Out In Left Field: September 5th 2012

By Mark Miller

  Let’s get this straight. After losing their first three games to the New York Yankees in mid-August, the Texas Rangers won their next five series and posted an 11-4 record yet still couldn’t pull away from Oakland in the American League West division race.

Thanks to nine straight victories through Sunday, the Athletics cut the deficit to just three games, the lowest between Texas and the second-place team since June 11 (2.5 games). But is as typical of the Rangers, they aren’t too worried with one month left in the season.

“Overall we’re where we want to be,” said Manager Ron Washington last week. “We’ve played good baseball. If we go into Cleveland and continue to win series, we’ll be all right.”

By winning two of three last weekend in Ohio, the Rangers not only ended a strong August but started September on a good note.

“The only thing we’re concerned about is ourselves,” Washington said. “We’re not worried about anyone else. The key is to keep winning series.”

Texas won both of its series last week as it ended a 10-game homestand at 7-3 with victories in two of three games against the Tampa Bay Rays.

“We just want to continue playing good baseball,” said second baseman Ian Kinsler. “We did that this homestand. You could say we came out of our shell a bit and played pretty well. But there’s still a long way to go.”

An August to remember

As the Rangers roll into September, it’s worth noting their turnaround the previous month. After a 9-14 record in July, they rebounded to 18-9 in August.

“Maybe it took a little longer for us to get hot but you will have stretches where you are not playing well,” said designated hitter-infielder Michael Young. “Baseball is a skill game and when things don’t go your way, mentally you have to get through it.”

It was a combination of strong hitting and pitching that fueled the team’s August success. On offense, five players hit better than .300 for the month led by David Murphy at .366. Others were Elvis Andrus (.339), Adrian Beltre (.333), Mitch Moreland (.329) and Josh Hamilton (.310). Hamilton further broke out of a two-month slump with a team-leading seven home runs and 28 runs batted in

On the mound, newcomer Ryan Dempster won four of five decisions and fellow starter Matt Harrison collected three wins. The relief staff was solid with six pitchers at a 2.38 earned run average or less. Leading the way was Mark Lowe (0.00 earned run average in five games after returning from the disabled list), Mike Adams (2-0 record, 0.82 ERA in 12 appearances) and Robbie Ross (1.80 ERA in 13 games).

Royals, Rays on road before home

After leaving Cleveland, the Rangers began a four-game series at Kansas City that continues Wednesday and Thursday. Then it’s on to Tampa Bay for the weekend before returning home next Tuesday against the Indians.

The Royals split their 10 games before Sunday to stand at 60-73, behind both Chicago and Detroit by 12 games in the A.L. Central Division. The Rays continue in the hunt for both the American League East title or a wild-card spot. Their 73-61 record put them just 3.5 games behind the Yankees in the division and 1.5 games behind Baltimore in the wild card race.

“We’re playing the way we’re capable of playing,” Washington said. “It will be a challenge the rest of the way. September will be telling.”

Upcoming Schedule

9/5       @Royals         7:10 p.m.

9/6       @Royals         7:10 p.m.

9/7       @Rays            6:10 p.m.

9/8       @Rays                        6:10 p.m.

9/9       @Rays            12:40 p.m.

9/11     Indians                        7:05 p.m.