Will Texas Rangers suffer repeat of last September?


Kauf Drops banner -- Matt Garza

Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Matt Garza need to deliver over the next three weeks
Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Matt Garza need to deliver over the next three weeks. (US TODAY Sports)

It’s time to shake things up. While “Scooping the Texas Rangers” will remain the name of my podcast column, my regular column takes over the moniker of “Kauf Drops.” See what I did there?

Yu Darvish, it’s time to come up big my friend, and last night against the Pirates was a good start. A little run support would have been nice, but at least the walks and home runs were in check.

From July 27 to August 12, there was nothing the right-hander couldn’t do. He was 3-1 and had given up just five earned runs through 28 combined innings. But, from August 13 through September 4, Darvish proved himself human. He was 0-2, with two no decisions, giving up 13 earned runs in 26 combined innings. Not to mention five home runs to go along with a whopping 15 walks including six in his last start against the Oakland Athletics.

He’s not the only concern for the Texas Rangers in a month that people fear because of how it ended in 2012. This close to a division title — this close to going to the playoffs needing just one win — and being unable to get the job done.

Derek Holland is, seemingly, finding the consistency most believed he had been lacking over the last few years. On August 16, Holland had a terrific start against Seattle in Arlington, going seven shutout innings, giving up just two hits, striking out six and lowering his season ERA to 2.95.

Since then, however, Holland can’t seem to buy a win, though it’s not entirely his fault. Over his last four starts, Holland is 0-2 with two no-decisions, and  he has given up 17 runs (12 ER). Here’s another fact that might have some concerned: Prior to his last two starts, the last time Holland didn’t get through six full innings was June 11 at home against the Cleveland Indians, a stretch of 14 straight starts going six innings or more.

I want to move on to Matt Garza. I know some will call me biased as far as he’s concerned, and that’s fine, but the one thing you can’t deny is the right-hander being able to save the bullpen almost every time he goes out. Since joining the Rangers before the July 31 trade deadline, Matt Garza has thrown seven or more innings in seven of his nine starts since joining the team.

Now that I’ve said something good about the right-hander, now it’s time for the concern that goes with handing him the ball as your number-two starter. Matt Garza has given up four runs or more in six of his nine starts with the team. Let’s put that another way: The Rangers offense is being asked to pull themselves out of a 4-0 hole every time Matt Garza takes the mound. Not to say that’s the amount of runs he’ll give up every fifth day but it has certainly gone that way six of his last seven starts. The good news? The Rangers are 6-3 with him on the mound.

You can’t help those fans who are worried about a repeat of last season, especially with how this team, and this starting rotation, has performed since the middle of August.

Sure, it might not be time to utter the words, “must win,” but I certainly think these games matter in the grand scheme of things. If one game didn’t make a bit of difference, we wouldn’t have been talking about the 2012 team packing it in early and deciding they didn’t want to play any more baseball games.

The 2013 Texas Rangers are more talented than the team that finished out the 2012 season with a resounding thud.

And, oh by the way, for those national guys who continue to bring up the fact that the Rangers don’t have Mike Napoli, Josh Hamilton and Michael Young, I’ll respond with this: Without those three guys, not to mention without the suspended Nelson Cruz, this team is still very much in reach of the AL West title. Before you bring those three names up, check your prediction list and make sure you didn’t pick the Los Angeles “Don’t Call us Anaheim” Angels to win the AL West before this season ever started.

Names on a roster don’t guarantee you division titles nor do they guarantee you one in the World Series. If they did, I’d argue the Rangers would have celebrated back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011.

September is important for one reason: Taking care of business on the field and winning the games you have in front of you means you don’t have to worry about the guys behind you. The Rangers were the ones that led the pack, but now they’re the ones doing the chasing.

If they don’t take care of business now, they’ll end up doing exactly what they did in October of last year: Sit and watch from the comfort of their own homes.

Do the Rangers want to play into October? Or should they treat these next few weeks just like any other game? I’d argue the latter will guarantee them an offseason at home and a silent Rangers’ Ballpark until April of 2014.

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