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Can the Texas Rangers fend off their competition in the AL West down the home stretch?

Can the Texas Rangers fend off their competition in the AL West down the home stretch?

The Rangers completed their Bay Area trip going 4-2 and have won 10 of 12 to start the month of August. Their two losses came in games where they were shut out for nine innings and 8.2 innings and won four games in August when trailing. Texas’ OPS of .830 leads the American League in August (5th in MLB), and their 63 runs rank third in the AL. The pitching side has been the most impressive, with a 2.17 ERA, which leads all of MLB in August. Once seen as a weakness, the bullpen ranks third in MLB with a 1.59 ERA and a wOBA of .220 (2nd in MLB). For suitable measures, starters rank 2nd in MLB with a 2.53 ERA and a .249 wOBA for the Rangers. All of this equates to a strong month for the Rangers, who are having a historic season in 2023, but is it enough?

Unfortunately, the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros are two teams putting up similar strong months in August. Despite the successful month of August, the Rangers gained two games on the Astros while only gaining a half-game on the Mariners, who find themselves back in the playoff chase. The Rangers have one series in Arlington remaining against Houston and play the Mariners 7 times in their final 10 games to close out the 2023 season.

One notable factor that could present minor concerns is not getting the big hit. Early in the season, the Rangers dominated with runners in scoring position, posting historical numbers. Since the All-Star break, Texas is hitting .258 with runners in scoring position, which ranks 12th in MLB, and the .745 OPS ranks 14th. It remains in the top half of MLB but trends slightly downward to the threat of the offense the club presented early. Texas’ hitters are getting on base. They’re walking, but the natural clutch hit isn’t coming as often.

A significant positive came on Sunday when the Rangers activated catcher Jonah Heim and, while Heim was hitless with a walk, aided Dane Dunning in the best start of his career. Dunning’s August posts as the third most innings pitched in baseball this month (behind Sandy Alcantara and Logan Webb, each of which the Rangers saw in seven days). Also, Dunning’s 29 strikeouts lead MLB.

We’ve reached the final 44 games of the 2023 season. The question is if the Rangers can withstand the push Houston and even Seattle are making for the AL West crown. Texas is 4-6 against the Astros, while they’re 5-1 against the Mariners (but haven’t played Seattle since the first weekend in June). Nathan Eovaldi threw another bullpen session this past weekend in San Francisco, and it appears he’s making progress to come back, bolstering an already strong rotation.

Josh Jung likely won’t come back until at least towards the end of September, which will cause platoon opportunities between Ezequiel Duran and Josh Smith which may cause a slight instability at the hot corner. Of course, they’ll continue to monitor Corey Seager at shortstop.

The Astros have a much easier schedule on paper (with back-to-back weekend series against the Royals in September), but Texas’ success against Minnesota may come to play. Remember, Kansas City strung together a seven-game winning streak not too long ago. The AL West crown will come down to the final week of the season between the Astros and Rangers, but the Astros’ past success may be too much to handle for the Rangers to fend them off. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but the Rangers may fall out of the AL West crown and into a Wild Card spot. But hey, the Phillies and Padres were in the Wild Card last season, and look where both of them ended up.

The Rangers begin a three game series Monday against the Los Angeles Angels at Globe Life Field.

Credentialed Media Staff Writer covering the Texas Rangers for Dallas Sports Fanatic | 2014 University of North Texas graduate with a Bachelor's in Radio, Television, and Film. I talk about things. Find me on the tweeter @aplinckTX

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