Rangers Survive Blue Jays Series

You take what's probably the best lineup/roster in the American League, pin them up against a red-hot Rangers team playing well at home, and this is more or less the series you were expecting. 

If this series was any sort of barometer for Texas (65-61), it passed. Setting aside the 12-4 blowout on Wednesday, the Rangers had a strong chance of winning the opener, and they did win the finale, so it's hard to really complain with the results. Shawn Tolleson's 2nd blown save in 27 chances was a hard pill to swallow on Tuesday, but if you're giving me my closer in the 9th inning with a one-run advantage on any given night, I'll take those odds. 

This weekend the Rangers are at home against Baltimore (63-64), one of four teams within 2.5 games of the WC2 spot that Texas currently holds. 

64-61

Toronto crushes Colby Lewis, Rangers bullpen, 12-4. 

On the heels of last night's disappointment, this wasn't a very good matchup for Texas. Cobra is an extreme fly ball pitcher and the Blue Jays have a murderer's row of home run hitters atop its lineup... and David Price was the opposing pitcher. 

With the loss, the Rangers fall out of the second wild card spot (to Minnesota), in what should be a revolving door of Which Team Can Win Five Games In A Row And Assume The Position over the next month. 

64-60

This one stung.

Leading 5-4 heading into the top of the 9th, Shawn Tolleson never had much command of his pitches, and was still one strike away from sending the Rangers to 65-59. With men on first and second with two out, Troy Tulowitzki flared a single to left to tie the game; the next hitter, Josh Donaldson, followed with an innocuous grounder to Adrian Beltre, whose throw pulled Mitch Moreland off the bag at first. Just like that Toronto led 6-5, which would end up as the final score. 

By way of playing pretty stellar baseball of late, Texas remains a half game up in the race for the second wild card.

Streaks

The Rangers have won 8 of their last 10 and 17 out of 24 overall, and own a 1.5 game lead in the race for the second wild card. This is the second time this year Texas has ripped off an extended run of winning baseball, and, like the last time, it's been the offense that's carried the team. 

Over a 42-game stretch, from May 4th through June 17th, Texas went 28-14 (.667) and outscored opponents 212-167 (+45). Its offense, which has hovered around league average all year, generated 5.04 runs/game for 26% of the baseball season, propelling the Rangers from a dismal 8-16 start to a manageable 36-30 record.

Now, the Rangers are in the middle of a 17-7 (.708) surge, and have similarly handled their opponents by a composite score of 118-93 (+25), an average of 4.92 runs/game. In all other affairs in 2015, Texas is 19-38 (.333) and averaging 3.82 runs/game.

The overarching theme I'm trying to get at is simple: the difference between winning and losing has ultimately come on the shoulders of the lineup in 2015. There has been no middle ground with this year's club; as the record shows, it's been a split between a near-.700 team and one that would be in line with the #1 pick, and it rides on that one extra run per game.

The good problem the Rangers are facing now, is they aren't relying on Nick Martinez and Wandy Rodriguez and Chi-Chi Gonzalez to provide innings in the normal rotation. Their replacements -- Cole Hamels, Derek Holland and Martin Perez -- are likely worth a 4-5 win upgrade over the season's last two months. Further, Sam Dyson has been a revelation since being acquired from Miami, and he, Jake Diekman, Keone Kela and Shawn Tolleson combine for an unexpectedly potent back-end of the bullpen. 

So, the offense has essentially driven the Rangers to where they are now, but there is reason to believe Texas isn't one prolonged slump from being out of contention, especially with the lukewarm compendium of American League clubs chasing them. I'm not comfortable saying Texas owns the necessary arms to go get a postseason berth at will, but if you're spotting me 1.5 games and the roster as it currently stands, I don't mind the chances. 

A Rivalry in the Making

As we are down the home stretch of the 2015 season, I am astonished at how much fun the budding Astros-Rangers rivalry is quickly becoming.  

Sure, the Rangers and Astros have played each other as "natural rivals" in interleague play since its conception, but there was nothing at stake other than a Boot and irrelevant bragging rights. 

Now, something major is on the line, and the trash talk is at an all-time high. 

Honestly, in my sheltered baseball existence far from the borders of Texas, I had no idea that Houston had such a fan base.  I honestly know two Astros fans.  Where has everyone else been?

Suddenly, when I go out to watch games, I am seeing people in Houston hats or t-shirts, and when they see my Rangers gear, they are quick to make a statement about the current standings. 

And you know what?

It's fun. 

I am enjoying the Rangers chasing the Astros much more than I would be seeing the Angels or the A's atop the AL West.  

As I log into Twitter, the amount of trash talk going back in forth among fans is amazing.  I even see Rangers writers, such as Jamey Newberg, taking part in the battle of quips.  From what I have seen, the intensity is not limited to off the field (See Odor, Rougned: bat flip).  

4 Games.  One month.  

Buckle up, this is going to be fun.