|The Rangers have ridden back into the AL playoff race
The Texas Rangers have been champions of the American League West Division in four of the last seven years. In eight of the last nine they have either won the division or finished as the runners-up.
But for much of the 2017 campaign, the Rangers struggled. Jeff Banister
‘s squad sat with a 13-20 mark just a little more than one month into the season.
Since then this has been a roller coaster ride of a year for the ball club. Texas ran off 10 straight wins to get back on the winning side of the ledger. But then the Rangers followed that winning streak up by losing 12 of their next 16 contests. That was followed by eight wins in the next 10 games.
Back and forth it has gone like that all year. Just three weeks ago, on August 27, Texas was 64-66 and appeared headed towards a long off-season. The Rangers were just three games off the AL Wildcard pace at that point. But there were also four other teams in front of them vying for that same final playoff berth.
Flash-forward three weeks. Following Monday night’s 5-3 victory
over the division rival Seattle Mariners, the Rangers sit just two games off that postseason pace.
Wins in eight of their last 11 games have Texas now at 72-71. They are two games behind the Minnesota Twins in the race for the final AL Wildcard
. The AL West-rival Los Angeles Angels are the only other team ahead of them. The Angels sit just a game ahead of the Rangers.
HAMELS KEYS MONDAY NIGHT VICTORY
Veteran lefty Cole Hamels
picked up the win on the mound on Monday night. He struck out seven M’s batters while walking just one and scattering a half-dozen hits over six innings, raising his record on the season to 10-3.
“Obviously, we’re right neck and neck, and every win matters,” Hamels said per MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan.
“It’s not going to get any easier. We play some tough teams … we definitely have to win series, and that’s the only way we know how to stay within this fight. It’s just a matter of focusing on what we can do and believing in each other, and we’re having a good time doing it.”
GALLO TAKES OVER FOR INJURED BELTRE
Texas is finding a way to do it without their leader, future Hall of Fame third baseman Adrian Beltre
, who is likely done for the season with a Grade 2 strain of his left hamstring.
The club has managed to keep their collective heads above water since losing Beltre, winning six of 10 while he has been out. His replacement for the most part has been Joey Gallo
The 23-year old perennial prospect has hit just .212 in September with one homer and four RBI. But his .395 on-base percentage during the month has allowed him to score seven times. Getting increased production from Gallo is likely to be a big key if the Rangers are to push into a playoff position.
The Rangers will visit Angel Stadium in Anaheim for a three-game head-to-head with Mike Trout and the Halos this coming weekend. With the Twins having to visit both Yankee Stadium to face the vastly improved Yankees and Progressive Field to take on the white-hot Cleveland Indians, the door could be open for the winner of that Texas-LA series to take over that final playoff spot.