What a dramatic shift in the season for the Texas Rangers. This is not good baseball. Texas dropped to second in the AL Wild Card standings after Wednesday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. That gives the Rays sole possession of the first place Wild Card spot and leaves the Rangers only .5 games above the Indians and 1 game above Baltimore.
It is hard to point a finger at exactly what it is that has caused the Rangers to fall from one of the best teams in baseball to a club that can’t seem to win a game for the world. The team has lost 13 of its last 16 games, losing series to the Twins, Angels, Pirates, and Athletics twice. There have really not been any season changing injuries, the team just hasn’t played well.
Obviously the number of runs scored has taken a huge hit in the last month. The Rangers have averaged just 3.44 runs per game during September. They have been able to get base runners, but they frequently are stranded in scoring position as the team is unable to come up with the clutch hit it needs to score runs.
At this point one of the only true hope the withering Rangers have is the return of their big slugger, Nelson Cruz. However, even that spark of hope is shadowed with doubt. The Rangers organization has not yet stated whether or not Cruz will indeed be reinstated into the team’s lineup following his 50 game suspension, assuming the team is able to squeak its way into the postseason. Cruz has not played in a big league game since August 5th and will likely be rusty both up at the plate and in the field.
The addition of Alex Rios to the Rangers’ lineup has lost its hype but Rios continues to play at a noteworthy level hitting .322 so far in September with 3 home runs. The 32-year-old Puerto Rican outfielder has yet to play in his first postseason game; Hopefully he will be able to lead the team and receive his first playoff berth.
In my opinion too much blame has been placed on manager Ron Washington for the Rangers steady decline in status. Washington is not the guy up at the plate who can’t hit a simple sac fly to score the runner from third. Nothing he says nor tactics he could use would be able to transform this Rangers team into better players.
However, with that being said there have been many questionable decisions on Washington’s part. In Wednesday’s game for example he elected to leave left-hander Joseph Ortiz on the mound to face a string of right-handed hitters with right-hander Neftali Feliz available in the bullpen.
Washington commented that he “felt Joe’s changeup would get the job done we needed to get done.” but it didn’t. In that situation maybe it would have been a better decision to play it by the books and bring in Feliz to face the right-handed batters regardless of what Washington thought about his changeup.
Changes need to be made and they need to be made literally overnight if the Rangers want to even have a chance at a playoff position now. They have played the entire season looking like a World Series team and suddenly have lost their spunk. I still have faith that the Rangers will claim a Wild Card position but some insurance wins would greatly help their cause.