With 10 games left in the season the Texas Rangers find themselves deadlocked in one of the tightest pennant races ever. They are 84-68 in second place, just like the Seattle Mariners. Both teams trail the AL favorite Astros by a mere half game. So how did the Rangers get to this point? After star rookie third baseman Josh Jung went down with a thumb injury the wheels came off this team. Adolis “El Bombi” Garcia got hurt shortly after. All-Star catcher Jonah Heim rushed back from a wrist injury and was ineffective despite noble intentions. This gutted the potent lineup core, including the star third baseman that hit 3rd and 5th, and the terrifying electric cleanup hitter. The lineup that led the AL in runs for most of the season started putting up 1 and 2 runs night after night. Third base became a blackhole in the lineup, just like every season since Adrian Beltre retired. Without Adolis “El Bombi” Garcia anchoring the outfield, Robbie Grossman was asked to hit 3rd. Although seemingly repulsive on a surface level, Grossman stepped up during this brutal stretch. The fact that he was the best hitter on the team other than Corey Seager says a lot about the decrepit offense.
As the offense sputtered the starting pitching continued to break down. By August the Rangers starting pitchers had the best starter season ERA at 3.21. Nathan Eovaldi hard carried the team in May after Jacob deGrom’s injury. The effort caused him an arm injury of his own, sidelining him until recently. Mad Max Scherzer was acquired at the deadline to help fill the void left by Jacob deGrom. He pitched well before also succumbing to a season ending arm injury. Andrew Heaney and Martin Perez have both been so inconsistent in the rotation they have been moved to the bullpen. Jon Gray and Dane Dunning have been very solid this season. They are both starters you feel comfortable with, but are not aces. Jordan Montgomery has been the best pitcher for the Rangers as of late. He is a sturdy lefty. The Rangers will lean on him heavily considering the out status of deGrom and Scherzer, as well as Eovaldi coming off of an arm injury of his own. The starting pitching has taken some serious blows, but has generally been good this season.
The bullpen has been nothing short of an atrocity for the Rangers this season. They blow games consistently and repulsively. This was especially true during the beginning of September, when the bullpen converted 3/16 save opportunities. That’s right, they converted a mere 3 of 16 save opportunities. That would be a really awful mark if it was hits and at bats. 3 for 16 in save opportunities is insanely bad. Will Smith, the Rangers once reliable closer, has been putrid and is the main offender in the bullpen drop off. Joining him in the ministry of lost souls known as the Rangers bullpen is the Cuban Missile, Aroldis Chapman. Chapman is showing his playoff choker pedigree down the stretch drive for the Rangers. His breaking pitches are flat and his opponents know it. Josh Sborz was essentially launched into the sun during a particularly brutal outing where the coin landed tails and he was awful. Bochy let Sborz get strafed again and again as the depleted Rangers bullpen was unable to enter mid inning to stop the bleeding. Ian Kennedy, who has nothing left, was re-signed to help the battered bullpen. Jose Leclerc has been decent but has blown his fair share of games. Jonathan Hernandez still has no command. Chris Stratton has been average. Brock Burke’s season has been defined by his inaction and lack of confidence. The Rangers bullpen is a joke. It was never that good, but the offensive onslaughts the Rangers put on obscured the weakness that is the bullpen.
The Rangers have 10 games left, 7 of them against the team they need to beat most: the Seattle Mariners. All of these games are essentially playoff games. This is one of the closest and most epic pennant races in AL West history. While the Rangers were choking badly the Mariners and Astros slumped too. This kept the Rangers in the hunt while they were doing things like losing eight straight and getting swept by a bad Cleveland team. Ultimately how the Rangers got there is not as important as the current playoff picture. They control their own destiny and are embarking on the biggest games since the 2016 ALDS. This is part of what makes baseball the best sport: the September pennant races that are like a playoffs in themselves. The Rangers have not competed in one of these for six years. Now is the time.
Upcoming Schedule – All Times Central
9/22 – vs Mariners – 7:05 p.m.
9/23 – vs Mariners – 6:05 p.m.
9/24 – vs Mariners – 1:35 p.m.
9/25 – @Angels – 8:38 p.m.
9/26 – @Angels – 8:38 p.m.
9/27 – @Angels – 8:38 p.m.
9/28 – @Mariners – 8:40 p.m.
9/29 – @Mariners – 9:10 p.m.
9/30 – @Mariners – 6:15 p.m.
10/1 – @Mariners – 2:10 p.m.