By Mark Miller
Whatever got into the Texas Rangers last week, fans and anyone associated with them want to see more.
Quicker than they put themselves in a bad predicament, the Texas Rangers reversed field in the most dramatic of ways possible. In winning six of seven games including three on consecutive nights on walk-off home runs, they went from six games behind the Oakland A’s in the American League West to 2.5 games back. And they put themselves back into contention for either of the two Wild Card spots in what figures to be a race to the end.
In so doing, Ron Washington became the winningest manager in team history. Since taking over in 2007, he’s now won 582 games, one better than Bobby Valentine.
“It means a lot to me,” Washington told mlb.com. “I came in as a novice, having never managed at the big league level, and now I’m the winningest manager in Texas Rangers history. This organization gave me the chance and supplied me with the players, the coaches handed out my mandate and the players bought into it. A manager is only as good as his players. You win because the players play well, and I see a lot more wins coming.”
“He’s going to get a lot more,” said second baseman Ian Kinsler, who has witnessed every win. “It’s not to going to stop here. He has established a winning environment, the players trust him and like playing for him. We’re really happy for him. We just want to get that World Series title.”
Washington hopes he doesn’t have to wait until the team’s final at-bats to add to his record though that’s what happened last week in sweeping the Angels. Home runs by Geovany Soto, Leonys Martin and Adrian Beltre were the margins of victory helping closer Joe Nathan to two victories. Then after an easy 7-1 win in a make up game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Rangers won two of three over the weekend in Oakland.
“It was big series,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said Sunday. “That’s what we’re looking for, win another series. We need to keep that same mentality and keep that same focus. Just keep winning series.”
If the Rangers keep receiving pitching like they did from Derek Holland and Yu Darvish last week, winning series will become the norm. Holland gave up no runs and just four hits Sunday while striking out 10 in eight innings of a 4-0 victory. That improved the left-hander’s overall 2013 record to 9-6 and earned run average to 3.02 and to 7-1, 2.61 on the road.
Four days earlier, Darvish gave up no runs and five hits with 14 strikeouts in seven innings against Arizona. The right-hander is now is at 10-5, 2.66 after his third strong outing since returning from the disabled list after the All-Star break. He’s only given up one run in those three games.
Angels, Astros next without Cruz
While the Rangers will start this week in Southern California against the Angels, they’ll do so without right-fielder Nelson Cruz who Monday accepted a suspension for the remaining 50 regular-season games for allegedly purchasing performance enhancing drugs from the Miami-based Biogensis wellness clinic. He would, however, be eligible for the playoffs if the Rangers make them.
Cruz departs leaving a huge offensive hole as he leads the team in home runs with 27 and runs batted in with 76. With the non-waiver trade deadline past, the team’s options to replace him are limited to from within the organization (possibly Joey Butler from Round Rock), try for a waiver trade, or sign a free agent options not likely to come anywhere near his numbers.
The remainder of the team hopes to further end the season for Los Angeles which trails the A’s by 12.5 games thanks in part to last week’s sweep by Texas. The Angels stand at 51-59, just behind the Seattle Mariners in the division.
Following the Angels for Texas are four games in Houston. The Astros have the worst record in baseball at 36-74 after dropping eight of their past 10 games.
8/5 @Angels 9:05 p.m.
8/6 @Angels 9:05 p.m.
8/7 @Angels 9:05 p.m.
8/9 @Astros 7:10 p.m.
8/10 @Astros 6:10 p.m.
8/11 @Astros 1:10 p.m.
8/12 @Astros 1:10 p.m.