25.7 20.9
HR pct. of fly balls 7.14 8.46

Pedro may have lost some life on his fastball, but his off-speed stuff hasn't suffered. And his changeup, even when paired with a slower fastball, has enough movement to leave hitters flailing. And perhaps most importantly, pitching in Citizens Bank Park, is his ability to keep the ball in the yard.

-- ESPN Stats & Information

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF WEDNESDAY'S GAMES

Fantasy Tristan Cockcroft examines the 15 games on Wednesday's slate.

Cockcroft ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound, and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Wednesday. Daily Notes