Of all the teams currently in contention for a division crown, I’d say the Texas Rangers are the most surprising of the bunch; their superb 20-9 record in July has them sitting comfortably in first place in the AL West, five games ahead of the defending AL champion Royals, and 6½ ahead of the Twins. The Rangers have yet to have a losing month, and their current mark of 64-41 is well ahead of last season’s pace, one that gave the ’77 squad a final record of 94-68, the best in the team’s short six-year history in Texas.
Everything seems to be going right for the Rangers this season, with four batters—Bump Wills, Al Oliver, Juan Beniquez, and Johnny Grubb—hitting over .300, starting pitchers Jon Matlack (16-3) and Fergie Jenkins (14-6) rolling towards twenty wins, and three relievers—Reggie Cleveland, Steve Comer, and Danny Darwin—sporting ERA’s under 2.00. The team leads the AL in stolen bases, with 148, and Wills is third with 54, behind Seattle’s Julio Cruz and Detroit’s Ron LeFlore. In July, Wills was the team’s leading batter, with 40 hits, 23 runs scored, and a .364 batting average, but an argument could be made for Grubb, who in just 18 games went 38-for-73, good for a robust .521. And though Matlack and Jenkins were no surprise with 4-1 won-lost marks for the month, Doc Medich stunned everyone with a 4-1 mark of his own, a 1.86 ERA, and three complete games in five starts.
To take a look at the Rangers team page for statistics through July, click here. The boxes for league leaders, team rankings, and award totals have been left blank; these numbers will be added after all AL team statistics have been finalized, and July award winners have been picked.
Posted in Inside SP78
Tagged 1978, AL West, American League, Bump Wills, Doc Medich, Johnny Grubb, Jon Matlack, July, Statis Pro 1978 Replay, Statis Pro Baseball, stats, Texas Rangers
Rangers ace Jon Matlack tied Mike Caldwell of the Brewers for the most wins in the major leagues yesterday, cruising to his 18th victory against just three defeats with a dominating 4-0 shutout of the Tigers before a Navy Night crowd at Tiger Stadium. For Matlack, who was traded to the Rangers in December after seven seasons with the Mets, the win was not only the 100th of his major league career, but helped lift Texas to a 4-game lead over second-place Kansas City in the tight AL West pennant race.
“I hit some rough spots last year,” Matlack said, referring to his 7-15 won-lost record with the Mets in 1977, “so it feels good to turn it around and help a team make a run at a division title.”
Help also came last night in the form of slugging left fielder Richie Zisk, another freshman member of the team, who spent last season with the White Sox after seven seasons with the Pirates; his 2-run home run in the first inning off Detroit spot starter Kip Young gave Texas a quick 2-0 lead. It was Zisk’s 19th HR of the year, and the first a slumping Rangers squad had hit since July 30th, when Johnny Grubb connected off Wilbur Wood in the second game of a twinbill against Chicago.
After Young averted further first-inning damage by enticing Grubb to loft an infield fly for the third out, Matlack ran into some trouble of his own to open the home half of the frame, serving up a double to Johnny Wockenfuss and a two-out walk to Jason Thompson. But Matlack settled down and retired Alan Trammell on a fly out to center to end the threat and escape the inning unscathed. From there, the former NL Rookie of the Year was invincible, retiring nine straight Tigers before Rusty Staub singled to lead off the fifth. Continue reading