The Angels took pitcher C.J. Wilson and outfielder Josh Hamilton from the Texas Rangers each of the last two winters. But those poachings don't seem to have hurt their A.L. West rivals. Instead, Texas was off to a 14-7 start entering play on Thursday and has already swiped four of six games from Los Angeles this season.
Their top-notch farm system is the biggest reason the Rangers have been able to withstand such losses. But an expenditure of their own last winter -- the signing of Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish -- might be the biggest reason Texas is still the team to beat in the division.
Darvish is already 4-1 with a 1.65 ERA in five starts. He has also beaten the Angels twice, including six shutout innings on Wednesday in an 11-3 win over Los Angeles. Darvish didn't need to go much further than that. He struck out 11 batters and walked just two. The Angeles also managed just three hits off him. And while they did better in a first meeting on April 7 -- three runs, six hits, four walks in five innings -- Texas still won 7-3 that night, too.
Darvish leads the majors in strikeouts with 49. No one else was within seven entering Thursday's action. He has topped 10 strikeouts three different times this season and whiffed 14 in 8 2/3 one-hit innings against Houston on April 2 in his first start of the season. In all, he's walked just 10 batters and allowed just 16 hits -- less than one every other inning pitched (32 2/3 innings). Those are bona fide ace numbers. Meanwhile, the struggling Angels, even with two of the Rangers' better players added to the payroll, were just 8-12 and had been outscored by 17 runs.
- Brian McNally