Week ahead: Cleveland, Seattle
The Texas Rangers returned home from a 10-game road trip (they went 6-4) and face the Cleveland Indians and the Seattle Mariners in a six-game homestand. Here are some things to keep an eye on:
* Oakland A's. That may sound odd, but at this point, how can you not be scoreboard watching? I still think with their tough September schedule that they can't keep this up, yet you look at the standings today and they are 3 1/2 games back. Amazing. What matters to them -- and the Rangers -- is whether they're in a position to make things interesting Sept. 24, when the two teams meet in Arlington for the first of seven games in the final 10 contests of the season.
* Matt Harrison. He got a few extra days off to rest so that he could be ready to charge down the stretch. Because of that, he starts this series with Cleveland on Tuesday. After struggling in his last two starts, how will he look? The Rangers need the consistent Harrison that has been there all year to emerge again. Pay close attention to how he starts Tuesday.
* Jurickson Profar. You can't deny the guy's excitement. Josh Hamilton referred to him as a spark the other day and it looks like he is just that. Whether that translates to more playing time remains to be seen, but he's going to get some chances. When he does, he's worth watching.
* Elvis Andrus. He's always hit Cleveland pitching well, but has struggled in his last seven games (hitting below .200). We'll see if playing the Indians again gets him going.
* Bullpen. It's been solid all season for the Rangers and now manager Ron Washington has more arms at his disposal. Washington, Mike Maddux and Andy Hawkins are making sure they give the key arms -- Mike Adams, Joe Nathan, Alexi Ogando, Robbie Ross -- rest. Ross is on the DL and getting his rest built-in now. But when possible, Adams and Nathan are getting breaks too. Those guys could be the key to a postseason run.
* Adrian Beltre. The guy continues to pound the ball. He went from having a great August to starting September with a bang, too. He had five homers and eight RBIs on the road trip.
* Beating the teams you should. This is a homestand that the Rangers should take advantage of this week. Cleveland has struggled all sesaon and doesn't match up with Texas. Seattle has played well this second half, but it's a series the Rangers should win. Good teams win the series they are supposed to at home. It's September. The Rangers need to get it done.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Rangers GM Jon Daniels joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to tackle the tough questions after his team failed to advance to the playoffs.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss having Nelson Cruz back in the lineup and how the Rangers are feeling heading into their wild-card play-in game against the Rays.
Play Podcast ESPN Insider and senior MLB analyst Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the wild-card race and the Rangers' chances of making the playoffs.
Play Podcast Chuck Cooperstein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why he feels Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish isn't an ace.
Play Podcast Elvis Andrus joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Rangers' stretch run and the morale level in their clubhouse.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss the latest Rangers news, including the team's struggles, Ron Washington's job security and a rumored trade with the Braves.
Play Podcast Ron Washington joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss the Rangers' dismal September, who's to blame for their September struggles and his status as the team's manager.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss how some people are calling for the Rangers to fire manager Ron Washington.