Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Texas Rangers [Print without images]

Thursday, September 12, 2013
Extra Bases: Mentally, Rangers hold steady

By Todd Wills

ARLINGTON, Texas -- So what's the pulse of the Rangers on this off day before the final 17 games of the regular season?

Where are the collective heads of the 36 players, their manager and coaches?

PODCAST
Jayson Stark joins Richard Durrett to give his thoughts on the AL West race, Matt Garza's struggles, the wild-card race and more.

Listen Listen
On Sunday's pregame show before the Rangers played the Angels, Mike Peasley of ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM posed the question to me if it was panic time for Rangers fans. Should we turn the collapse watch on?

My answer, before the Rangers rallied to beat the Angels on Sunday, was not yet.

Let's wait until the Rangers come home and play Pittsburgh and Oakland. Let's see how they respond in their home ballpark in front of their home fans. Let's see how they react to questions from the media about whether or not they're pressing, panicking, collapsing.

Well, the Rangers went out and got swept by the Pirates. They never led in 27 innings. They didn't score early runs, didn't make routine defensive plays, didn't get a good start out of Martin Perez and Matt Garza, didn't win with Yu Darvish, didn't get enough scoreless innings from their bullpen.

They used Robbie Ross on Tuesday in a two-run game in the ninth inning Tuesday. They didn't give Lance Berkman a chance to swing the bat.

You get the picture.

Collectively, this was brutal on all fronts.

Except for one thing -- the Rangers' collective reaction to getting swept and losing nine of 12 games. And that's the one thing that leads me to believe that they can take the day off, refresh their minds and win Friday night against Oakland.

There was no snappiness after Wednesday's 7-5 loss. The team's leaders talked after the game. No one went into hiding. They weren't defensive, short or downtrodden.

The Rangers seem to be drawing upon their experiences of the last three seasons. They've pretty much been through it all, from making the World Series for the first time in 2010 to the bitter disappointment of the final two games in 2011 in St. Louis to last season's September collapse.

Maybe that's allowing them to be honest about what is happening in the present. They're just not playing very well, and they know it. No excuses.

"It hasn't been enough," third baseman Adrian Beltre said. "As a team we're going through a little struggle in every phase of the game. Defense, pitching, offensively, we're not doing enough to win ball games. That's the bottom line. Obviously it's offensively more than anything.

"We need to tighten up everything and win the game. We're positive we're going to get there. We have to execute."

There's no panic. That vibe isn't in the clubhouse after losses. It's not being said, the tone isn't defensive, when someone like a mainstay, Ian Kinsler, is asked about the state of the team.

"We're fine," Kinsler said. "When we went to Oakland a week ago, it was the biggest game of the series. Every game is the biggest game of the year. Obviously Oakland is ahead of us in the standings. We have to play better baseball. That's the bottom line. It doesn't matter who our opponent is."

Can the Rangers regroup one last time, like they did after a team meeting in Cleveland when as many as five players laid everything on the line?

Those answers are waiting when the season resumes for 17 tension-filled days on Friday night.

Up now: Matt Garza admits the pressure may be getting to him. Plus, Nelson Cruz has started working out in Arizona.

On deck: The Rangers will either be trailing by 2 1/2 or 3 1/2 games when they start Friday's series against the Oakland A's in Arlington. Oakland has a day game against Minnesota on Thursday.

Question of the day: If you had to pick to one player who will spark a Rangers turnaround, who is it?