By Mark Miller
While the Texas Rangers finally won some games last week, they didn’t do it often enough to remain in control of their playoff destiny.
Losing four of seven games at Tampa Bay and Kansas City, the Rangers fell to 1.5 games behind the Cleveland Indians for the second wild card spot and two games behind the Rays to host the wild card game. That means even if they win all seven of their final games this week, they’ll need help to make the post-season for the fourth straight year.
“We put ourselves in this position,” third baseman Adrian Beltre told mlb.com. “It’s not easy, but that’s the way it is.”
Beltre spoke after the most heartbreaking of losses, a two-out, 3-2 count walk-off grand slam in the 10th inning Sunday by Kansas City’s Justin Maxwell off Joakim Soria. That broke a scoreless tie thanks in part to seven innings of two-hit pitching by Texas starter Alexi Ogando and eight innings of six-hit ball by Kansas City’s James Shields.
“They are all painful losses now,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “It was a great game. Their guy and Ogando pitched amazingly, but whether we lose by one or lose by four, every loss is going to be painful from here on out.”
The Rangers split the first two games against the Royals after winning two and losing two in St. Petersburg, Fla., where they started and finished in a tie with the Rays for the two wild card spots. Cleveland went around Texas with a home sweep of the Houston Astros. Tampa Bay solidified its playoff spot by sweeping the Baltimore Orioles at home.
Astros, Angels at home
If previous 2013 success means anything, the Rangers have the best possible set up this week. They’ve won 14 of 16 games against the Houston Astros against whom they start a three-game series Monday night. And they are 11-4 against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim who come to Arlington for a four-game set beginning Thursday.
“We go home and now is the best time to put things together and have an amazing homestand,” Andrus said. “We still have a chance to sneak into the wild card. It’s going to be a great challenge, we’ll see how much we want it.”
Texas manager Ron Washington agreed.
“We just have to play out the string,” Washington said. “We’ve got to start winning some ballgames. That’s it.”
Unfortunately, the Rangers have not played their best at home with a 39-35 record. Despite Sunday’s loss, they finished at 45-36 on the road, best in the American League.
Houston enters the week having lost nine straight games including the sweep at Cleveland. The Angels continued their strong September by winning seven of the last 10 games though they lost at home Sunday against the Seattle Mariners.
One key to success this week will be if Beltre returns to earlier form. After earning team player of the month honors in July and August, he’s hit just .253 in September. His .280 slugging percentage this month pales to his .670 in July and .577 in August and his last home run was on Aug. 28.
It also would help if the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins would beat Cleveland and/or the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays could defeat the Rays. If both happen and the Rangers have a strong homestand, they could be hosting the wild card game Oct. 1. Anything short of that and very likely the season will be over and the speculation of Washington’s job security kicks into high gear.
9/23 Astros 7:05 p.m.
9/24 Astros 7:05 p.m.
9/25 Astros 7:05 p.m.
9/26 Angels 7:05 p.m.
9/27 Angels 7:05 p.m.
9/28 Angels 7:05 p.m.
9/29 Angels 2:05 p.m.