On July 31st, the Texas Rangers found themselves 5.5 games back of the second Wild Card spot with a daunting six teams ahead of them in the standings. Texas was 50-54 at the time, coming off two disappointing series losses against the Miami Marlins and the Baltimore Orioles. Minutes before the non-waiver trade deadline expired, Texas made a move to send its ace to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a package of prospects. While the argument can be made that Texas was certainly justified in shipping away its best pitcher and his expiring contract, the trade seemed to cast a pall on what was left of the 2017 season for the Texas Rangers.
But once again, manager Jeff Banister has found a way to keep his guys fighting in the face of what appear to be very long odds. Texas has responded with a respectable record of 14-9 since the trade. While no one would accuse the Rangers of setting the baseball world on fire, it can’t be denied that the team is playing inspired baseball right now. Texas is over .500 for the first time since June 27th, and the team’s 11-4 record since August 9th is the best in baseball.
The recent run includes a series win against the division leading Houston Astros, a three game sweep of the Tigers, and a huge series win (3-1) in Los Angeles against an Angles team Texas is currently chasing in the Wild Card standings.
So where does 14-9 following the trade deadline get you in what most consider a mediocre American League? Texas (64-63) now sits just one game back of Minnesota for the second wild card spot. The list of teams in front of Texas that once stood at six, is now down to four. The Rangers, perhaps playing their best baseball of the season, have legitimately fought their way back into the Postseason picture.
Cole Hamels and Andrew Cashner have proven to be stabilizing figures within the Rangers rotation. Cole Hamels is 4-0 with an ERA of 1.86 in August, and Cashner has allowed more than two runs in a start just once this month.
The offense, after four months of mediocrity (outside of their ability to hit the long-ball), has finally come to life. Texas is hitting .281 in the month of August, best in the American League and fourth best in all of baseball. The Rangers are fifth in the majors in runs scored this month and have become less reliant on the homerun to get the job done. Texas is currently sporting an OBP and OPS of .366 and .852, respectively, pacing the American League in both categories for the month of August.
The Rangers are set to open a three-game series in Oakland this evening against the 55-72 Athletics. The A’s enter the series reeling, having lost all but one series in the month of August. The Rangers and A’s have not met since Texas swept Oakland at home in May. Overall, Texas is 6-3 against Oakland this season, averaging more than five runs per contest, all while not exactly playing their best baseball. If the Texas offense can keep up its recent pace, the Rangers should be poised for their fourth series win this month.
A series win this weekend could be huge for Texas. Three of the four teams the Rangers are currently chasing for the second and final Wild Card spot, all of which lead Texas by just ½ game, will be facing opponents that appear to be a lock for the postseason.
Kansas City will square off against the Central division leading Indians in Cleveland. The Angels will have the luxury of playing a home series this weekend, but the Halos will be matched up with the best team in the American League in the Houston Astros. And the Seattle Mariners will travel to New York to take on the Yankees who, at 68-58, are firmly positioned as the league’s number one Wild Card team.
Texas still has 35 games left on the schedule, and this weekend won’t by itself determine the outcome of the Wild Card race in the American League. But for a team with its back against the wall, this weekend presents a golden opportunity for the Rangers to strengthen their push for the postseason.
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