It was a weird August – no, it’s been a weird season – for the Texas Rangers. After they blew the doors open early on with spot-on pitching and an overwhelming offense, it seemed like Texas would be one of the clear favorites to win the American League. It was between them and the Tampa Bay Rays, who started the season as the other top dogs in the AL.
Times have changed.
Since the trade deadline, which saw Texas trade for top talent like Max Scherzer from the New York Mets, the Rangers have been, well, mid at best.
Coming back from the All-Star break, Texas swept the Cleveland Guardians and the Rays at home but would drop the next three series, including getting swept in San Diego right before the trade deadline.
Following that sweep, Texas would go on another tear, winning their next five series, including an eight-game winning streak that saw them sweep two series. At the end of those five series, though, something happened.
It was a series against the Los Angeles Angels. Texas had won the first two games of the series and was looking to sweep a division rival. Meanwhile, the Angels were desperate to gain some ground and get back in the Wild Card race. Youngster Reid Detmers took a no-hitter into the eighth inning, and the Angels would win 2-0.
After that, the Rangers lost five of their next six series. They sent Max Scherzer to the mound to pitch against Justin Verlander and the Houston Astros, trying to avoid a three-game sweep and losing even more ground in a tight divisional race.
In arguably the most important game of the year for Texas, Scherzer barely made it out of the third inning, giving up seven of the 12 runs Houston would end up scoring. Verlander was the complete opposite, utterly dominating against the AL’s best offense and limiting Texas to only four runs through his seven innings of work.
Since that loss to the Angels, the Rangers have gone 6-15, with four of those wins coming against the Mets and Athletics. Four of those wins were also one-run decisions.
An offense powered by Jonah Heim, Adolis Garcia, Marcus Semien, and, of course, Corey Seager amid a career year is somehow three games out in the division. A pitching staff led by Nathan Eovaldi, Andrew Heaney, and Jon Gray has done a complete 180 from how they started the season, as well.
Now, as of Sunday evening, Texas sits half a game out of a playoff spot. They sit right behind the Mariners for the final spot, just behind the Blue Jays and Rays. Thankfully for Texas, the Boston Red Sox are 5.5 games back of them. The Rangers only have to worry about who is in front of them, not who sits behind.
The 2023 season has been a season of disappointing teams, headlined by the New York Mets, San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals. Texas could end up in that conversation if they end up missing the playoffs, considering how they burst onto the scene to start the season.
Injuries have certainly plagued the team, with Jacob deGrom, their biggest free agent signing, missing most of the season. Other key players like Eovaldi, Seager, Josh Jung, and now Garcia have missed time, too.
So, how can Texas get themselves back into a Wild Card spot, or even the division lead? Their next series is a key four-game set with the Blue Jays in Toronto. They will also cap their season with three games against the Angels and seven against the Mariners. Those two series against Seattle will be pivotal. Beating Toronto and Seattle, in particular, will be critical.
Half of the Rangers’ remaining six series are against teams in playoff contention. They also have series with Boston and Cleveland in which they could rack up wins to inch themselves closer to a Wild Card spot. Texas is far from dead, but they need to start winning.
Only three games out of first, and only half a game out of a Wild Card spot, the Rangers still have plenty to play for. The AL West could be the most fun division to watch as September winds down.
Texas absolutely has the talent to leapfrog the Mariners and Astros to take the division for the first time since 2016. However, the time for them to kick it into high gear is now. As players begin returning from the injured list, the Rangers need to excel to get back into postseason position.