- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 14, 2010

ARLINGTON, TEXAS (AP) - The Texas Rangers are in bankruptcy and up for auction. They went into the All-Star break after being swept at home by the worst team in the majors.

No longer is it a certainty that Nolan Ryan, the Hall of Fame pitcher and team president, will become a co-owner.

And yet the Rangers are having arguably their best season ever. On the field.

Even with the off-field drama and that ugly four-game series last weekend against Baltimore, the Rangers (50-38) are 4 1/2 games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West. That is the largest lead in any of baseball’s six divisions coming out of the break.

“I’ve been through every possible twist and turn,” said Michael Young, the longest-tenured Ranger in his 10th season. “A lot of unknowns and a couple of rebuilding processes, and now here we are. It’s just time to go on the field, be loose and have some fun.”

Texas opens a four-game series at Boston on Thursday, then goes to Cleveland before coming home to play the Angels.

The 50-year-old franchise, which moved from Washington to Texas in 1972, has never won a playoff series. The Rangers have had only two winning seasons since their last playoff appearance in 1999.

That dreadful history and the ongoing bankruptcy case related to the stalled sale of the team, which now includes a scheduled Aug. 4 auction, don’t seem to affecting their play on the field.

“What I sense is a confidence,” said manager Ron Washington, who’s watched the performance after making his own off-the-field headlines in March by admitting he used cocaine last year.

Ryan before the season said he expected the Rangers to win at least 92 games. Texas is on pace to win at least 98, and now has coveted All-Star left-hander Cliff Lee in the starting rotation.

“Now it’s on us. It’s on us,” Washington said, repeating with emphasis. “I don’t think we can cry for anything else. … There were expectations on us. Now there’s really expectations on us.”

Despite financial uncertainty, general manager Jon Daniels last week pulled off a six-player deal to add Lee from Seattle. The pitcher who twice beat the Yankees in last year’s World Series while with Philadelphia, appeared headed to New York.

Instead, Texas got him three weeks before the non-waiver trading deadline.

The Rangers had already gotten from San Francisco veteran catcher Bengie Molina, whose three playoff trips includes a World Series title with the Angels in 2002.

“We might have a little more confidence in ourselves,” All-Star second baseman Ian Kinsler said. “We have guys that have been to the playoffs, have been to the big stage that are big parts of the team and that helps. But we understand we have a long way to go.”

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