Texas Rangers: AL West
The American League West is a dead heat with 23 games left. The Rangers will try to turn their momentum against a Los Angeles team they have dominated this season. The A's start a four-game series Thursday night against the lowly Houston Astros.
Here's how the rest of the week sets up for the Rangers and A's:
Rangers (80-59, .586, Tied for first)
Next up: Friday-Sunday at the Los Angeles Angels, The Big A in Anaheim
Opponents' record: The Angels are 64-74, 15 1/2 games back in the AL West
The latest: The Rangers' best players didn't produce in a series loss to Oakland this week that included an ugly 11-4 loss Wednesday that saw ace Yu Darvish fall apart. It wasn't just Darvish. The Rangers' offense was 5-for-30 with runners in scoring position for the three-game series against Oakland. That's not going to get it done.
Forecast: The Rangers have played well against the Angels, winning their last seven games against the Halos and going 10-2 overall against their rivals. Texas swept a three-game series in Anaheim in early August. The Angels have been playing better lately, but they lost their last two games at home to Tampa Bay. The Rangers will turn to Matt Garza on Friday night against an old friend, C.J. Wilson.
Athletics (80-59, .586, Tied for first)
Next up: Thursday-Sunday vs. Houston, O.com Coliseum
Opponents' record: The Astros are 46-93, 34 games back in the AL West
The latest: The A's have momentum on their side after this week's series against the Rangers and their resounding win Wednesday. Oakland is 13-3 against Houston, including three three-game sweeps. But the Astros did win two out of three from the A's in Oakland last month. A's rookie Sonny Gray will get the ball in Thursday's opener against Houston's Brad Peacock. Gray is 2-0 with a 0.83 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings at home.
Forecast: The A's will be back in first place alone at the end of the weekend. Yes, Houston played Oakland tough the last time on the road, but the A's will rebound and win another series and take a half-game lead in the division.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers take a break from the schedule Thursday, and they also take a break from playing the American League West when they open a three-game series on Friday night in Chicago against the White Sox.
It's also a break for the rest of the division.
The Rangers have torn through the AL West this season, posting a 41-16 record against division foes. That's 55 percent of their wins. It's the best record of any major league team against its own division.
The Rangers beat Houston again Wednesday night, 5-4, on a walk off sacrifice fly by Elvis Andrus for their seventh win in 13 days against the Astros.
Texas was 27-30 against the AL West in 2012 and lost the division by a game to Oakland. The Rangers aren't making the mistake this season of playing poorly in the most important games on their schedule as they've built a 2 1/2 game lead on the A's.
"I make that point of emphasis every spring," manager Ron Washingotn said. "If you want to be successful, you have to be successful in your division."
The Rangers are 14-2 against Houston and have swept four of six series. The Rangers are 10-2 against the Los Angeles Angels and 8-5 against Oakland.
After the White Sox, the Rangers play three games at Seattle. The Mariners have posed the biggest problem to Texas this season. The Rangers are 9-7 against the Mariners.
Seattle might be the toughest team in the West right now -- even tougher than Oakland -- despite a 59-67 record. The Rangers will face Hishasi Ikakuma and Felix Hernandez again.
"If we could find a way to pull Seattle out of our side, then we could really be good in the division," Washington said. "Those guys just play us so tough. They have a good lineup. They have power. They have speed. And they can always pitch. They have a good bullpen. It just didn't come together for them like they thought it would. But on any given night, they can tear you up."
What's up now: Rapid Reaction from Wednesday's 5-4 walk off victory over Houston. The Rangers got clutch performances from three veterans in the late innings Wednesday. Also, it's time for a run of lefty starters opposing the Rangers.
On deck: An off day, the third consecutive Thursday the Rangers won't play.
Question of the day: Should the Rangers bring back the catching duo of A.J. Pierzynski and Geovany Soto next season?
The Rangers, who have made it back into a tie for the America League West lead, have a chance to push their way past Oakland in the standings by again dominating the Houston Astros in a four-game series that starts Friday at Minute Maid Park.
Texas has a pitching edge with Matt Garza, Derek Holland, Martin Perez and Yu Darvish slated to pitch against the Astros, who enter the series with a 37-76 record.
Here's what to watch for in Houston:
|Richard Durrett believes that the Rangers are better than the A's and that the Nelson Cruz suspension is a major reason why.
Looking at lefties: Houston will throw a left-handed starter against the Rangers in three of the last four games. It starts Friday with Erik Bedard (3-8, 4.29 ERA). Bedard is 0-1 with a 3.68 ERA against the Rangers this season. After right-hander Brad Peacock (1-4, 7.25) on Saturday, the Astros will send out lefties Dallas Keuchel (5-6, 4.96) on Sunday and Brett Olberholtzer (2-0, 2.53) on Monday. Keuchel has made one start against the Rangers this season, allowing two earned runs in five innings.
Battling Astros: Houston nearly won a three-game series from American League East-leader Boston this week. The Astros took the lead into the ninth inning of Wednesday's rubber game, only to have Boston's Stephen Drew hit a three-run home run off new Houston closer Josh Fields for a 7-5 win. The Astros had a lead in all three games. They led 5-0 and 7-3 on Tuesday night before the Red Sox rallied for a 15-10 win at Minute Maid Park.
Sinking bullpen: Houston's bullpen hasn't been the same since closer Jose Veras was traded to the Detroit Tigers. Fields' blown save Wednesday night was the fourth in five opportunities for the Astros' bullpen. Since trading Veras, Houston's relief corps have a 6.58 ERA while allowing five home runs and 19 walks in 26 innings. The Astros are 30-4 when leading entering the ninth inning. The Rangers are 57-1.
Owning the West: The Rangers have obliterated AL West opponents this season. Texas is an MLB-best 33-14 against its division rivals -- including 11 wins in the last 13 games vs. AL West opponents after a road sweep of the Los Angeles Angels. The Rangers are in a stretch of 19 of 22 games against the division. They are 8-1 so far.
With the second half of the season about to begin, let's look into our crystal ball and predict what could happen in the final 2 1/2 months of the season for the Texas Rangers:
Biggest boost from the disabled list: The Rangers have a gaggle of folks who are coming back from injuries and -- outside of Yu Darvish, who was on there more as a precaution than anything else -- I'm going to surprise some and take Alexi Ogando as my biggest boost. Don't get me wrong: It would be big if Colby Lewis or Matt Harrison can give this rotation something. But Ogando will be the first to return, and the Rangers need him to stay healthy and give them innings. If they had more depth, perhaps he could slide over to the bullpen. But the Rangers don't have that luxury. They need Ogando to pitch better and be a stalwart in that rotation this half. I think he will be.
One player the Rangers need at trade deadline: For me, even more than an impact bat, it's a starting pitcher. And I still can't get the thought of Cliff Lee out of my mind. The Phillies sit at .500 and are 6 1/2 games back of the Braves in the NL East and 5 1/2 back in the wild-card race, so they need to figure out if they will be buyers, sellers or just stand pat at the deadline. But if there's a slip and they inch toward sellers, might the Phillies dangle Lee? He'd cost not only big money (there's a bundle left on that contract), but some prospects as well. He'd be worth it. Just think of how good it would look to have Darvish and Lee on top of the Rangers' rotation down the stretch and in the playoffs.
Where the AL West will be won: Against the Angels. Yep. The Rangers have 13 games left against the Angels. And if the Rangers are going to catch the A's, they need to beat the Angels. Two big division stretches stick out on the schedule. They go on the road for 10 games against the A's, Angels and Astros in August and they finish the season against the Astros and Angels in the final seven games in Arlington. Those two stretches could decide the AL West.
Second-half Rangers MVP: Ian Kinsler. He was playing well going into the break and has been steady all season. The Rangers missed him earlier this season and they need him to do his thing at the top of the lineup in the second half. Look for him to have a good final run this season.
Second half surprise: Elvis Andrus. It's been a terrible first half for Andrus. He's hitting .242, ninth among qualified AL shortstops (there's only 12 of them). He has no homers and 31 RBIs and just a .300 on-base percentage. That can't continue. So I'm going with Andrus to snap out of this funk and play better in the second half, which would be a surprise given his first half.
Total wins: 94. And that's good enough for the Rangers to sneak by the A's (who will earn a wild card spot) and win the AL West. I think with the return of some injured players and a move or two at the deadline, this team will have enough to win the division and get ready for a playoff run.
What are you predicting for the second half?
Justin Grimm: The rookie right-hander has won three consecutive starts at a time when the Rangers have No. 3 starter Alexi Ogando on the disabled list and when it is uncertain when Colby Lewis will be able to begin rehabbing again. Grimm leads all American League rookie starters with five wins. He has been great at Rangers Ballpark where he is 3-1 with a 2.84 ERA for the season.
Jurickson Profar: Profar has a six-game hitting streak with 10 hits in his last 25 at-bats. The 20-year old has settled in nicely with multiple hit games in three of the four starts. He's also played well defensively as he proves he belong at the big league level.
Adrian Beltre: He has a seven-game hitting streak while take his turn at carrying the middle of the Rangers' lineup. Beltre has 11 hits in last 30 at-bats with four doubles. The good news for the Rangers is his power numbers should pick up if he continues to swing the bat this well.
Ian Kinsler: Kinsler, the catalyst at the top of the Rangers' lineup, is probably out until July 1 because of a stress reaction in his rib cage. Jurickson Profar is playing well in Kinsler's absence, but don't kid yourself if you don't think Kinsler's bat is missed. The Rangers are 6-5 without Kinsler as they've lost the presence of his combination of power and speed in the leadoff spot.
Michael Kirkman: He's just not getting it done, allowing two more runs Thursday as Arizona was able to close to within 9-5 in the eight inning. It was the fifth time this season Kirkman has allowed multiple runs in a game. Kirkman is out of options, and he's still a talented lefty in the bullpen, so the Rangers need to find a way to get him right.
AL West lead: Oakland finally lost to rival San Francisco on Thursday as the Rangers were able to build their division lead back to three games. It ended a stretch where the Rangers had lost ground in the AL West standings for four straight days, the first time that's happened since May 2010.
I'm sure by now you've seen the home run that was not called a home run in Cleveland in the ninth inning Wednesday night. Instead of a double for Adam Rosales, it should have been a homer that tied the score for the Oakland A's. But after replay, which showed that it was a homer, the umpires still got it wrong and the Indians hung on for a 4-3 win.
|Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett for his weekly visit and wastes no time sounding off on MLB umpire Angel Hernandez.
ESPN.com's Buster Olney thinks MLB should step in, make it a homer and have the two teams play it out from that point. But this brings up the bigger issue: Why isn't someone sitting in a booth -- just like in college football -- looking at every angle on the best HD television available and making that call? Why have the umpires trot off the field and try to figure it out underneath the stadium, something that takes longer?
ESPN.com's Jayson Stark reported before the season that expanded replay is possible for 2014 and that MLB officials are talking about a replay umpire who can do exactly that. I sure hope so. It's one thing for an umpire to miss a call that isn't reviewable (and maybe that will decrease next year if they'll let some plays on the bases be reviewed), but it's quite another when every TV angle a fan sees shows the ball is a homer and the umpires review it and still screw it up.
The decision Wednesday night was good for the Rangers but bad for baseball. And it's something that can be fixed. No, I'm not for replays on balls and strikes. An umpire who can see that ball crossing the plate should make that call. But reviewing the key plays on the bases, along with fair and foul balls, is certainly needed. Perhaps you give each manager one challenge per game (and they get another if they get that challenge right) and then in the eighth or ninth inning (not unlike football), it goes to the booth automatically. Just a thought.
How much replay do you want to see in baseball? Do you think baseball needs a replay umpire in a booth?
Josh Hamilton heard the cheers during some very good years -- and a few trying times -- with the Texas Rangers. But now that he's playing with the rival Los Angeles Angels, he expects to hear the boos when he returns for the home opener in Arlington.
"I think it's funny. I got booed when I played there. Why wouldn't I get booed when I play for the Angels and play there?" Hamilton said. "It's not going to hurt because I can't think about it. The people that boo, they don't have that relationship with me that know me personally, understand me and have that relationship there."
|Fitzsimmons & Durrett discuss Josh Hamilton's comments about his return to Texas, Rangers fans booing him and the Angels clubhouse.
"When we go back there and somebody's ragging me or cussing me or whatever the case may be, it's not going to keep me from signing autographs and spending time with them," Hamilton said. "I'm looking forward to it."
Hamilton was asked about the end of last season, in which the Rangers blew a five-game lead in the AL West with nine games to play and ended up losing in the AL wild-card game to Baltimore.
So what about you? Will you boo Hamilton when he walks up to the plate for his first at-bat at Rangers Ballpark?
“When something like that happens, I think we need to let things settle down,” Ryan told the newspaper, speaking in Amarillo as part of the club’s Winter Caravan. “It’s an ongoing investigation by Major League Baseball, so that’s kind of the position we’ve taken.”
Ryan was asked if baseball was on the right track overall when it comes to containing the PED issue in the game.
“I think baseball has done a good job,” Ryan said. “Two weeks ago at the owner’s meetings, we announced that we’re going to test, for the first time, for human growth hormones, so we’re going to do that this summer. We’re the first sport that’s doing that, so we feel like we’re making progress, and we feel like there will be a lot of other sports following in that light.”
Ryan also discussed the 2013 Rangers and feels that the club will be a contender for the AL West title. The former Hall of Fame pitcher says rounding out the starting staff is a high priority this spring, along with staying healthy.
"We need to have somebody step up as another starter in our rotation,” Ryan said. “We have some bullpen spots that we need to define.”
Ryan said it will take a group of players to make up for the losses of veteran Michael Young and 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton. And he likes the veteran presence that newcomers Lance Berkman and A.J. Pierzynski can bring.
He was also asked about where he thinks prospects Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt end up once the season begins.
“You have to see how spring training goes and how they perform and what your needs are,” Ryan said. “If there’s a place for them to play pretty much on a regular basis, they would be on the ballclub. If not, then I would expect them to be in Triple-A, because they’re at the point in their development where you don’t have the luxury of putting them on the bench and being a role player.”
The Texas Rangers will welcome the Houston Astros to the American League as the new West rivals will kick off the 2013 Major League Baseball season on ESPN on March 31 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, it was announced Thursday.
The ESPN Sunday Night Baseball telecast will begin at 7 p.m. CT. The club will then finish the series on Tuesday and Wednesday and be off on Thursday prior to the Rangers' home opener vs. the Los Angeles Angels on April 5.
I think the rotation is playoff-caliber with Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando, Martin Perez and Colby Lewis.
The eight teams in front of the Rangers:
1. Washington Nationals
2. Cincinnati Reds
3. New York Yankees
4. Detroit Tigers
5. Atlanta Braves
6. Toronto Blue Jays
7. Oakland A's
8. Los Angeles Dodgers
The rest of the AL West:
12. Los Angeles Angels
21. Seattle Mariners
30. Houston Astros
Schoenfield has comments for each team, so be sure and check the entire list out here.
I'm OK with this list. Honestly, I believe the Rangers are a better team than the A's. I know that may sound crazy since the A's caught Texas at the end of the 2012 season and the Rangers have lost Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli, among others, this offseason. But things came together just right for the A's last year, and I wonder if all of that young pitching can repeat what it did last season -- not to mention if the offense can score enough runs consistently. Perhaps they'll prove me wrong.
But because of what's happened this offseason, the Rangers won't be considered quite the favorites that they were going into last season. But this is still a team with good pitching and a deep lineup. If Texas goes a bit under the radar, perhaps that's only a good things for the Rangers. It's still a playoff-caliber team, folks. And the offseason isn't over yet.
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Josh Hamilton has agreed to terms with the Los Angeles Angels, leaving the Texas Rangers after five years filled with memorable moments on and off the field.
What it means: The Rangers lose their No. 3 hitter and a left-handed slugger. He was a force in the middle of a right-handed heavy lineup and one of the club's top run producers. For all of his ups and downs, Hamilton had 43 homers and 128 RBIs in 2012. That's not going to be easy to replace.
Hamilton had 142 homers and 506 RBIs during his five-year Ranger career. He hit .305 in that span with a .912 OPS. Hamilton won the AL MVP Award in 2010, hitting .359 with 32 homers and 100 RBIs despite missing nearly all of September with cracked ribs. He was a critical component of the club's back-to-back AL championship runs in 2010 and 2011.
Outfield impact: As it's constructed now, the Rangers' outfield consists of David Murphy in left field, a possible platoon of Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin in center and Nelson Cruz in right. Texas could look at trade options, though the biggest name on the trade block was Justin Upton. Arizona GM Kevin Towers said this week that it's "highly unlikely" the Diamondbacks would trade him, but you never know.
AL West gets tougher: Not only is Hamilton gone, but he signed with a division rival. This is the second consecutive offseason that a major contributor from the Rangers signed with the Angels (C.J. Wilson last year). That's a potent lineup with Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and now Josh Hamilton. In his career at Angel Stadium, he has a .260 batting average with five homers and 19 RBIs in 150 at-bats. He has a .765 OPS there.
“They were a great team on paper beforehand. They’re a great team on paper now," Daniels said Thursday. "They’re going to be very good."
Injuries: One big obstacle to Hamilton getting an even longer-term deal than the one he agreed to from the Angels was his health. Hamilton played 148 games lats season, his highest total since 2008 (when he played 156). It was only the second time he'd played in more than 133 games in a season. In fact, Hamilton has averaged 123 games in his five seasons. While in Texas, he's had a variety of ailments including knee inflammation, strained hamstrings, lower back stiffness, fractured shoulder, cracked ribs, torn adductors and ocular kerotitis. For this deal to work out for the Angels, Hamilton must stay healthy.
Celebration change: This is a random observation, but assuming the Rangers get a chance in the next few years to pop champagne in celebration of a playoff berth or series win, will they still have a Ginger Ale/water bath to start things off? That came about because of Hamilton and former teammate C.J. Wilson. Both are now in Los Angeles. Perhaps the Angels will start that now.
Welcome back: It won't take long for Rangers fans to see Hamilton in an Angels uniform. The club plays them in the home-opening series, April 5-7. Unlike last year, when Wilson didn't return until May, the league has the AL West rivals getting things started early.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- How did this happen to the Texas Rangers?
How did a club coming off two consecutive World Series and in command of the AL West for the entire season watch it slip away on the final day?
In fairness, as the Rangers lost grasp on the title, the Oakland A's were there to snatch it, never giving up even when it didn't appear they would have a shot. And they crushed the Rangers on Wednesday, breaking a 5-5 tie on an inexplicable Josh Hamilton error and then never looking back, capturing the division with a 12-5 victory.
"I'm disappointed and sad," manager Ron Washington said. "You play all year to try to win the division and then you don't get it done, especially when you thought you were on your way to do just that and the tables turned. I'm disappointed, but we've still got an opportunity. We put our backs against the wall by having to play one game, but we're capable of winning that one game. Once we get in, you never know what may happen."
The Rangers' season shouldn't come down to Friday's elimination game in the AL wild card. This was Texas' division all year. The Rangers cruised through April, nearly burying the Los Angeles Angels in the process. The A's were 13 back in June and an afterthought.
But they just kept coming. And the Rangers struggled to find consistency in the second half of the season, unable to put the division away.
Still, they were in command, just as they have been for the better part of three seasons now. They led the AL West for 178 days. According to Elias Sports Bureau, no team in baseball history has led its division that long and not come out with a title -- until now.
They led by four games with six to play. And they needed just one win in this three-game series to clinch. Instead, they lost five of those six games while the A's won six straight to earn an unlikely title.
This wasn't how they planned to end the regular season. It was supposed to be the Rangers who ran to the mound and mobbed each other, not a green-and-gold glob that touched off another huge celebration for the amazing A's.
The visiting clubhouse in Oakland was supposed to be covered in plastic, absorbing a second Rangers celebration in three years. But no champagne flowed there Wednesday. There were no water and ginger ale showers.
After all, you don't throw a party when you're the two-time defending AL champions and you get drubbed in the division-deciding game.
But unlike the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves of 2011, two teams that collapsed last year and weren't around for the postseason, the Rangers still have life.
They will host a one-game, winner-take-all contest Friday against the Baltimore Orioles. They have to forget about a disappointing week and focus on winning the only game that matters now.
You can read the rest of the story here.
|Ben and Skin think they know what was going on inside Josh Hamilton's head during the infamous muffed popup against Oakland.
"I just missed it, man," Hamilton said. "I didn't break down on it like I needed to. When you run a long way in like that, you're supposed to break down on your toes so you can get there and if it moves on you, you can make the adjustment. I didn't. I kept going and it came down and I didn't catch it. It sucks."
After the inning, television cameras caught manager Ron Washington in what appeared to be a lively conversation with Hamilton.
"I just asked him what happened and he told me," said Washington, who didn't want to get into specifics.
Hamilton said it was not a heated exchange.
Read the rest of the story here.
OAKLAND, Calif. --The Texas Rangers are not AL West champions for a third consecutive year.The Oakland A's completed an improbable comeback, sweeping Texas in the final three games of the season to claim the title that appeared reserved for the Rangers for most of the season. It means Oakland celebrates a division title while the Rangers will play either Baltimore or New York in the AL wild-card game.
The Rangers led the AL West by four games on Friday morning, but lost five of six games while the A's won six straight to grab the title. Texas needed just one game during a three-game series and couldn't win it. They had a 5-1 lead going into the bottom of the fourth Wednesday and watched as the A's scored six runs in the fourth to take a lead that they never relinquished in winning, 12-5.
But the biggest play of the game was one that Josh Hamilton didn't make. With the score tied at five in the fourth inning, Yoenis Cespedes hit a routine fly ball to center field. Hamilton came in and appeared nonchalant about it, putting his glove up to make the play. But he overran it and the ball nicked off his glove and went behind him. That allowed two runs to score, putting the A's up 7-5. Manager Ron Washington had a lively conversation with Hamilton in the dugout between innings, as the television broadcasts showed.
The A's never looked back and secured the win. Oakland was 13 games back of the Rangers in June and managed to come all the way back. That's one game shy of the largest deficit overcome during as a season to win the division since 1969. The New York Yankees came back from a 14-game deficit in 1978.
The Rangers led the AL West by themselves since April 9 and had the lead for 178 days. That's the most days in baseball history without winning the division, according to Elias Sports Bureau. The Tigers led for 165 days in 2009.
The Rangers' late-season swoon means they are now forced to play in a one-game, winner-take-all wild-card game Friday. They'll send Yu Darvish to the mound, hoping he can send them into the ALDS.
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.