They were my preseason pick to win the American League pennant. Even so, there was reason to be skeptical. The Texas Rangers were coming off a bounce-back year in which they captured the AL West crown on the season’s final day and had plenty of question marks. But here we are at the end of June, and Texas has the best record in the American League. Why? The primary reason is that this team has found a plethora of different ways to win games. A look now at what has gone right and why it should continue to go right for Texas in 2016:
Heating up in a big way
Since a three-game sweep in Oakland in mid-May, the Rangers have gone 29-8, including 15-3 on the road. They had an 8-2 road trip that they capped with a three-game sweep at Busch Stadium against the Cardinals. All three victories were one-run decisions, with the last two coming after the Rangers trailed entering the eighth or ninth inning. Speaking of which…
A runaway in the close-game department
The Rangers are 17-5 in one-run games, and have won six contests in which they’ve trailed after seven innings. They’ve actually lost seven games via walk-off, but if anything, that speaks more to the resiliency of Jeff Banister’s club. Last Friday was as gutwrenching a defeat as you can have, with Boston storming back for four two-out runs in the ninth to steal an 8-7 victory in Arlington. Rather than fold, the Rangers won the next two against Boston by a combined 16-5 margin and have reeled off four straight wins overall.
They are balanced (even their maligned bullpen)
Offense? Check. The Rangers are sixth in runs scored, eighth in batting average, 10th in stolen bases, and 11th in home runs. And that’s with Prince Fielder having a very poor year. Pitching? Check. Even with 60% of their rotation on the disabled list, including Yu Darvish, the Rangers’ starting rotation ERA ranks sixth in the Majors in ERA, and the staff as a whole ranks ninth. Yes, the bullpen is 28th in ERA, but also leads all of baseball with 30 saves. Lately, the bullpen has been better, even including last Friday’s hiccup against Boston. In fact, Texas’ relievers ERA ranks ninth in the month of June with a 3.67 ERA.
Cole Hamels is still really, really good
The trade last summer to get Hamels from the Phillies was supposed to be for 2016, but it ended up helping the Rangers claim the West in 2015. Hamels is back to his dominant self from his Philadelphia heyday, as the southpaw is a Cy Young fronturnner with a 9-1 record and 2.60 ERA.