Baseball Report

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Alexi Ogando is making the Texas Rangers forget about their loss of Cliff Lee in the off-season. And so are Matt Harrison and Derek Holland. Through the first 10 games this season, the three starting pitchers were 6-0 as the Rangers went 9-1. It was the team’s best start since going 9-1 in 1989.

Texas’s pitching staff, including last season’s 15-game winner C.J. Wilson and closer Neftali Feliz (40 saves in 2010, four this season) led the majors with a 2.22 ERA after Monday’s 2-0 win at Detroit. Ogando went seven innings in that game, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out four. The Rangers’ scoreless innings streak reached 25 going into Tuesday’s game.

Ogando, who has a 0.00 ERA, is a converted reliever. He spent his rookie season last year in the bullpen before getting a shot as a starter late in spring training.

It’s not only pitching that has the Rangers on a roll. Rounding out the defending American League champions is a batting lineup that was tied for the major league lead with 18 home runs on Monday and in slugging percentage at .546.

Nelson Cruz hit five homers in the first 10 games while Ian Kinsler hit four. Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli had three each. And Josh Hamilton, who hit 32 home runs last year, hadn’t even gotten started, sitting at zero. But he had six RBIs and led the club in batting with a .316 average.

“We can play whatever the game asks us to play,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “We do have guys up and down the lineup that can punch the ball out of the ballpark.”

Against Boston in a season-opening sweep, Texas slugged 11 home runs and outscored the Red Sox 26-11 in three games. In a 12-5 win over Boston on April 2, the Rangers hit four balls out of the park, including Beltre’s grand slam. Against Baltimore on Saturday, Cruz hit a three-run homer in a 13-1 rout.

The Rangers have everything going for them early this season, and if they can keep it going, they could be in the running for another AL pennant.

Rays early slump: On the other hand, Tampa Bay started 1-8 and ranked at the bottom of nearly every major offensive category in the big leagues. The Rays lost their first six games, scoring just one run in five of those contests. Tampa Bay’s first lead of the season came in a five-run ninth inning on Saturday at Chicago. The Rays’ run total in the 9-7 victory over the White Sox was one more than their total coming into the game.

Things returned to normal on Sunday in a 6-1 loss to the White Sox. And Rays manager Joe Maddon showed his frustration by getting ejected in the sixth inning on a controversial call. After getting thumbed, Maddon put on an act by ejecting all four umpires.

Maddon said his outburst had nothing to do with the Rays’ record.

“I think I would have argued as vehemently if we were 8-1,” Maddon said. “That was not a record argument or frustration argument.”

If anything, Maddon and his players took out their frustration on the Red Sox on Monday night in a 16-5 victory.

Canseco to play, manage: Jose Canseco, who ranks 32nd on the all-time home run list with 462, will be a player-manager for the Yuma Scorpions of the North American League this season, the Yuma Sun reported. Canseco’s brother, Ozzie Canseco, joins the team as bench coach and hitting coach, and will also play.

Since his major league career ended in 2001, Canseco, who starred for the Oakland A’s and played for six other major league teams, has extended his playing career with independent minor league clubs, including the Newark Bears of the Atlantic League and the Long Beach Armada of the Golden Baseball League.

StatsWatch: Manny Ramirez, who played briefly with Tampa Bay this season, retired last week rather than face a 100-game suspension for violating baseball’s drug policy a second time. Here are his career stats:

  • HR — 555
  • RBI — 1,831
  • AVG — .312
  • OBP — .411
  • SLG — .585

Quotable: “I can’t believe it. I thought if you got busted one time, you definitely don’t get busted again. Maybe I’m wrong. Believe me, it shocked us all.” — Rays’ outfielder Johnny Damon on Manny Ramirez’s second drug policy violation.

Diamond Notes: Boston Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz was signed to a four-year contract extension through the 2015 season. The contract is for $30.5 million…St. Louis left-fielder Matt Holliday, who missed seven games while recovering from an appendectomy on April 1, had a hit with two walks in his return in the Cardinals 6-1 win over San Francisco on Sunday…With Manny Ramirez’s retirement, the Braves’ Chipper Jones takes over as the active leader with 207 game-winning RBIs.

Copyright © 2011 Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.

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