Remember all of that talk about the homestand about this time last month? The Rangers were finishing out July with a nine-game stint at Globe Life Park, six of which happened before the deadline. The importance of those six of nine games before 3:00 on Monday was if the Rangers were able to do nicely in those games, Jon Daniels and company would go all in to try and win this year.
In those six of nine, it wasn’t nice.
Texas went 2-4, including Yu Darvish’s last start as a Ranger, a game against the floundering Marlins, where he gave up ten earned runs. He was gone to the Dodgers by 2:53 PM the following Monday. Now, Jeff Banister’s club comes up on an even more important stretch of games to finish out August, ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline.
Coming off of a strong homestand where they went 7-3 against Houston, Detroit, and Chicago, Texas goes to the West Coast for seven games. After an off day, their road trip concludes with a series against division leading Houston.
The road trip is not just one that will test the mettle of the current incarnation of the club. In facing the Angels, who are 2.5 games up on Texas in the Wild Card hunt, four times, the Rangers have a chance to shape both teams’ 2017 destinies. Including the series which begins tonight, Texas will face the Angels ten more times; that’s more than enough ground to vault the Angels in the standings and send them careening to a winter on the couch.
Even so, beating the Angels soundly over the next four games won’t necessarily improve the Rangers’ standings, as Minnesota, Seattle and Kansas City would also have to start dropping some games when Texas wins. The Rangers’ aren’t 100% in control of their own destiny, but with even as much as a 2-2 split to start their road trip, they can certainly get the wind blowing in their favor.
Heading to Oakland for the second leg of the trip, where the Rangers have had just above a .500 winning percentage in its recent competitive years, should be a place to win another series. Oakland is bringing up the rear in the American League West and has publicly declared themselves to be in full rebuild mode.
Still, there are a couple of thorns in the Rangers side, namely Khris Davis and Rajai Davis, along with arms that have given the Texas bats some fits, in Jharel Cotton, Sean Manaea and Ryan Dull. Despite that, Texas has a 6-3 record against the Swingin’ A’s in 2017 going into Rickey Henderson Field beginning Friday, and with Texas playing some good ball, there’s no reason to think they can’t take at least two of three.
That takes us to Houston. The Astros we see take on the Washington Nationals on Tuesday might not look at all like the ones that await the Rangers at Minute Maid Park to finish out the month. For one, the Astros might be welcoming back Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers, Jr., Evan Gattis, Brian McCann, Will Harris and Tony Sipp from the disabled list right before or right around the Texas series.
Furthermore, even though the Rangers pose no immediate threat to Houston’s pending AL West Championship, seeing a surging Texas club with a legitimate chance to face them in the American League Division series might push Jeff Luhnow to make a stronger play for rotation help, including Detroit Tigers’ starter Justin Verlander.
The Astros have been linked to the 34-year old right hander since the non-waiver Trade Deadline, but a lot would have to go right for Houston to acquire the Motor City ace, who has a full no-trade clause built into the contract that has three seasons remaining. There are also possibilities that Houston could pick up Marco Estrada, Jeff Samardzija or, after his shutout performance against Texas on Sunday, Miguel Gonzalez.
The bottom line is this: If the Rangers play strong going into the Houston series, they could help force the Astros (and the other teams in the Wild Card hunt) to make some moves that they otherwise wouldn’t be comfortable making.
So, no, Texas might not be completely in control of its destiny at the moment…but maybe they can work on controlling other teams’ directions in the meantime.
Do you think the Rangers will still be in the hunt when they return home on Sept. 1? Share your road trip predictions with Matt on Twitter @FisherWritesMLB.