My how a week can change the division landscape.
Just last Sunday it looked like it was almost the end for the Texas Rangers. Six games back of the Oakland Athletics in the division, on a four game losing streak, and having not gained any ground on the A’s in over a month, it seemed like there was no climbing out of this hole for Texas.
Then came a sweep of the Angels in the most glorious of fashions, and a beating of the Diamondbacks in a makeup game. Meanwhile, Oakland dropped two of three to Toronto and voila. Texas is only 3.5 games back of Oakland heading to California for the weekend.
A sweep would bring Texas to within a half game of the division lead, and would put the Rangers in prime position to make a surge through the last two months of the season.
Besides Oakland, the Rangers only play two other teams with records above .500 the rest of the way (Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay). That’s a total of 13 of their 54 remaining games against teams with winning records. So, a series sweep, or even just a win, could provide even more momentum to an already great week.
So, with the importance of this series in mind, let’s look at a few keys to winning this series:
1. Solid starts
The starters this weekend are Alexi Ogando, Matt Garza and Derek Holland. We know what we can expect from Garza and Holland, as they have been extremely solid as of late (minus Hollands shaky outing against the Angels).
Ogando, however, has been a little shaky since coming off the DL in late July, only making it through 4.2 innings against the Indians, and before that barely making it through 5 against the Yankees. Hopefully he can keep this Oakland offense under control.
2. Get to Oakland’s pitchers early
The Ranger bats have woken up in a big way this week, and that trend will need to continue in Oakland. Tommy Milone is pitching for the A’s on Friday night, and the last time he faced the Rangers he allowed six runs in 5.1 innings.
Jarrod Parker has been good against Texas this year, and A.J. Griffin recorded a loss vs. the Rangers despite having a good outing.
The strategy needs to be different than the “mash home runs” mentality in Arlington, as Oakland boasts a huge field. Look for Rangers hitters to try and hit balls to the gaps for extra bases.
3. Close Out Strong
The bullpen is arguably this team’s biggest strength, and they’ll need the best they can get from Neal Cotts, Robbie Ross and Joakim Soria in this series. Those guys, along with Jason Frasor, need to be prepared to get to the 9th so Joe Nathan can shut things down.
Sounds pretty simple, right? So what do you think? How will the Rangers fare in Oakland this weekend?