Despite some devastating injuries to the lineup and rotation, Texas has been in first place in the AL West since May 29. The team boasts an explosive offense (five players with 20-plus homers), a rotation that is as close to full strength as it has been all season and a skipper who could win his second consecutive AL Manager of the Year Award.
A season after losing in a wild ALDS, the Rangers believe they are ready to take the next step. And here are five reasons they can …
Yu Darvish gives them a co-ace
Darvish still was recovering from season-ending Tommy John surgery last October when the Rangers lost a heartbreaking ALDS to the Blue Jays. But he’s back and putting up the kind of ace-like numbers (11.4 K/9) he did before the injury.
Pair him with Cole Hamels, who started twice in that ALDS and appeared to solve his late-season struggles in Friday night’s clincher, and Texas has a formidable 1-2 punch. In addition, Colby Lewis finally has returned from a lengthy absence and Derek Holland also is healthy. The rotation, which was depleted by injuries all season, suddenly can be a strength.
Getty ImagesR. Yeatts
Rougned Odor has been MVP-like
There was a time this season when Odor was best known for the knockout blow he delivered to Jose Bautista, but he’s quietly become one of the majors’ most productive hitters. He has set career highs across the board (31 homers, .801 OPS, 85 RBI, 14 steals) and has stepped up in the absence of Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo.
With just a little more plate discipline (131 strikeouts, 19 walks), Odor could become an absolute postseason force. And there's plenty of lineup support with Ian Desmond, Mitch Moreland, Nomar Mazara and the next few guys on this list ...
Getty ImagesBrandon Wade
The Jonathan Lucroy effect
Rangers fans don’t even want to consider the “what if” scenario in which Lucroy had approved that trade to the Indians. Since being acquired from the Brewers, Lucroy ranks second on Texas with 10 homers, and third in RBI (28) and OBP (.351).
And don’t underestimate the challenge of being dealt at midseason and having to learn the tendencies of an entirely new pitching staff. Lucroy, regarded as one of the best defensive catchers and pitch-framers in the majors, has made a seamless transition in that regard.
TNS via Getty ImagesFort Worth Star-Telegram
A pair of old Belts
The Rangers already had Adrian Beltre’s combination of Gold Glove-quality defense at the hot corner, swing-from-one-knee power at the plate and veteran leadership in the clubhouse. And then they acquired Carlos Beltran prior to the Aug. 1 deadline to add even more championship experience and character.
In addition to the new teammates’ production at the plate the past eight weeks (Beltran has 28 RBI in 46 games with Texas), Beltre and Beltran have combined for 339 very productive postseason plate appearances.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY SportsJerome Miron
They are built for the postseason
Sure, Texas can score with the best of them – their 4.77 runs per game rank sixth in the majors – but the postseason typically features well-pitched, tight games. And that’s just fine with the Rangers, who are an obscene 36-11 in one-run games this season and lead the majors with 47 comeback wins.
This resilience comes in especially handy considering the struggles of the bullpen, which is by far the team’s biggest weakness and concern heading into October.