The Texas Rangers labored through a scorching June day yesterday, but their offensive firepower on Friday and Saturday had already sealed the series.
For the life of me, I will never understand why day baseball in Texas exists beyond May. Yesterday’s 7-3 loss was interminably onerous. Led by an ineffective Yu Darvish, Ranger pitchers combined for a whopping 189 pitches over a three-hour and forty-three minute span. It doesn’t take a genius to see that the stultifying heat makes the product suffer. Thank goodness there will be a new air-conditioned stadium relatively soon.
Rants about the heat aside, there was good news. The offense hammered out consecutive 10-4 victories on Friday and Saturday. Those two wins secured a winning series, which, in turn, secured three successful series in a row. No small task, considering the ups and downs this bunch likes to put themselves through.
Of course, taking the big picture into account, it amounts to a 34-34 record. That’s about as average as average gets. And as of right now, the Rangers are still eleven games out of first in the American League West. As I’ve said before, the division crown is but a pipe dream. However, the wild card is still very much in play. Win seven of nine, and enthusiasm tends to bubble to the surface.
So while there is a bit of a sour taste in our mouths from yesterday’s clunker, it surely isn’t the end of the world. Aside from the Yankees, Red Sox, and Astros, there isn’t a team willing to take the reins and run off with a playoff berth. Now more than ever, it appears that that old sports mantra of “Just get in the tournament” rings truest. This has to be the goal for the Rangers as the season transitions to the dog days.
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It’s not going to be easy. June concludes with a series versus Toronto at home, then at New York and at Cleveland. We all knew June was the bear of the schedule to this point. The good news is that the Rangers have somehow managed to scratch out an 8-6 record for the month. The better news is that it came against some pretty solid competition. Make no mistake, sweeping the Nationals last weekend and taking two of the three subsequent games in Houston during the week was huge. Record wise, those were/are the best teams in baseball.
The bad news is that the uptick needs to continue. If postseason form holds, the aforementioned .500 record simply won’t cut it. Since the playoffs expanded to the wildcard format in 2012, the average win total needed to make the play-in game is 90 wins. In other words, 90-72 is the likely low water mark just to get there. For the Rangers to accomplish this, it would take a 56-38 mark the rest of the way. It’s quite sobering when viewed from that perspective.
For a team that hasn’t displayed that form of consistency all year, it is a daunting task. The peaks have been high, but the valleys have been inversely proportional. There’s no way to sugar coat it, really. Despite the recent good times, the Texas Rangers are mired in a pattern of mediocrity they’re simply not accustomed to. The Jekyll and Hyde act needs to stop if they have designs on making this a successful season.
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So as “they” say, it must be a game-to-game, series-to-series proposition moving forward. Start off by finding a way to get over on Toronto. Recent history suggests this isn’t likely, but that’s why they play the games, no? The beginnings of a winning foundation have been laid. It’s time to keep building and establish some momentum before it gets too late.