It wasn’t long ago that the Texas Rangers had one of the most suspect rotations in baseball. Starting with Yovani Gallardo then falling off a cliff, there was no way even the prolific offense could fill the void Yu Darvish left, leaving the team dead in the water for 2015. However, a weak division and several key additions now have them sniffing the AL West leaderboard. The Rangers have the firepower and enough pitching to win this division.
Texas has its high-powered offense to thank for being in this position. Since the All-Star break, the club is second in MLB in runs scored. Recent acquisitions Mike Napoli and and Will Venable provide a bit more depth, but this part of the equation was never lacking. On the mound, where the team needed serious help, Cole Hamels joined Derek Holland and Martin Perez to give the rotation three quality arms for the stretch run.
That boost will not give the Rangers the rotation of Houston, which acquired Scott Kazmir ahead of the deadline, but it will be enough to get Texas quality starts while the Astros and Angels struggle. Houston, ever reliant on the home run, is 26th in runs since the start of August, while the club from Anaheim is dead last in MLB.
The momentum Texas has picked up is likely to continue if not improve in the coming weeks. Hamels has yet to be an ace since joining the club, but starts like his latest versus Seattle (7.0 IP, 3 ER, 8 SO) will be enough. Martin Perez has also showed signs of finding a groove in August following his return from Tommy John surgery. Add Derek Holland to the mix and you have a rotation capable of winning games.
In the AL West, anything above .600 ball the rest of the way should be enough to take the division.
Though Texas is just one game behind Baltimore and Oakland for the second Wild Card, there is a clear shot at the division with the Astros scuffling and the Angels unable to make a move. Part of the Rangers’ advantage is scheduling. Following a bitterly fought three games against the Rays, Houston square off for three against the Dodgers (facing both Greinke and Kershaw) before heading on the road to face the Yankees and Minnesota.
The Rangers have a tough draw with Toronto and Baltimore coming to Arlington to close out August, but then the schedule gets much more favorable: 10 games in San Diego (3), Anaheim (3), and Seattle (4). Unlike its competition in the AL West, Texas has played winning baseball on the road, so this stretch would be the time for the team to make its move.
Before the trade deadline, the idea of of Texas making any run was preposterous, but the confidence of the front office and fortune of players returning from injury have given the Rangers quality pieces for the stretch run. In a race where there is no favorite, it’s enough to inspire confidence for Rangers fans with 40 games to play.
Statistics, current as of August 21, were sourced at Baseball Reference.