The Texas Rangers prevailed in a tension-filled, playoff-like series in Houston over the weekend. Their reward was an extension of their AL West lead.
If you’re not following the Texas Rangers on a day-to-day basis right now, that’s unfortunate, but it is also somewhat understandable. It is difficult to keep up with the marathon that is a major league baseball season, especially during the so-called dog days of summer.
If you rejoiced during the breezy days of May and June, but then soured during their July swoon and stopped paying as much attention, then it is perhaps time to refocus your devotion to the team that still possesses the best record in the American League.
Yes, the Texas Rangers, after playing bad baseball for most of July, are once again enjoying a comfortable seven game lead over the Seattle Mariners in the American League West. If an increasingly nervous fan base was offered this option a scant fifteen days ago, I’m sure we all would have asked “Where do we sign up?”
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See, if you haven’t been paying attention, then you would have missed the subtle turn of events during the last week of July. Since July 23rd, the Texas Rangers are 10-5 and have extended their divisional lead from 2.5 games to the aforementioned seven. No small task for a Rangers’ squad mired in deep funk at the time. It is a testament to the makeup of this team.
Granted, the Rangers are simply grinding away at this point. They lost two of three to Baltimore prior to going to Houston for the weekend games. In winning two of three there, their mark on this road trip might seem like a pedestrian 3-3. But breaking even on the road is something any fan should take under most any circumstance. It’s not easy to win on the road.
Thus far, the highlight of this road trip was definitely yesterday’s 5-3 win in extra innings. The Rangers took a 3-0 lead to the bottom of the eighth inning and seemed poised to cruise to a relatively simple series win. To Houston’s credit, they pushed back with two runs in the eighth, and then tied the game in the bottom of the ninth to lend closer Sam Dyson his third blown save of the season.
Up to that point, the game had already taken a decidedly playoff-like turn. Both managers were emptying their benches and bullpens like it was October and not early August. It made for some fascinating theater, and in retrospect, it likely speaks to the managerial and talent discrepancies between the two clubs. In other words, there’s a reason the Texas Rangers own the Astros this season.
Things finally broke the Rangers’ way in the top of the eleventh inning. Outfielder Ian Desmond came through in the clutch when he singled Shin-Soo Choo home to give the Rangers a 4-3 lead. Second baseman Rougned Odor then drove Desmond home with a laser shot to the right field wall to extend the Texas lead to 5-3.
While Odor’s RBI would provide the final margin of victory, it didn’t mean that the bottom of the eleventh wasn’t without its drama. The Astros battled and had runners on first and third, with the winning run at the plate, when reliever Matt Bush struck George Springer out. Good teams find ways to win games like this. The Texas Rangers, despite almost giving this one away, displayed their mettle and got the job done.
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It is about time you started paying mind to your Texas Rangers again. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy is providing the shot in the arm this club needed, as is designated hitter Carlos Beltran. The team is responding and appears to be in fine position to defend their American League West crown. They also appear to be primed to make some real noise when the playoffs begin. Stay tuned.