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Uncertain Future Hindering Rangers

Nelson Cruz's decision regarding the Biogenesis scandal could rock the Rangers.

Nelson Cruz’s decision regarding the Biogenesis scandal could rock the Rangers.

At a time when the club should be looking up at divisional rivals the Oakland Athletics, the Texas Rangers are instead looking back over their shoulder.

With a starting rotation that’s been decimated by injury and without the bats of the departed Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, and Michael Young – three of the club’s top eight home run hitters last season – the Rangers have struggled somewhat this season, and now nervously awaits to find out whether they will be without right fielder Nelson Cruz.

20130723_AL_WestCruz, who leads the club in home runs (23) and RBIs (70) and is second in hits (100), was one of the 20 Major League Baseball players to be named in the Biogenesis scandal back in January. This past Monday saw the league levy a 65-game suspension on Milwaukee Brewers’ left fielder Ryan Braun – a result of a plea deal of sorts – sparking the question, who’s next?

While the level of evidence against Cruz is unknown, as is the league’s future actions against the 25-year-old, if Cruz did take some form of performance enhancing drug, he can expect to be in the firing line sooner rather than later. For Cruz, there’s an extra level of concern stemming from his status as a free agent this coming summer.

As Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News pointed out, Cruz now likely faces a tough decision: does he strike a deal with the Major League Baseball brass now and puncture the Rangers’ postseason chances, or does he fight the charges now and wreck his own free agent value come the summer? As Grant points out, this really is “the Sophie’s Choice of sports.”

Cruz has been pivotal to the success of the Rangers so far this season, providing a reliable bat and a solid glove; he has made just two errors in 90 games. Such has been the importance of his role manager Ron Washington even went as far to say he believed Cruz had “handled [the situation] admirably.”

“He’s been a pro, and he has been able to separate what he has done on his job which come the that ballpark and play baseball, and what he’s done out of here. He’s done a good job of separating.”

While he may be proud of his player, Washington himself runs the gauntlet of displaying such support under the circumstances. With the response Braun has received, backing a player that may have used PEDs is risky business indeed.

So, while the Rangers are in limbo on the Cruz ‘decision’, the club looks to sure-up the roster and make a postseason challenge.

Trading for Matt Garza this week was certainly a positive move by the Rangers’ front office.

The Rangers currently have four starting pitchers listed on the disabled list: Neftali Feliz (elbow), Matt Harrison (lower back), Colby Lewis (elbow), and Nick Tepesch (elbow). The first three have all undergone surgery and sit on the 60-day list. Lewis has not played this season.

Garza will now be added to a rotation that includes Derek Holland (8-5, 3.10 ERA), Yu Darvish (9-4, 2.86 ERA), Alexi Ogando (4-2, 3.13 ERA), and Martin Perez (3-3, 3.40 ERA). Darvish himself missed a start before looking sharp in Monday night’s 3-0 win over the New York Yankees.

20130723_AL_WildcardWhether this rotation is strong enough to see the Rangers catch Oakland in the AL West remains to be seen. But for the Rangers, it’s not a case of division or bust. In fact, the club would be content with a Wild Card berth come October, but even that will require work. As of the end of play on Tuesday, the Rangers (55-45) trail both the Tampa Bay Rays (59-42) and Baltimore Orioles (57-44) in the Wild Card race.

Garza brings a proven American League pedigree to the club. He began his career with the Minnesota Twins where he recorded an 8-13 record, before moving on to Tampa Bay and putting together a 34-31 record, twice helping the club to the postseason, including the 2008 World Series. He is 63-62 all-time with a 3.80 ERA.

According to Bovada, the Rangers are 1/1 to win the AL West, behind the Oakland A’s at 6/5. The club is 13/2 to win the AL pennant, ranking fifth in the league, and 12/1 to win the World Series, eighth in the majors. These odds could quickly plummet if Cruz departs the team early.

In the more immediate future, the Rangers (55-45, 28-23 home) continue a four-game home set against the New York Yankees (53-47, 25-24 road) on Wednesday night.

The Yankees came from behind Tuesday, scoring a pair of runs in the ninth inning to ruin Joe Nathan’s (0-1, 1.74 ERA, 31 SV) perfect record this season. The two clubs have split the opening pair of games.

Matt Garza brings experience and a strong arm to the club.

Matt Garza brings experience and a strong arm to the club.

Garza (6-1, 3.17 ERA) will make his first start for his new club in the game, going up against New York legend Andy Pettitte (7-7, 4.47 ERA).

Garza took six wins from his 11 starts in Chicago this season, compiling a 1.14 WHIP in the process. The right-hander has won each of his last five starts and will be hoping this success continues in Arlington.

That success might be slightly delayed though. Garza is 1-4 with a 4.48 ERA in 12 games against the Yankees in his career. He last played the Bronx Bombers as a member of the Rays in 2010.

Pettitte meanwhile has had a shaky season. He was roughed up in his last start, yielding six hits and four runs, including a pair of homers, to the Boston Red Sox on Friday. He recorded the loss as the Yankees went on to lose 4-2, snapping his own two-game winning streak in the process.

Pettitte took to the mound against Texas back on June 26 in the Bronx, another losing effort that saw the left-hander allow four runs (three earned) on six hits.

New York Yankees vs. Texas Rangers odds for 7/24/13 are available now.

Texas (-172) opened as the favorite at home against the Yankees (+162) on the moneyline, and most sportsbooks are towing that line within a few points.

The Rangers currently lead the season series 3-2 with two games (Wed, Thu) left to play.

The total opened at 9 with the over (-120) favored against the under (+100).

Both Texas (36-58-6) and New York (38-54-8) have favored the under this season, a fact that is borne out by their head-to-head meetings. Of their five previous meetings, three have seen the total go under, one has seen the total go over, while Tuesday’s game finished with a push.

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