Travis Blackley earned a quality start on Monday and the Ranger bats scored eight runs, including two round-trippers late against Seattle.
The Mariners fell to 59-71 on the season, 16.5 games behind the Rangers’ division-leading record. Translation: The Rangers should beat the Mariners.
But Monday’s five-run win over Seattle is a bigger deal than it may seem.
The Mariners are still above .500 in the division. And with Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez (nos. 8 and 2 in the AL ERA leaders) taking the mound in the final two games of the series, grabbing a win in the first game was a must.
Iwakuma and Hernandez have combined for a 24-13 record thus far in 2013, and the Mariners are 29-25 in games in which either of those two pitches.
So it’s not a mediocre Mariner squad the Rangers will be facing the next two days.
Blackley seemed to have a goal in mind to pitch later into the ballgame, and he accomplished that.
After getting through just four innings on 66 pitches in his Ranger debut, the left-hander made it through six innings on just five more pitches Monday.
And that’s what a team contending for the division title needs – the role players stepping up. Blackley doesn’t need to be Yu Darvish, and isn’t expected to even match Matt Garza’s numbers. He just needs to be an effective version of Travis Blackley.
Time will tell what Blackley’s future holds with Texas, but he could be carving out a niche on this staff with rosters set to expand on Sept. 1.
Adrian Beltre is going to win ballgames with heroics on both sides of the ball (5.4 WAR rating in 2013), but it’s guys like Mitch Moreland stepping up that will make the difference for the Rangers down the stretch.
Moreland hit four balls hard Monday in Seattle, including the towering eighth inning homer. He finished 1-for-4, but if he mashes like he did on a cool Seattle Monday, he could have a hot September.
Elvis Andrus also added his third three-hit game of the month, and has raised his batting average (.261) almost 20 points since the All-Star Break.
The little things are what one can take away from Monday’s Ranger win. Six of the eight runs came with two outs. So while no ace-caliber pitcher took the mound, the Rangers got hits when they needed them most.
Tanner Scheppers bounced back with a seven-pitch, scoreless ninth inning after allowing three runs on six hits in his previous two outings combined. Having Scheppers back on his game will be crucial through the remainder of a pennant race.
It was only one win, but the Rangers played good baseball. That’s what they’ll need to do against a significantly tougher set of September opponents. If the team is clicking on all cylinders, like it did Monday night, it should be able to tread water – if not expand its division lead – in four series against above-.500 teams (Oakland, Pittsburgh, Oakland, Tampa Bay, Kansas City) in September.
Oh, and the Rangers’ 42-16 record against AL West opponents should help too, as 16 September games come against division foes.
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