Before last night’s struggle in Detroit, the Texas Rangers had won 7 of 8 games since finishing off a series in Minnesota against the fellow Wild Card Contending Twins with a victory. That stretch of games, including a sweep of the also relevant Tampa Bay Rays, has catapulted the Rangers back into not only the American League Wild Card race, but the club now finds itself within actual reach of the A.L. West Division title.
The Rangers enter tonight’s second game of four in Detroit in great need of a win. Though technically still in the picture, you need a big frame to fit the Tigers into the playoff hunt. After this series the Rangers will face Toronto and Baltimore, who you can see clearly from any angle as seven teams (Texas, Minnesota, one of Toronto or New York, Baltimore, Detroit, L.A. Angels and Tampa Bay) fight for the two Wild Card spots and a chance to go all the way in October.
The extra Wild Card spot has certainly made things (more, depending on who you ask) interesting in Major League Baseball, and if things go as they did in 2012, as many as three teams could play past 162 games when Baltimore defeated Texas in a Play-In Game.
Strong performances in recent games from the big money players, Adrian Beltre (and his thumb), Prince Fielder (and his veggies), Shin-Soo Choo and his diary as well as Elvis Andrus and his robo-leg kick have stirred the pot that is Postseason aspirations for the Rangers. Recently the team acquired a few new faces, Will Venable from San Diego and welcomes back Mike Napoli from Boston.
The team has thankfully been injected with a whole heap of new talent since the Trade Deadline, highlighted by some new arms in the bullpen. However, as things tend to work out in baseball, the club is only going to go as far as their starting pitching will take them.
Particularly their “aces,” the front-of-the-line guys, and the Rangers have a few of them in stock now as of last week.
Depending on who you ask, the Rangers could have four top of the rotation arms, or zero. Cole Hamels numbers in the American League are not good, and he’s winless in his first three Ranger starts with an ERA approaching 4 (3.86).
Presumably because of a Qualifying Offer cocktail that awaits him, Yovani Gallardo wasn’t dealt in July. However, after sizzling through his first 19 starts, with a 2.62 ERA and 79:40 K:BB ratio, Gallardo has fallen way off from being the club’s de facto ace.
Since July 19, Gallardo has a 6.30 ERA in 6 starts with opponents hitting a lofty .320 against the right hander and has only gone six innings once.
Derek Holland has ace potential, but the 28-year old has thrown just one start in 2015 –albeit a great one–but counting on him is like counting on Bobby Wilson to keep getting on base. It’s a huge risk, one that also applies to Martin Perez. Perez, still just 24, has pitched admirably since returning from Tommy John Surgery. His 5.30 ERA is inflated by a disastrous outing against the Yankees in late July. However, admirably is the best you can say.
The Rangers really only have one ace by nature, and that’s Cole Hamels. However, there’s shut down potential in the rest of the rotation, and the Rangers will need every corner painted if they’re to turn a miraculous run into anything more than a nice Yearbook memory.