Despite a rash of injuries and a losing record, the Rangers are only three games out of first after they clobbered first-place Seattle 10-1 Monday night at The Ballpark in Arlington.
Left fielder Rusty Greer has been sidelined for nearly a month. Right fielder Gabe Kapler is on the disabled list. Second baseman Frank Catalanotto is also sidelined. There are concerns about Justin Thompson's surgically repaired left shoulder. The third base situation has been a mess.
Texas can be thankful it's in a division that lacks a dominant team. Seattle also has injury woes. Ditto Oakland. The Rangers (14-17) would trail New York by 71/2 games if they were in the AL East but are making a move by defeating their division rivals.
"We just need to stay close until we all get healthy," first baseman Rafael Palmeiro said. "We knew the youngsters would play well. They just needed time to learn up here."
Two youngsters played a pivotal role Monday. Ruben Mateo had three hits to extend his hitting streak to 12 games, longest by a Rangers rookie since 1987. Mike Lamb had three hits, including two doubles.
Rick Helling pitched six shutout innings before leaving with a bruised hand, the result of a smash off Tom Lampkin's bat in the second. Helling (4-1) lowered his ERA to 2.44, second in the AL.
"I don't think anything is broken," Helling said. "It started swelling up on me in the third. I was lucky to go as long as I did. I'm happy with the way I've been pitching. Hopefully, I can make my next start."
Texas outhit the Mariners 14-5. Royce Clayton's triple ignited a three-run first. Clayton also hit his fifth home run. Chad Curtis drove in three runs, and Luis Alicea had two RBIs. That was more than enough for Helling.
"Now that he has the two new pitches, the slider and change-up, he has a lot of weapons," manager Johnny Oates said. "He was throwing changeups and curves to keep them off balance. The big key was he had first-pitch strikes on 15 of the 22 hitters. He got ahead."
Forget a trade for outfield depth. Greer is expected back soon, and Jason McDonald, the emergency fill-in right-fielder, has homered in three straight games.
"The bottom half of the lineup had a lot
of fun, especially Mateo and Lamb, the two
kids," Oates said. "In an ideal world, this
is how you like to play them, get an early
lead, get a good outing from your starter
and have the bullpen close it out."