The MLB non-waiver trade deadline passed July 31, and the Rangers were unable to make a splash by adding a bat to a lineup that had been struggling in July.
But what also passed on the last day of July was the Rangers’ third consecutive walk-off win, which they have leveraged into a fourth straight win Thursday to complete an undefeated (albeit short) home stand.
The turning point for the club, based on the improved performance on the field, was a meeting behind closed doors in Cleveland after being shut out for the second consecutive game and being swept by the Indians.
I don’t know if it’s the enigma of a “team meeting” that makes it so interesting, but one has to wonder what was said behind those closed doors.
Whatever it was the manager Ron Washington said has worked in the four games since. Because, although there is not a new face with a power bat in Texas, there has been a spark in the lineup.
A spark so mighty that a .221 hitter in David Murphy recorded three hits Thursday. A spark strong enough that Mitch Moreland, who was a dismal 2-for-39 in 11 games after the All-Star break, rides a three-game hitting streak that included a towering home run Thursday night. A spark that has Elvis Andrus, whose first half of the season was defined by underachievement, riding a 14-game hitting streak.
A spark so powerful that a club that has scored just 36 runs over a 15-game stretch (15 of those runs coming in two games) has nine home runs during its four-game winning streak.
So what caused the turnaround?
Is it the sagacity of Ron Washington? The Rangers skipper has been blamed for the team’s struggles in the month of July as much as any player, so is he now the voice of reason that has turned the bats around? Maybe. But it’s not likely.
Is the team riding a high after the acquisition of Matt Garza? The former Cub is one of the hottest arms in all of baseball, and has two quality starts with the new club. But all odds would suggest that Garza won’t make a plate appearance for Texas this season unless the it is the American League representative in the World Series for the third time in four years.
So what is it that has given the Rangers offense the ability to plate 27 runs in a four-game home stand?
My hypothesis: The Rangers bats have something to prove.
With a struggling offense and what had been a growing deficit in the division standings, all of Ranger Nation was calling for a trade. Only someone outside the organization could save the offense, they said.
Trade deadline reports had the Rangers listening to anyone and willing to offer anyone. At least that’s what ESPN’s Ken Rosenthal reported. And some talks surfaced of dealing All-Star closer Joe Nathan.
But, whether intentional or not, General Manager Jon Daniels and the Suits in the Ranger front office have put faith in the current Rangers bats to break out of their slump and forge a path to October.
And I say, rather than let sentiments of disappointment swirl around north Texas after a fruitless trade deadline (offensively), the Rangers offense has realized it needs to prove its worth. Doubt has become their motivation.
David Murphy said to Fox Sports Southwest after Thursday’s game that the Rangers pride themselves on being a deep offense.
Beyond being deep in a slump, the Texas bats were far from being a “deep” offense at times last month. But it came down to a matter of pride. Being proud to wear the Ranger jersey. Being proud of one’s contribution to a winning club.
And so far, whether the realization was yielded by the verbiage of Washington, or if it was a take-a-long-look-in-the-mirror moment for the Rangers, it has proven effective.
We in the media, at times, make a living off of overreactions. And this may very well be just that. But for four games, it has been a new Texas team.
A team playing with something to prove.
As they enter a series with the division-leading Oakland Athletics Friday night, the Rangers need to continue to prove their worth. A trade deadline that passed through like a breeze during a Texas summer shows that this club is in it for the long haul.
No bat to save the season. No miraculous comeback by Manny Ramirez. Just the bats they have in Texas now.
The upcoming series with Oakland beginning Friday night is one that has a significant impact on the outcome of the season. With the addition of Garza and the return of banged-up arms in the starting rotation, the arms are there.
And those bats have even more to prove this weekend on the west coast.
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