By Mark Miller
Everything the Texas Rangers want to achieve this season remains at their disposal with just two weeks of the 2012 regular schedule left.
Win the American League West Division? After victories in four of six games last week, they held a three-game lead over the surprising Oakland Athletics.
Be the league’s best division winner? They were four games ahead of the New York Yankees with 16 left to play.
Succeed at those goals and the Rangers can better reach their ultimate prize, the World Series. To best do this, they must continue winning series. After taking both three-game sets at home last week, they were 8-1-0 in their last nine series and 11-2-0 in the past 13.
“We hope we can keep that up,” said Rangers manager Ron Washington after Sunday’s game. “You go into each series hoping to win them all but we’ll keep taking two of three looking to move forward. You can’t look backward.”
A major reason they won both series was starting pitcher Matt Harrison. The left-hander gave up just two runs on five hits in 5.2 innings Sept. 11 against the Cleveland Indians and a run on five hits in 8.2 innings Sunday against the Seattle Mariners. Both came after Washington gave Harrison two extra days rest after two rough starts.
“He was outstanding,” Washington said. “His breaking ball was working. His change was working. His slider was working. Everything we needed from him he gave to us. That should put to rest that he’s fatigued.”
“Any time you get a couple of days extra it makes a difference,” Harrison after earning his 16th win. He then beat Seattle for the ninth straight time to raise his record to a career-best 17-9 while lowering his earned run average to 3.26.
“I just hope I can maintain this through October,” Harrison said Sunday.
Interestingly, the Rangers’ other two wins of the week were by starters Ryan Dempster and Yu Darvish while the losses were by relievers Joe Nathan and Tanner Scheppers. Offensively, Michael Young hit
.350 while Adrian Beltre’s two home runs gave him 14 in 24 games.
3 million and counting
It took until their 40th year in Texas but the Rangers have finally surpassed the magic three million attendance mark.
The honor became official last Thursday when a crowd of 36,102 put the team at 3,003,143 through its first 71 home dates. The previous record was 2,946,949 set last year.
All fans attending that game received a commemorative t-shirt from Capital One while Fort Worth’s James Patterson was randomly selected as the three millionth fan and received a prize package that included 2013 season tickets and various Rangers merchandise.
Pivotal week for Rangers, A’s
While the Rangers play three in Anaheim and three in Seattle this week, the A’s are at Detroit and at the New York Yankees. Then Texas and Oakland face four games against each other beginning Monday in Arlington in what could be the final decider in the division.
Texas holds just a 21-20 record against the A.L. West this year with all remaining games in the division. That’s already three more losses than all of last year when the Rangers went 40-17 against their top rivals.
“Oakland is right behind us so we have to keep playing good baseball and take at least two of three in each series,” Harrison said.
9/19 @Angels 9:05 p.m.
9/20 @Angels 9:05 p.m.
9/21 @Mariners 9:10 p.m.
9/22 @Mariners 8:10 p.m.
9/23 @Mariners 3:10 p.m.
9/24 Athletics 7:05 p.m.
9/25 Athletics 7:05 p.m.