Louis DeLuca/Staff Photographer Texas Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos (61) talks with pitcher Yu Darvish (11) during the fourth inning during the Boston Red Sox vs. the Texas Rangers major league baseball game at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas on Tuesday, July 4, 2017. (Louis DeLuca/The Dallas Morning News)
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Rangers enter the final week of July with a full calendar.
By the end of the nine-game, 10-day homestand that begins Monday, Ivan Rodriguez will officially have a plaque in the Hall of Fame. Adrian Beltre will very possibly punch the final hole on his own passport to Cooperstown. In the middle of it all, the Rangers just might climb back to the top of the wild-card race. And if they don’t: Hey, there’s at least one more opportunity to see Yu Darvish pitch.
At least things ought to be interesting.
After a five-game losing streak that seemed to push them to the edge of selling assets, the Rangers finished off a weekend sweep of Tampa Bay on Sunday with a 6-5 win, their third straight come-from-behind win. The Rays entered the series leading the AL wild-card race. The Rangers leave it with renewed enthusiasm for what this team is capable of doing.
“We have an amazing feeling right now,” Elvis Andrus said over his new boom box that both shakes the room and lights up but had mostly been silent earlier in the week. “We feel right now that sooner or later, we are going to put runs together and on the board. Maybe we had been lacking some of that, but right now is the time to get hot and put things together.”
“Our offense is still not where we want it or where we are supposed to be,” said Beltre, who enters the homestand 11 hits shy of 3,000 after a two-hit day Sunday. “We haven’t been consistent. But we have the offense to do it. When we get hot, we get hot. Hopefully, we can do this more often.”
On Sunday, the Rangers came back from a three-run deficit. It matched the season’s biggest comeback. They had also come back from a three-run deficit Saturday. On Sunday, they scored three times in the eighth inning on back-to-back homers by Rougned Odor and Carlos Gomez to take the lead. The bullpen pitched 5.1 scoreless innings.
When the day was over, the Rangers were 2.5 games out of the second AL wild-card spot and suddenly things look much brighter. Start with the schedule: The Rangers have more home games (36) remaining than all of the wild-card contenders except the New York Yankees.
The homestand starts with the Miami Marlins, who are already in full sell mode. It concludes with three games against the Seattle Mariners, one of the four teams currently ahead of them in the race for a wild-card spot. When the homestand ends, the Rangers go to Minnesota, another of those teams ahead of them, for four more games.
The opportunity to catch – and pass – other contenders quickly.
“We’ve had a pretty challenging road schedule this year, but we should get some normalization to our schedule here,” manager Jeff Banister said. “That part of it for me – the number of games at home, who we play – you’d hope to think that would work in our favor.”
The plan was and remains to try to add some reinforcements, particularly for the bullpen, leading up to the trade deadline. After getting swept in four games at Baltimore, GM Jon Daniels had started to field more calls about his own players, however, and had started to make some of his own, too. At the top of the list of Most Desired Rangers is Darvish, who is scheduled to start Wednesday against Miami.
Among the teams the Rangers have spoken to regarding Darvish are the Los Angeles Dodgers. Daniels sent a key evaluator to see Los Angeles’ Triple-A team on Friday. Center fielder Jason Verdugo could be a key figure if talks were to advance. And the Dodgers may have seen their need for Darvish grow Sunday. Dallas’ Clayton Kershaw left his start after two innings with what was described as a lower back injury.
If momentum is fleeting, there is still time for the Rangers to pivot after Darvish’s start Wednesday and become more aggressive about making a deal before the July 31 deadline, the day after Rodriguez is enshrined in Cooperstown.
It’s going to be a busy week for the Rangers.
But it’s certainly going to be an interesting one.