After the Texas Rangers had been swept on the road by the Cleveland Indians, I looked ahead to what the Rangers had in front of them and wondered if this team would even be in the race come the following Monday.
They would face the Los Angeles Angels six times and have a showdown with the Oakland Athletics nestled in between.
Had you told me after the first nine games (one of which was a make-up game against the Arizona Diamondbacks) the Rangers would be 8-1, I would have told you that was impossible. There was no way this Texas Rangers club, after being swept by a slightly above-average Indians team, would be able to win eight of the next nine games.
Not only did they do it, but they’ve all but erased what was a six-game A’s lead in the AL West. That lead is now one game.
There were those who thought it was time to watch what was going on in the AL Wild Card instead of watching what the Oakland Athletics were doing as the AL West front runners. But, over just one week’s time, the Texas Rangers have made themselves contenders once more. And what’s more impressive is the way they’ve done it and who they’ve been able to do it without.
After right fielder Nelson Cruz accepted his 50-game suspension, a lot of people thought this Texas Rangers team wouldn’t survive without their biggest bat in the lineup. Even the national pundits, who called the Rangers “trade deadline failures,” have watched this team get themselves back in the race without the bat they needed at the deadline, and now without the bat that was already there.
Is it possible for this club to win the division without Cruz and without making a move for another bat at the trade deadline or before the waiver deadline?
The month of August is going to be a big one for the Texas Rangers, and it plays to their favor in a big way. Outside of the three games against Oakland at the beginning of this month, the Rangers do not play a single team with a winning record the rest of August.
They still have seven games with the Houston Astros, six with the Seattle Mariners, three with the Chicago White Sox, two with the Minnesota Twins and two with the Milwaukee Brewers, not to mention the one game they still have with the Angels on Wednesday night as they wrap up a three-game set in Anaheim.
The Rangers have a big chance to not only take control of the AL West but also an opportunity to put some distance between them and the Athletics who have a much tougher month of August.
Other news and notes:
- For most of this season, I had been skeptical about whether or not the Rangers would get Colby Lewis back at any point this season. Some said I was jumping to conclusions. On Tuesday afternoon, the Rangers announced Lewis would have season-ending surgery to remove bone spurs from his hip. His comeback bid, at least for the 2013 season, is over. Still think I was jumping to conclusions?
- On his Baseball Tonight podcast (17:10 mark), ESPN’s Buster Olney talked about why the Texas Rangers should make a deal with the Chicago White Sox for designated hitter Adam Dunn. Olney pointed out Dunn’s on-base percentage (.331) was one point better than where Cruz ended his regular season (.330), as well as the fact the two players are one home run apart (27, 26). Take this with a grain of salt because Olney also thought the Texas Rangers were the most in need of making a trade before the July 31 deadline. Apparently Rangers’ general manager Jon Daniels isn’t listening to Olney. Might be a good thing. However, with a rehab assignment yet to be set for Lance Berkman, the Rangers may need to think about bringing in another designated hitter.
- Matt Harrison threw a bullpen session on Tuesday and said he feels 100 percent healthy. With Lewis lost for the rest of the season, and Alexi Ogando struggling since coming off the disabled list, they could really use Harrison in the rotation for the stretch run. In his second rehab start this past Sunday, Harrison threw 44 pitches over 3.2 innings, giving up one run on three hits and striking out three. He’s expected to throw five innings and 65 to 70 pitches in his third rehab start on Friday.
- Speaking of Ogando, he’ll go tonight for the Texas Rangers against the Los Angeles Angels. If his first two starts are any indication, you have to imagine manager Ron Washington will have a short leash with him. They need Ogando to last more than five innings to prevent the bullpen from working any harder than is absolutely necessary.