The Texas Rangers enter play today only one game out of the second wild card position. This occurrence seemed virtually impossible after the Rangers’ awful start to the season.
However, Texas has fought its way through adversity in the form of injuries, prolonged offensive slumps from some of their highest paid players and an unstable starting rotation. Now, that they have put themselves in contention for a playoff spot, Texas must end its Jekyll and Hyde ways and make a serious run to end 2015.
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Throughout this season, the Rangers have been one of the most schizophrenic clubs in franchise history. For example, look at the monthly win totals.
Texas opened the season going 7-14 in April and languishing at the bottom of the American League standings. Then, in May the Rangers posted a 19-7 record to pull within two games of the American League West leading Houston Astros.
In June, the team came back to earth going 14-13 and again losing ground in the division and wildcard race. July saw the Rangers have another poor month with a 10-14 record causing many to give up any hopes for a playoff spot.
But on July 30th, general manager Jon Daniels made a bold move trading for starting pitcher Cole Hamels. This move seems to have energized the Rangers.
The team is now 10-5 in August and has climbed past numerous teams in the American League wild card race. But if Texas is to make the playoffs, they must put together a solid final month and a half of baseball in which they avoid an extended losing streak and stop playing to the level of their competition.
With the imminent return of starting pitcher Derek Holland, the Rangers will be as healthy as they have been all season. Adrian Beltre seems to be getting over the thumb injury that has plagued him for most of the season and Josh Hamilton recently learned that his sore knee has no structural damage meaning he can play through the discomfort.
There are no more excuses for the Rangers. Their destiny is in their own hands.
The final two series of August give Texas the chance to move past the two teams currently holding the AL wild card spots. On a six game home stand from 8/25 to 8/30, Texas hosts the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles.
However, the Ranges must first take care of business against two teams with losing records. Resuming tonight, Texas hosts the Seattle Mariners, against whom the Rangers are a meager 3-7 this year. The next series is at Detroit, another club with a losing record, for four games.
Texas must stop losing series to sub .500 teams as they did recently in losing two of three to Seattle. While this trend must be remedied, there is yet another and more important trend Texas must reverse in order to earn a playoff spot.
Thus far, Texas is a woeful 18-27 against their AL west rivals. In September, the Rangers will play 23 consecutive games within their division.
It is in that time that the fate of the 2015 Texas Rangers will be determined. If Texas can enter September within four games of Houston, the division could be theirs for the taking.
In the season’s final month, Texas will face the Astros six times (three at home and three in Houston) and the Los Angeles Angels three times in L.A. But the thirteen games against Seattle and Oakland in September will be just as important.
Texas seems to be surging at the right time of the year. They have begun to win home games and they are beating good teams (as evidenced by their weekend sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays).
There should be no excuses for this team. They have an ace at the top of the rotation in Hamels and are soon to get their second best pitcher (Holland) back for the first time since the team’s home opener.
However, if the Rangers are unable to shake the Jekyll and Hyde personality that has been the hallmark of the 2015 team, they will be watching October baseball at home for the third consecutive season.