Tagged: Joakim Soria

It’s Time

Star of the Week

Neftali Feliz After Striking Out A-Rod to end the 2010 ALCS, sending Texas to its first World Series

Neftali Feliz After Striking Out A-Rod to end the 2010 ALCS, sending Texas to its first World Series

I started this blog in 2010, the year the Rangers first went to the World Series. The original name of the blog was “The Futility Ends Here”. After about a week, I knew it wasn’t a very catchy title so I changed it to “World Series 40 Rangers Fan 0”. Much better. And it made it sweet when the season ended with the Rangers going to the World series for the first time in my then 40 years of Rangers fandom. For the Rangers, their marketing slogan for the 2010 season was, “It’s Time.” A more prophetic baseball slogan was never made.

Flash forward five years. Here at the All-Star break, the shell that remains of the Texas Rangers hobble into the break with baseball’s worst record. Where once I wrote of the exploits of Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Nelson Cruz and even David Murphy, now all that remains is Beltre, Andrus, Rios, Choo and a bunch of young and/or underperforming offensive players. A pitching staff that once included Cliff Lee, CJ Wilson, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, a younger Colby Lewis and one of the top relief corps in baseball is now composed of Yu Darvish at the front end, Joakim Soria at the back-end and very little of consequence in between.

So bad the Rangers situation has become, they limp into the All-Star break losers of 19 of their last 22 games. Texas (and the Washington Senators that preceded them) has had some pretty bad teams in their 53 years of existence but NONE of them have been as bad as losing 19 of 22 games. Honestly, if I didn’t know it from reading the box scores every day (it’s become too painful to even watch more than a handful of games on TV), I wouldn’t believe it possible. After all, even without all the injured players, the Rangers still have talent on this team: Beltre, Andrus, Alex Rios, Shin Soo Choo, Leonys Martin, Darvish and Soria. There have been historically bad teams in baseball for whom you’d be hard-pressed to find even two names worthy of putting on the list of talented players. For example, can anyone name more than two Houston Astros from 2o12-2013 worth mentioning? Still, this is where the Rangers find themselves.

Having a bad team does not make it harder to write about a team. Sometimes it can lead to more story ideas than a winning team provides. Among the thoughts I’ve had in recent weeks: spinning an old Paul Simon tune into a treatise on 50 Ways To Lose A Ballgame (“Give up a slam, Sam, Walk in a run, Son…”), wonderful words about the defensive work of catcher Robinson Chirinos, asking if should Jon Daniels get the blame for 2014 or is this a fluke season, talking about the newest Ranger to make his big-league début, Jake Smolinski, riffing on how great the Rangers farm system has been record-wise in 2014, opining whether Ron Washington should pay the price for the poor season, talking up minor league prospect Joey Gallo (who made headlines at the All-Star Futures game), scattershooting trade possibilities at the July deadline, etc. See? No shortage of ideas here.

Instead, I’m going to borrow a phrase from that 2010 Rangers marketing campaign. It’s Time. Time to retire the blog that I’ve devoted so much time to for the past five seasons. It isn’t because the Rangers are losing now. It’s because coming up with 500+ words to say on a regular enough basis to keep readers coming back is getting more and more difficult to do. Life has a way of throwing things in the way of the things you like to do in your spare time and my spare time has had an “S” added to it: spare has become sparse. I’m in the process of relocating to a different part of the state (and job hunting is part of that process). The desire to write about the Rangers hasn’t abated. The time to do it has.

Erik, devoted son, Rangers fan and blog follower. Photo by "One Strike Away...Twice!"

Erik, devoted son, Rangers fan and blog follower. Photo by “One Strike Away…Twice!”

So, rather than put out a piece once every two or three weeks, I’m just going to shut it down for the rest of the season. Maybe I’ll have more time to devote to Rangers writing in 2015. My devotion to the team will not change, only the writing about it. You can still find me on Twitter (@Rangersblogger) where I’ll send out in-game comments when I can. This space, however, is going dark for the foreseeable future.

I thank everyone who has been a regular reader of this space, including The Angels Ace and This Is A Very Simple Game; The Wrigley Regular; all the Rangers fans who have followed me; and especially my son Erik, who has shared in my love for the Texas Rangers since childhood and it remains a constant source of conversation between us. To you and all the others I haven’t mentioned (and never got a chance to know), I’m grateful you took the time to read my sometimes meandering prose.

Post All-Star break will see the returns of Geovany Soto, Jim Adduci and Derek Holland. Hopefully that makes the season’s second half better than the first. Whether it does or not, I still say: GO RANGERS!!!

The Friday/Saturday Sundry: 6/6/14

SO LONG AND WELCOME BACK

Another week, another Ranger lands on the disabled list. Alexi Ogando is the latest to join the walking wounded. Things have gotten so bad I’m fully expecting to hear that Luis Ortiz, the Rangers #1 pick in Thursday’s MLB

Alexi  Ogando, On The Shelf

Alexi Ogando, On The Shelf

Draft, will need to undergo Tommy John surgery the day after he signs with the club.

Still, the overall news of the week for the Rangers health is positive. Tanner Scheppers returned from the disabled list Thursday and got thrown right in the fire during the 8th inning of Texas’ 8-6 win over the Baltimore Orioles. Scheppers didn’t look particularly good, giving up a home run to Adam Jones, but he induced a double play to end the 8th with only the solo home run as damage. What was heartening to see was the bullpen line-up after Colby Lewis got pulled following five meh innings: Robbie Ross Jr., Scheppers and Joakim Soria. It was the first time this season the pen had a familiar ring to it. Ross Jr. pitched his best outing in weeks, throwing two shutout innings with no hits and picked up the win when Texas broke a 5-5 tie in the 7th.

Another piece of good news on the health front. Fifth outfielder Jim Adduci is likely to return from his DL stint this weekend against the Cleveland Indians. Adduci was off to a great start in 2014, going six for his first 13 with two doubles and three RBI when he broke his finger on the bag while sliding (or diving). While only the “fifth” outfielder, Adduci is definitely a step up from Daniel Robertson, who failed to tag up at third on a fly to right in Thursday’s game and cost the Rangers a run.

Word has it Neftali Feliz is close to returning to the bullpen as well so, believe it or not, the Rangers are actually getting healthier for a change.

 

 

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ANOTHER SERIES, ANOTHER FORMER RANGER RETURNS

Tuesday marked the return of Nelson Cruz to Arlington. Cruz hit a home run in Tuesday’s win over Texas but the Rangers held him in check the rest of the series. This weekend another favorite from the World Series teams returns. David Murphy was the fourth outfielder for most of his time in Texas but was the starter in left field in 2013. Now he’s back to being a 4th outfielder with the Indians and once again he’s thriving, hitting .280 with 5 home runs and 34 RBI. To put that in perspective, if Murph was still a Ranger, those numbers would lead the club in RBI and rank third in home runs.

 

CHOICE HEATING UP?

In the second inning of Thursday’s game against the Orioles, I tweeted that a Michael Choice hot streak would help the Rangers immensely. With Prince Fielder out for the season and Mitch Moreland stuck at two home runs, the Rangers have very little power outside of Adrian Beltre and Shin-Soo Choo. Choice is that potential power bat but he’s been hitting right around the Mendoza line all season long. As if he’d read my time line, Choice went deep for his fourth home run within minutes of that tweet and he added a double for good measure late in the game. Choice is not a great defensive player in the outfield so if he isn’t hitting he really isn’t doing much to help the club win. If Thursday’s game is any indication, Choice just might be getting the hang of this major league hitting thing. If so, the Rangers offense might start scoring runs more consistently.

 

Minor-League-BaseballDOWN ON THE FARM

This should probably wait a few days because there is likely a lot of movement in the Rangers minor league system coming over the next week or two. Still, I feel the need to point out the incredible season being put up by a couple of Rangers’ prospects. Joey Gallo is tearing up the High-A ranks with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Gallo is currently hitting .330 with 21 home runs and 50 RBI. Myrtle Beach is not a hitter’s park. In fact, the entire Myrtle beach roster hit only 64 home runs in the course of the entire season. Gallo is on a pace that would net him 2/3 of the entire 2013 team if he stayed with the Pelicans the whole season. That isn’t going to happen. Gallo may not even play in the Carolina League All-Star game. In just a matter of weeks if not days, expect Gallo at the AA level with the Frisco RoughRiders. The same could be said of Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez. Last year’s top draft pick is 5-2 with a 2.62 ERA in helping lead the Pelicans to a league best 40-18 record.

On the AA level, looking to get promoted soon is Luke Jackson. The righthander checks in at 7-2 with a 2.55 ERA and could find himself in AAA Round Rock soon. On the hitting side, if Gallo gets promoted as expected to play third base in Frisco, the current third baseman, Ryan Rua, already has a case for promotion to Round Rock as well. Rua is hitting a robust .313 with 10 home runs and 32 RBI. Round Rock would certainly welcome Rua and Jackson. The Express are easily the worst team in the Rangers minor league system record-wise, posting a 26-34 mark despite having a roster full of talent with major league experience. Maybe they’re mostly utility player/back of the rotation major league experienced but still, they’ve been to the Show and fans expected more from them.

Of all the players mentioned here, I think Jackson has a shot at being in Arlington before the end of the season. He may just be a September call-up, but he should get a shot before season’s end. Don’t look for Gallo in a major league uniform until the end of next season at the earliest.

Roster Projections 3/25/14

Jurickson Profar: Out 10-12 Weeks

Putting the roster pieces together.

Putting the roster pieces together.

Geovany Soto: Out 10-12 Weeks

The Rangers’ injury woes have mounted, but at least we can hold on to this: If anyone was going to miss 10-12 weeks, from an offensive perspective, Profar and Soto were probably two of the LEAST important cogs in the line-up. Not to say the line-up won’t miss them, but compared to Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder, Alex Rios and Shin-Soo Choo, it’s a hit that’s tolerable to the Rangers..

Still, these events open roster spaces and, with only six days to go before the Rangers have a date with the Philadelphia Phillies and Cliff Lee on March 31st, the thought of what the Rangers’ roster will look like (come Monday (it’ll be all right) (Thanks Jimmy Buffett) becomes an interesting exercise.

Here’s what we know with certainty on offense because they aren’t injured in any way, shape or form as I write this:

Prince Fielder

Adrian Beltre

JP Arencibia

Leonys Martin

Alex Rios

Michael Choice

Here’s what is highly probable, as in they have reported injuries but it isn’t expected to put them on the DL to start the season:

Elvis Andrus

Mitch Moreland

Shin-Soo Choo

That’s only nine players. The Rangers still need a back-up catcher, another outfielder, a starting second baseman and a utility infielder. I suspect Robinson Chirinos will be the second catcher. He’s been excellent in camp and deserves a roster spot. Since Moreland has gotten some reps in left field, I think the Rangers are leaning towards him as the fifth outfielder at this point, meaning Texas really needs a starting second baseman and TWO utility infielders. Kevin Kouzmanoff has had a good spring as well and likely will get one of those spots to provide a third base back-up for Beltre. Now the question is, will Texas go for a platoon at second base while Profar is out? The candidates thus far are Brent Lillibridge, Josh Wilson, Adam Rosales and Kesuke Tanaka. Of these, I think one stays, either Wilson or Rosales. As for the last offensive roster slot? I’m betting on someone who is among the last cuts in someone else’s training camp or gets obtained in a minor trade before Opening Day. That’s how the Rangers got Matt Treanor in 2010 and Andres Blanco in 2011.

Thus, the Opening Day offense is:

1B: Fielder

2B: Wilson or Rosales

SS: Andrus

3B: Beltre

C: Arencibia

LF: Choo

CF: Martin

RF: Rios

DH: Moreland

Bench: Chirinos, Kouzmanoff, Choice, Mystery Infielder

BaseballFor the pitching staff, Texas has a starting rotation in flux. Matt Harrison isn’t ready to help at season’s start. The back-end of the rotation is still unsettled. Let’s start by looking at health again. Here are the definite roster members who have no reported health issues:

Martin Perez

Tanner Scheppers

Robbie Ross

Alexi Ogando

Joakim Soria

Neal Cotts

Jason Frasor

The only one with a potential health issue that’s a lock is Yu Darvish, who’s officially ruled out to pitch Opening Day. That’s seven pitchers, leaving another five slots open. The following are in the mix for roster spots: Colby Lewis, Tommy Hanson, Joe Saunders, Neftali Feliz, Michael Kirkman, Pedro Figueroa, Rafael Perez and Shawn Tolleson. For this exercise, I’m going to assume Robbie Ross will be in the rotation, leaving one open starter position and four bullpen slots.

I want Colby Lewis in the Rangers rotation. I just don’t know if he’s ready yet, having gone through hip replacement surgery. Lewis is the talk of the camp and I think he’ll help Texas in 2014, but I think it best if he starts the season at AAA Round Rock. By default, that would hand the fifth starter spot to Hanson or Saunders. Neither one excites me. I’ll go with Saunders only because the DFW media seem to feel Hanson would work better than Saunders in the long reliever/spot starter role.

In the bullpen, it has already been established Soria is the closer and Ogando will set him up in the 8th. Frasor and Cotts are there for the seventh inning. Assuming Hanson is the long man, that leaves two slots open. Neftali Feliz has disappointed Rangers brass with his lack of velocity as he comes back from Tommy John surgery. I think he starts the season in AAA. Michael Kirkman is out of options but I don’t think the Rangers see any future for him with the club, either. He might be a trade piece for the extra infielder the Rangers need. I think Tolleson and Figueroa will be the last two pieces added to the pen. Thus we have a pitching staff that looks like this:

Starters

Darvish

Perez

Scheppers

Ross

Saunders

Bullpen

Hanson

Soria

Ogando

Frasor

Cotts

Tolleson

Figueroa

More moves still could be on the horizon between now and Monday that throw these predictions all out of whack. For the short-term, I hope this roster will be okay because for a pennant run, there’s still a lot of help needed.

QUICK NOTE: Every year, the C70 At The Bat blog, part of Cardsconclave.com, does a “Playing Pepper” feature looking at the other MLB teams. Today is Texas Rangers Day and some of my comments, along with a half dozen other Rangers bloggers are there. Make sure you give it a read!

The Walking Wounded

Spring Training records mean nothing. Spring Training statistics mean nothin. I get that.

Still, I can’t help but feel a little disconcerted by the walking wounded and reclamation projects floating around Texas Rangers camp in Surprise this spring. Today brought two more entries to the list: Elvis Andrus will be out for at least a couple of days due to right arm soreness which he’s had throughout camp. Meanwhile, Mitch Moreland could find himself on the disabled list to start the regular season after suffering an oblique injury and getting pulled from a game after just one inning yesterday.

image_20121221102423If these two were the only problems it would be OK with me, but this is the latest in a long line making its way through Rangers camp. Adrian Beltre is having problems with one of his quads and has been held out of the line-up for five days now. Jurickson Profar is just now starting in the field after having shoulder tendonitis at the start of camp. Geovany Soto is only three games into his spring after ankle surgery. Leonys Martin has had some nagging injuries that have him in and out of the line-up. Same with Alex Rios. And that’s just the offense.

Over in the pitching staff Matt Harrison had his injury comeback delayed by sleeping on a bad mattress and missing two and a half weeks with a bad back. It feels like half the pitching staff is trying to come back from injuries: Neftali Feliz and Joakim Soria from Tommy John surgery, Colby Lewis from elbow problems and a hip replacement, Harrison from the back issues. At this point, there are only three starters established: Yu Darvish, Martin Perez and Alexi Ogando. Only Darvish has had what would be considered a good spring. Perez has been inconsistent and Ogando more bad than good thus far (8.43 ERA). Battling for the final two spots, Lewis has yo-yo’d back and forth: one good outing, one putrid. Harrison won’t be ready for the start. Nick Tepesch (11.25 ERA) was so bad he’s been optioned already. Veterans Tommy Hanson (3.24 ERA) and Joe Saunders (6.43 ERA) haven’t outperformed anyone. The two best prospects for the back-end right now are Robbie Ross (2.08 ERA) and Tanner Scheppers (3.12 ERA), but if both earn rotation spots, that leaves two big holes in the bullpen, where Ross served in a set-up capacity and Scheppers was the 8th inning guy.

Back to the offense: the Rangers have hit 15 home runs this spring. Three have been hit by players who were playing Low-A ball in 2013 and have no hope of making the club this year. The power hitting part of the line-up: Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder, Alex Rios and Shin-Soo Choo have combined for only three of them. The biggest bright spot has been Michael Choice, obtained from the A’s in a trade for Craig Gentry. Choice is hitting .378 with three doubles, a triple and two home runs. With Moreland a likely DL candidate, Choice will likely be the starting DH for this year’s Rangers.

J.P. Arencibia has been so bad at the plate (.156 BA, the Rangers have put him in several minor league games to face easier pitching. He, along with two starters and the projected utility infielder are all hitting under .200.

Yeah, it’s only Spring Training. The stats and the records don’t mean anything. It does breed concern for the regular season.

Texas Rangers Caliente y Frio: Week 26

Rangers primary logo

Here’s a wrap-up of the past week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.

Rangers Record: 7-0

Overall: 91-71  (2nd Place AL West) (-5)

Jalapeno Caliente (Offense):

Craig Gentry  .391/.462/.435, 1 Double, 3 RBI, 6 Stolen Bases

Alex Rios .346/.357/.654  3 Doubles, 1 Triple, 1 Home Run, 8 RBI, 3 Stolen Bases

Raspa Frio (Offense):

Mitch Moreland  .200/.333/.200

Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):

Texas Bullpen (Neal Cotts/Joe Nathan/Robbie Ross/Tanner Scheppers/Joakim Soria/Jason Frasor):  22 Games, 5-0 with 3 Saves, 20.2 Innings Pitched, 10 Hits, 1 Run, 7 Walks, 27 Strikeouts

Raspa Frio (Pitching):

Alexi Ogando  3 Runs, 8 Hits Allowed in 5.1 Innings Pitched

The Texas Rangers have not qualified for the post-season, but thanks to an incredible last week of the season, they are guaranteed a 163rd game.

Say what you will about Texas getting to stay home the entire last week of the season to face the only two teams they dominated all season, they still needed every one of the seven straight wins they put together on the week to qualify for even this 163rd game. The Monday night match-up with the Tampa Bay Rays is not officially a play-off game, it’s actually a regular season game, with all stats counting towards the regular season total. Win tonight and THEN the Rangers can say they’ve made the post-season for the 4th year in a row.

Even with a 7-0 week, the Rangers weren’t the hottest team in the American League. That honor went to the Wild Card bound Cleveland Indians, who will take on the winner of tonight’s Texas-Tampa Bay game on Wednesday while riding a 9 game winning streak. The Indians dominated their week against the two lowest-ranked teams in the AL Central and Minnesota in particular seemed to just roll over against the hot Tribe. By the way, I want to meet the guy who could have said with certainty four months ago that the Indians would make the playoffs sporting a rotation that included Ubaldo Jiminez and Scott Kazmir.

Thanks to the Rays dropping two of their three games with the Blue Jays, the Rangers get to play the Rays tonight with rookie Martin Perez getting the start against David Price. The game will see the return of Nelson Cruz, who has now finished serving his 50-game Biogenesis-related suspension. Cruz will likely be the DH against the Rays. If Texas loses tonight, Cruz will be back for one game and then possibly no longer be a Ranger, as he heads into free agency after the season.

Seven days ago, I didn’t think I’d have anything more to write about in terms of play on the field after today’s wrap-up of the week. I am happy to say I will have more to write, at least for another day.

Texas Rangers Caliente y Frio: Week 25

Rangers primary logo

Here’s a wrap-up of the past week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.

Rangers Record: 0-6

Overall: 84-71  (2nd Place AL West) (-8.5)

Jalapeno Caliente (Offense):

Craig Gentry  .571/.600/.786  1 Double, 1 Triple, 4 Stolen Bases

Ian Kinsler  .300/.364/.533  2 Doubles, 1 Triple, 1 Home Run, 4 RBI

Raspa Frio (Offense):

A.J. Pierzynski  .125/.120/.167

Alex Rios  .167/.194/.267

Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):

Alexi Ogando  1-0, 0.75 ERA  1 Run on 4 Hits in 12 IP with 9 Strikeouts over two starts

Raspa Frio (Pitching):

Joakim Soria  3 Earned Runs on 4 Hits in 2.2 IP

If there were any hopes among Texas Rangers fans of reaching the playoffs for the 4th consecutive year, they were pretty much dashed with a walk-off grand slam home run in the bottom of the tenth inning at Kansas City on Sunday. The Rangers were already no longer controlling their own destiny, entering play a game behind Tampa Bay and a half game back of Cleveland for the two Wild Card slots. With the Rays and Indians already showing wins in the books Sunday, the Rangers needed a win to keep pace. Instead, they failed to score a run for the third time in September and watched the Royals climb back into the Wild Card Race, albeit by an even slimmer thread than Texas.

There are only seven games to go. The teams ahead of the Rangers both swept their weekend series: the Rays took three in a row from the Orioles, while the Indians swept the lowly Astros. Entering the last week of play, any combination of six Rays/Indians wins and Rangers defeats means Texas sitting out the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

The good news? Texas is at home for the entire last week, playing host to the lowly Houston Astros and the third place Los Angeles Angels. Texas is a combined 25-6 against the two teams. The bad news? First, Texas has sunk to a paltry 39-35 at home. Second, Texas lost two of three to the resurgent Angels in their last series and the folks from LA are extra motivated with slim hopes of at least finishing .500 on the season. Third, the Indians close their season with six games against the White Sox and Twins, the 4th and 5th place teams in the AL Central.

The biggest glimmer of hope for the Rangers is for the Rays to stumble in the last week. Tampa Bay is on the road the entire week against the Yankees and the Blue Jays. The Rays are 36-39 on the road for the year. BUT Tampa also has a winning record on the season against both the Yanks and the Jays AND they have a winning record on the season at both Yankees Stadium and the Rogers Centre. Trailing the Rays by two games, Texas needs the Yanks and Jays to do them a huge solid to get to the Wild Card.

Elvis Andrus put it best after Sunday’s loss: The Rangers have to win out this week. 7-0 is the mantra for the week, and there’s no guarantee that’ll be enough.

Texas Rangers Caliente y Frio: Week 23

Rangers primary logo

Here’s a wrap-up of the past week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.

Rangers Record: 2-4

Overall: 81-61  (2nd Place AL West) (-1.5)

Jalapeno Caliente (Offense):

Elvis Andrus   .462/.429/.769  1 Double, 1 Home Run, 4 RBI and 2 Stolen Bases

Alex Rios  .429/.500/.952  2 Doubles, 3 Home Runs, 5 RBI

Raspa Frio (Offense):

Adrian Beltre  .130/.231/.130

Ian Kinsler  .214/.214/.286  0 Walks, 6 Strikeouts in 28 At Bats

Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):

7/10 of the Rangers Bullpen (Neal Cotts/Alexi Ogando/Joakim Soria/Joe Nathan/Jason Frasor/Tanner Scheppers/Neftali Feliz): 13 Games, 11.1 IP, 9 Hits, 0 Runs, 2 Walks, 8 Strikeouts  1-0 with 1 Save

Martin Perez  1-0, 1.29 ERA 1.14 WHIP, 5 Strikeouts in 7 Innings Pitched

Raspa Frio (Pitching):

3/5 of the Starting Rotation (Yu Darvish/Derek Holland/Matt Garza) 4 Games, 0-4 Record, 22.1 IP, 27 Hits, 17 Earned Runs (23 Total Runs), 12 Walks, 13 Strikeouts, 6 Home Runs Allowed


If there’s one thing we know about the Texas Rangers, they are a streaky team. 
After a torrid August, September is not going well. The offense is once again sputtering and this past week, the starting pitching decided to head south after a long streak of success. While it was not optimal for Texas to lose two of three to the front-running Oakland A’s to start the week, it wasn’t embarrassing either, as they were playing on the road in Oakland, where Texas has not played well the past few years. No, what was embarrassing was practically getting swept in Anaheim by the Angels, against whom Texas was 10-2 on the season entering the series. Only a late rally on Sunday kept the Angels from sending Texas 2 1/2 back of Oakland with only 20 games to go. Instead it stands at 1 1/2.

If there’s good news, it’s that the Rangers aren’t the only streaky team in the AL West. The A’s showed just last month they can go into funks of their own,as evidenced by the 10-game swing in the standings over a 3-week period in August. Still, three games ago Texas had their destiny in their hands with a 1/2 game lead. A week later and it’s Oakland that has the momentum in their favor. It doesn’t help that Oakland faces off with the lowly Minnesota Twins the first three days of the week while the Rangers square off at home against likely playoff-bound Pittsburgh. This series has me a little torn. I know the Rangers need to sweep this series to keep the heat on Oakland. On the other hand, I am so stoked for the Pirates and their fans that they are one win away from clinching their first over-.500 campaign in 21 years. I’m also a fan of Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who served as the Rangers’ hitting coach for the 2010 World Series team.

No matter how you slice it, Texas needs to follow up two consecutive 2-4 weeks with a 4-2 or 5-1 showing against Pittsburgh and Oakland. The weekend series with the A’s is the last regular season meeting between the two clubs. Anything worse than 2-1 against the A’s means a likely second place finish in the AL West.  Texas, it’s time to pull on your big boy pants.