ARLINGTON, Texas -- Shortly after the Texas Rangers' final off day of the season -- on Monday, Sept. 17 -- the club had a three-game lead in the AL West and was set to begin a stretch of 16 games against division opponents.
It was a chance to go on a run and effectively end any suspense. And when they took two of three in Anaheim, including Adrian Beltre's two-run homer to break a tie in the final game of that series, it appeared they were on their way. But this team hasn't been able to sustain much momentum recently. The Rangers lost two of three in Seattle. Now, as they head into the final game of this four-game series with the Oakland A's, they are three games up in the division. That's the same spot they were in nine games ago.
Of course, since the calendar has advanced, so has the magic number. But with seven games left, the Rangers still have work to do before popping corks for a third straight season.
"You don't like to put more losses up at this point in the season when you're trying to close things out and every win is vital," outfielder David Murphy said. "It's been nice in past years that we've been able to clinch a spot and clinch it early. Nothing is ever guaranteed. We don't take anything for granted. We're just going to continue to play hard."
What they haven't done is get consistent offensive production. During the last nine games, the Rangers have averaged 2.77 runs per game and aren't getting the hits they need with runners in scoring position. They were 0-for-7 in Wednesday's 9-3 loss and are 3-for-20 in the series. Before they came back home, Texas was 1-for-25 with runners in scoring position, so it's been an issue the past week.
"It's something that comes and goes," Murphy said. "I know we went through a rough stretch when we were struggling offensively early in the season. Obvoiusly, this is not the right time for that to be happening. But I don't think it's something we dwell on or think about. I didn't know what our numbers were tonight. The productivity can be better. But when you get in a hole like we did tonight, it's tough to do a lot of things offensively."
They'll get another chance to increase the division lead and reduce the magic number Thursday. And it's a quick turnaround with the game starting at 1 p.m. at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
"It's been a challenging series and hopefully we can even it up tomorrow," Murphy said.