All those games where the Astros were getting butchered, the Rangers were losing games to Cleveland. Then, right when the Rangers get hot again and have a classic 10+ run output, the Astros win anyway. Meaning that the AL West race is still as tight as ever, with the Astros a half-game ahead. The Mariners and Rangers are still deadlocked in a tie for second, the Astros' lead has shrunk, and there's less than two weeks remaining on the season. Things are about to get insane.
The NL Wild Card race is similarly crazy, the four-man lunge for those last two spots is gonna make some tense baseball in the coming weeks, but the AL West race is even more crucial. The Rangers, Astros and Mariners have all had great seasons, and all three have huge postseason cases. There's two available AL Wild Card spots, and the Blue Jays are currently ahead of the pack for one of them. Meaning winning the AL West is crucial, and any way of getting out of the even tighter wild card race is preferable. Only problem is the Astros are still looking at that first place spot, and even if the Mariners and Rangers have had more time at 1st this year, Houston is still the team to beat.
Which is why a surge like today's Rangers rout of Boston is a step in the right direction for the Arlington squad. All of the team heroes of 2023 were on display; Josh Jung reestablished his ROY case, Seager and Semien did their usual contact bonanzas, Heim and Garver had RBIs, Garcia notched RBI #102, unsung guys like Leody Taveras and Evan Carter joined the fun, and Martin Perez redeemed himself slightly by quelling the fire that Jon Gray couldn't put out. The ensemble mentality, and production from all over the lineup, was reminiscent of the Rangers that felt so unstoppable in May, and became a league talent with 5 ASG starters.
But is this something they can produce consistently again? Baseball is a game of momentum, and the Rangers have gone through multiple long losing streaks since mid-August. They've also lost big pieces like Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom, even if the rotation was able to withstand it. The Astros and Mariners famously come into momentum late in the season, and the Rangers, for the second year running, seem to have peaked midyear.
Ultimately, what will decide the fate of the divisional race is that 7 of the Rangers' remaining 10 games are against the Mariners. Not the Astros, who conveniently have to play easier teams, but the nearest division rival. It's looking like either both teams even the stretch and hope the Astros collapse [which, as they're back against the Royals this weekend, could happen], or one is going to triumph and send the other packing. I hope the Rangers have enough in the tank to make it happen, but given their late-year habits, it may be difficult to fully seal the deal.
Coming Tomorrow- A rookie pitcher helping out a team with a TON of starting vacancies.