The Texas Rangers — overlooked by many in the baseball world until recently — have clinched their first postseason berth since 2012. And they should be taken seriously as a World Series contender.
The Rangers haven’t been the American League’s dominant storyline over the past couple months, and that is understandable: The Toronto Blue Jays are 39-16 since the beginning of the August and are headed to the postseason for the first time in 22 years.
But care to guess who has the AL’s second-best record during that time? It’s Texas, with a 37-20 mark that — in a year without Toronto’s historic run — would receive widespread acclaim.
In the Rangers, I see many of the same qualities the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants exhibited en route to last year’s Fall Classic.
The Rangers have maintained a relatively low strikeout rate throughout the second half and trail only the Blue Jays in on-base percentage since the All-Star break.
Texas has a balanced lineup, with four hitters who have driven in at least 75 runs this season: Prince Fielder, Mitch Moreland, Shin-Soo Choo and Adrian Beltre, whom manager Jeff Banister calls the toughest player he’s ever been around. The Rangers also have a pair of regulars with 20 or more stolen bases — Delino DeShields Jr. and Elvis Andrus — an indication that they’ll be able to manufacture a run when needed.
Meanwhile, the Rangers can roll out a playoff rotation of four pitchers who have enjoyed success in prior Octobers: 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels, Yovani Gallardo, Colby Lewis and Derek Holland, who pitched effectively into the seventh inning on Thursday.
Texas’ bullpen has been a revelation, ever since general manager Jon Daniels added Sam Dyson and Jake Diekman at the trade deadline.
Banister is a front-runner for AL Manager of the Year, having revived what was a last-place team in 2014 with a unique blend of optimism, compassion and Texan toughness. Banister spoke Thursday about how the Rangers themselves were the only people who believed during spring training that they would be a playoff team in 2015. And he was right. But now the Rangers have that menacing combination of talent, belief, and very little outside pressure. That can be the start of a World Series run. Just ask the Giants and Royals.