Rangers News and Notes Week 21

by Dan M | Posted on Sunday, August 30th, 2015

AstrosFrier

By Dic Humphrey
dic.humphrey@yahoo.com

THE RACES AT LABOR DAY

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Rangers go into the weekend with 36 games remaining on the schedule to be played in 38 days.  It’s difficult to comprehend after the ugly baseball Ranger fans saw on the field in late July, but Texas is in the middle of both the race for the American League West pennant and to be one of the two Wild Card teams.
The Rangers made the big deal for Cole Hamels and added two relievers near the non-waiver trade deadline.  With Derek Holland and Martin Perez coming off the 60-day disabled list, and a refreshed Keone Kela coming back from a two week vacation in Frisco, the Ranger starting rotation and bullpen are both materially better.
This team looks poised to be competitive for a 2015 playoff spot to the end.
Texas goes into the weekend trailing Houston by five in the West, but trailing by just four in the loss column.  They hold down the second Wild Card berth with a one-half game lead (one in the loss column) over Los Angeles and Minnesota.  27 of the remaining 36 games are against divisional foes, including 14 against the Astros and Angels.  The Rangers have their fate in their own hands.
Labor Day falls as late as it can fall on the calendar this year – September 7.  But the season is no longer a marathon.  It’s a sprint to the finish with fewer than 40 games remaining for every team.  Here’s a quick look at the American League pennant races:
In the Central Division, Kansas City has run away from the pack.  They woke up Friday morning with a 78-49 record, good enough to lead the Central by 13 games over Minnesota, and seven more wins than any other American League team.  Most “experts” picked Detroit last spring to not only win the division but to be the best team in the A.L.  They fizzled and Dave Dombrowski, their General Manager, has already been dismissed and found new employment.  He’ll be putting the Red Sox back together.
K.C. looks much like the 2011 Rangers that went to the World Series.  The Royals lost their top of the rotation starter – “Big Game” James Shields – just as the Rangers lost Cliff Lee after the 2010 season, but Texas was even better a year after going to the World Series.  K.C. has been much the same this year.  The only question for the Royals is whether they’ll end up with the American League’s best record.
Put the Royals in the playoffs as Central Division champions.
The second best team in late August is Toronto, as Ranger fans witnessed firsthand this week.  Toronto was in the race before the trade deadline, but boldly made deals to add the best position player and best pitcher that changed uniforms in July.
Troy Tulowitzki is now their shortstop number two hitter in the batting order.
David Price, a free agent at the end of the season, joined their rotation.  Ranger fans saw enough of him last Wednesday when the Jays clinched a series win behind his strong pitching performance.  He beat Texas for his 13th win of the year.
The Jays won 11 in a row at one point after the All-Star break and moved past the Yankees for first place in the East before they arrived in Arlington this year.  Put the Jays in the playoffs, probably as the East Division Champions.  They are the only team that has a chance to catch Kansas City for the best record in the league and home field advantage in the League Championship Series.
In the West, Houston has been out of first place for just six days since April 28.  They have not played well on the road since April, but they won two of three in New York this week, their first road series win since June 17 and 18 at Colorado.
With Dallas Keuchel leading the way, followed by solid starters Scott Kazmir, Colin McHugh and Scott Feldman, they have a starting rotation that keeps them in virtually every game.  The fifth starter, Mike Fiers pitched a no-hitter last week, which was good enough to win the American League Player of the Week Award.
Houston goes into the weekend with one more win than they notched all of last year (71) and a five game lead over the Rangers.  They are going to be tough to catch.
Houston is the likely A.L.West winner and even more likely playoff participant.
That leaves the Wild Card race, which has boils down to six teams at this point.
New York is the number one Wild Card team, four games ahead of Texas.
Los Angeles, Baltimore, Minnesota and Tampa Bay are the other teams likely to claim a Wild Card spot.
Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Seattle and Oakland are essentially eliminated.
The National League is more clearly defined.  The three winningest teams are in the Central Division – St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Chicago.  There’s a good chance this division claims three of the five N.L. playoff spots.
Pittsburgh holds the first Wild Card slot with a four game lead over the Cubs, who currently have a 5.5 game lead over San Francisco for the second Wild Card spot.  The preponderance of divisional play in September is the only thing that might slow the Central Division down.
In the East, the surprising New York Mets lead favored Washington by 6.5 games going into the weekend.  The Dodgers and Giants are fighting it out in the West, with the Dodgers taking a 2.5 game lead into the weekend.
Not much drama in the N.L. as essentially four of the five playoff berths are spoken for.  The A.L. though should have drama to the end.

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