The Rangers don’t control their own playoff destiny after losing two of three to Kansas City. But what they do control is their outlook on the final week of play in 2013.
The fact of the matter is that the Rangers find themselves a game-and-a-half back of the second Wild Card spot in the American League. Cleveland, the second-place team in the Wild Card race, faces series with the White Sox and Twins. Tampa Bay, the current leaders, will play against Baltimore and the New York Yankees, who each have a remote chance at a playoff berth as well.
Which means that it could be a lot of scoreboard watching going on in Arlington – physically, it’s easy to do with league scores displayed on the 14-foot-tall video board on the left field wall of Rangers Ballpark. But outfielder Alex Rios said that’s not what this team will be doing.
“We have to focus on ourselves and on doing what we need to do to win games,” Rios said. “We can’t see the big picture right now. We need to focus on the little things we need to do and take it one game at a time.”
One game at a time. It’s a common phrase, a cliché even. But it’s all the Rangers can do, and they will have to take that mindset seven more times.
Seven times, for seven games, all at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
“We have to focus on winning games within this clubhouse, and in this stadium right now,” Rangers closer Joe Nathan said. “That still has to be our main focus, because we haven’t been doing a good enough job of that.
“It doesn’t matter what goes on around the league. If we don’t take care of business in this stadium then we’ll be packing and going home sooner than we would like.”
Nathan said counting on getting help from other teams is a “helpless feeling,” but that the focus needs to stay on the Rangers.
In their current situation, the Rangers will likely need to win six of their seven remaining games, and very well could need to win out to get into the playoffs. Obviously, that depends on the success of the teams above them in the standings. But manager Ron Washington said there is no universal answer to the pressure of needing to win out.
“That’s an individual thing. All the outside forces can’t come into play,” he said. “We have a lot of guys that have never been in this situation before, and we’re going to find out what they’re made of. That’s for sure.”
Dealing with pressure may be individual, but winning games over the final week will have to be a team effort. And Rios said the team is ready to face that challenge.
“It’s going to be an exciting week,” Rios said. “We’re still optimistic about our chances and we’re ready to go.”
That challenge begins with a three-game set against the Houston Astros that begins Monday night with Derek Holland on the hill.