The Silver Boot smackdown ended on Wednesday night with the Astros once again beating the Texas Rangers 12-3. The highly anticipated three-game series was very anticlimatic. Texas had a lead midway through Monday's game 5-4 on a Corey Seager home run. The Astros then hit back-to-back home runs off Glenn Otto and the Rangers never led again in the series. They were outscored from that moment 35-5.It was a beatdown that restored order in the American League West. Nothing for the Rangers worked in these three games and it leaves the Rangers not only three games back of the Astros in the AL West. It also leaves Texas out of the playoff field entirely. After this beat down Texas now has to ask themselves where do they go from here?
Texas must shift their focus to winning the wild card
The division race is far from out of reach at three games, but it was clear from these three games that there is a level that Houston can play at that Texas cannot reach. The third wild card and even the second wild card are obtainable. They still have series against both Seattle and Toronto. Texas currently is 0.5 game behind Toronto for the third wild card and two games back of Seattle for the second wild card. The goal is to get into the playoffs, once in then anything can happen.
Last season the Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres both qualified as wild card teams and both took out 100-win division champions in the NL Division series. Texas has a strong starting pitching staff and will have Josh Jung in time for the playoffs. If they can just get in then they can make a run.
If they can win the wild card it will still be a successful season. The wild card is not the death sentence it used to be. If Texas can turn things around and win the wild card they will be playing good baseball at the right time of year.
Texas needs to get key players healthy
Nathan Eovaldi made his return on Tuesday night and pitched just 1 1/3 innings against the Astros. Josh Jung continues his rehab from his broken thumb. Max Scherzer continues to pitch with forearm tightness. Adolis Garcia went down with what looked like a serious knee injury, but is being described as "knee discomfort". Texas if they are going to turn this around in the next three and a half weeks will need all of these players to be healthy and contributing.
Eovaldi just needs to be stretched out. His next start will likely be next week in Toronto. It will be important for him to get into the third or fourth inning in that start. Eovaldi is having to go through what pitchers go through during spring training. This time Eovaldi is having to increase his workload every start in the middle of a contested playoff race.
Josh Jung is going through fielding exercises and should be taking dry swings as he continues to come back from his broken thumb. The hope is that he will be back in the last two weeks. To do that he will need a rehab assigment, but the minor league seasons are quickly coming to an end in the next two weeks in some cases. Hopefully by the end of next week he will be getting sent out and then called up for the last home stand of the season.
Max Scherzer made another start on Wednesday night going against long-time teammate Justin Verlander for the first time in his career. Verlander was the winner on the night as went seven innings, giving up just one run, with six strikeouts. Scherzer went just three innings, picking up the loss. He gave up seven runs including three home runs. This comes after he complained of forearm tightness after his last start. He pitched a bullpen in between starts and came back said he good to go. I expect him to continue to pitch and just hope that it does not develop into something worse.
Finally, Adolis Garcia did go down with what looked to be a serious knee injury. He went back to the wall in right field in the second inning and tried to take a home run away from Michael Brantley and landed awkwardly. He punched the field in frustration after being removed from the game. He will have an MRI on Thursday to look into the seriousness of the injury. If it requires an IL stint then expect Evan Carter to get the call and to make his debut on Friday night. The Rangers might announce something on Thursday or wait until pregame on Friday.
Texas needs to move past this series quickly and be ready for the Oakland A's.
The season is not over. There is still 23 games left to be played, Texas will resume action against Oakland on Friday night in a three game series. It is vital for Texas to not just win this series but sweep the A's. Toronto will be facing the second worst team in the American League in the Kansas City Royals. Texas has to assume Toronto will sweep that series and so Texas must do the same with Oakland to be able to keep pace.
No one is going to feel sorry for Texas, least of all the A's. Texas has an off-day thankfully to really get away from the park and away from the game. They need to flush this series over the next 24 hours and then come ready to play on Friday night. The losing 15 of 19 and getting swept by Houston needs to be left in the past. It is done. Texas will start fresh on Friday and as West Jones said they are now the hunter. The hunt for the playoffs continues on as they now try to chase down the Toronto Blue Jays for the third wild card spot.
If Texas can quickly move past this abomination of a series they can get back to winning games and looking towards October. It is not going to be easy, but if they can sweep of the A's they will be feeling much better about themselves as they head on the road to Toronto. That series will go a long way towards determining if the playoff field will include the Texas Rangers for the first time since 2016.