By Mark Miller
Unless the Texas Rangers do what was done to them last year, their only chance to make the 2013 playoffs will again be through the wild card route.
That’s the position they’ve put themselves in after an abysmal first half of September when they’ve lost 11 of 13 games including all six on the homestand that ended Sunday. It marked the first winless homestand of at least six games in team history.
“I don’t see any one thing, we’re just not playing well period,” said general manager Jon Daniels.
What’s worse, the final three games came against the Oakland A’s who now lead the Rangers by 6.5 games in the American League West with two weeks remaining and no remaining games against Oakland.
“I certainly expected us to respond better,” said Texas manager Ron Washington. “But they outpitched us. They certainly outhit us because they crushed the ball out of the ballpark. And they certainly outscored us. You just have to give Oakland credit. They came in here and beat us in every phase of the game.”
Texas has scored just 43 runs in the 13 September games, an average of just 3.3 runs per game. It’s not that players aren’t getting on base; it’s they can’t get them home.
“I’m not sure what’s going on,” Washington said.. “I’ve never witnessed it before.”
Rangers’ starting pitching has been equally guilty with a 1-11 record and 5.34 earned run average.
The good news is the Rangers are tied with the Tampa Bay Rays for the two American League wild card spots. The bad news is both are just a half-game ahead of the Cleveland Indians with the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals in striking distance.
“We’ve still got games left,” Washington said. “Anything can happen. You never know when the world is going to turn. When it decides to turn you have to be there ready for it. I’m ready for it and I’m doing the best I can to make certain my guys are ready for it.”
Last road trip coming up
While they no longer can directly catch up to Oakland, the Rangers can solidify their place in the wild card game this week when they meet the Rays four times in St. Petersburg, Fla. That begins the team’s final regular-season road trip which ends this weekend in Kansas City.
“We need to turn it around in a hurry,” Daniels said. “It’s at that point in the season where there’s not much time and a pretty congested wild card race right now. We’re either going to get it done or we’re not and I’m going to bet on our guys.”
Texas won two of three game at home against the Rays in early April, the only other time the teams have met this season. The Rangers lost two of three at Tropicana Field in both 2011 and 2012. However, they enter the week with the best road record in baseball at 42-32 but would fall one-game short of their all-time best 50 road wins with a sweep of the week’s seven games.
“We seem to play better on the road,” Daniels said. “I don’t think there’s anything to that but maybe being on the road will spark us this week.”
The Rays have been led by first baseman James Loney with a .301 average, and third baseman Evan Longoria with 29 home runs and 79 runs batted in.
On the mound, Matt Moore has a team-high 15 wins with a 3.11 earned run average while closer Fernando Rodney has 35 saves in 43 attempts.
The Royals have been one of the American League’s big surprises. At 78-71, they are in the middle of the wild card race, just four games behind the Rays and Rangers. Texas took two of three games in Arlington on May 31-June 2.
Pitching has been a key factor for the Royals, who lead the American League with a 3.51 earned run average. Starters Ervin Santana (3.23) and James Shields (3.38) are among the league ERA leaders while Jeremy Guthrie is among the top 10 in wins with 14 and Greg Holland second in saves with 43 in 46 tries.
On offense, Eric Hosmer has the best Kansas City average at .303 including 16 HRs and 76 RBI. Eric Gordon leads in those categories with 20 and 80.
“As bad as we’ve played the past two weeks we’ve still put ourselves in a position to make the playoffs,” Daniels said. “We’ll see what happens.”
9/16 @Rays 6:10 p.m.
9/17 @Rays 6:10 p.m.
9/18 @Rays 6:00 p.m.
9/19 @Rays 6:10 p.m.
9/20 @Royals 7:10 p.m.
9/21 @Royals 6:10 p.m.
9/22 @Royals 1:10 p.m.