Texas Rangers: The make-or-break month of September


Scooping the Texas Rangers banner

Texas Rangers win on a balk.
Ian Kinsler scores on a balk in the 10th-inning to put the Rangers ahead. (Steven Bisig/USA TODAY Sports)

It’s not the Seattle Mariners I feared. No matter how much of a thorn they’ve been in the side of the Texas Rangers, I still didn’t fear anything they could do to this team and where they were in the AL West division race.

At this point in the season, there are teams that are so far out of the race that they look for one ultimate goal – to play the role of spoiler. They want to do everything they can to ruin the playoff chances of teams that are this close to the edge or perhaps ruin a shot at the division title for those who sit atop each respective division.

That’s what Seattle wanted to do for these three games. They wanted to play spoiler, and they wanted to do some damage to the Rangers as they head into the biggest stretch of games that will ultimately decide whether they stay on top of the AL West or watch the Oakland Athletics slide by them for the second straight season.

I remember when Nelson Cruz was suspended and the panic among Ranger fans. Where would the offense come from? Could they seriously stay in front of Oakland for the remainder of the season without their biggest bat?

Go back to the beginning of the 2013 season. How many of us were wondering how the Rangers would make up for the amount of offense lost when Josh Hamilton signed with the Los Angeles Angels and Mike Napoli signed with the Boston Red Sox? How many of us looked at the combined numbers and wondered just how this team would make up for that?

With one month left of the season, not only have they done that, they’ve found a different way to play the game, to score runs and, as evident on Tuesday night against Seattle, different ways to win.

That’s the name of the game for the rest of the season – finding ways to win. The season still has a lot of games left, and while the schedule for the Rangers looks much easier than what Oakland has left, it doesn’t mean this team can let its guard down for one second.

That’s what bit them at the end of the 2012 season.

What was once a team that seemed to hang its hat on the long ball, and almost depend on it far too much, has turned into a team that manufactures runs, steals bases, goes from first to third on a base hit to right field — little things we’re not used to seeing.

The first two games against Seattle are in the books with one left on Wednesday afternoon, as well as three at home against the Minnesota Twins.

However, what lies ahead will determine the fate of the 2013 Texas Rangers. Will they be able to handle a two-week stretch of games including six against Oakland, three against the Angels and three at home against the NL East-leading Pittsburgh Pirates?

It’s a two-week stretch that will show what the Rangers are really made of. A two-week stretch that can solidify their spot atop the AL West for the remainder of the season or a two-week stretch, if it doesn’t go their way, that could be their undoing.

Will they step up to the plate and take their fate in their own hands? Or will they continue to hope, night in and night out, the Oakland A’s don’t win on nights they lose?

It’s time for the Rangers to prove they are a much different ball club than the one that finished last season with a resounding thud.

Other news and notes:

  • Derek Holland’s no-decision against the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night was his fourth straight and fifth in his last six starts.
  • After struggling since his apparent fight with a few bar patrons in Cleveland last month, Tanner Scheppers was called upon in a big situation Tuesday night and delivered a huge inning out of the bullpen. Maybe this is a sign of things to come and that things are turning around for the young right-hander.
  • Speaking of Cleveland, after giving up three earned runs in two innings of work, reliever Jason Frasor has been nothing short of spectacular out of the Texas Rangers’ bullpen, giving up just a single earned run in his last 10 innings pitched. Take away that one bad night, and the numbers are even better (2 ER in his last 19.1 IP).
  • Alexi Ogando is throwing from 120 feet according to Jeff Wilson of the Ft Worth Star Telegram and the Rangers expect him to start throwing from the mound this coming weekend. While Wilson believes putting Ogando back into the rotation makes sense, three trips to the disabled list in one season would seem to say otherwise.
  • After a three-hit performance against Houston back on August 19, Rangers’ leadoff hitter Leonys Martin has just one hit in his last 19 at bats with seven strikeouts. An even scarier number is his .217 batting average away from Rangers Ballpark (hitting .317 at home).

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