The Texas Rangers begin the unofficial second half of the season Friday night when they begin a nine game road trip with three games in Houston.
Texas is four games under .500 and six games out of first in the American League West. That’s not where the club wants to be but at least it hasn’t played its way out of contention for either a wild-card spot or the West crown.
So what has to happen for the Rangers to make the postseason for the first time since 2012? Here are five musts.
1. Win at home – Manager Jeff Banister likes to talk about the importance of protecting the home turf at Globe Life Park. So far it’s only been talk as the Rangers are a woeful 16-26 at Globe Life Park. That ties them with Milwaukee for the fewest home wins in the majors. It should be good news that Texas plays 40 of final 74 games at home. And after their initial road trip, that number goes to 40 of the final 65. The Rangers have to find a way to make Arlington a place it wins.
2. Win in the division – They’ll have a chance right out of the gate to get going in the West. The Rangers have winning records against the AL Central and the AL East. They have a winning record on the road. But they’re 11-23 against teams in the West. There’s no way to make up any ground if you can’t beat the teams you’re trying to either fend off or catch. The bright spot is the Rangers start the second half with the Astros. Houston is the only team in the West the Rangers have a winning record against this year (4-2).
3. Get Shin-Soo Choo going – The right fielder has been awful in every phase of his game this year. He’s been terrible in right, terrible against left-handed pitching (.153 average) and terrible in every month of the season but May. The Rangers have gotten little production in center from Leonys Martin but they have the safety blanket because of the emergence of Delino DeShields. They don’t have a safety blanket in right for Choo. If you take away his May numbers, in 51 games for Texas Choo has five home runs and 20 RBI to go along with a .173 average.
4. Get production from Perez and Holland – Left-hander Martin Perez will make his 2015 debut Friday and Derek Holland hopes to throw live batting practice this weekend, which puts him close to going out on a rehab assignment. Two fresh arms at this time of the year is as good as adding one from the outside at the trade deadline, especially when they’re two quality arms. The rotation has been able to keep things together but there’s still uncertainly with Matt Harrison and Wandy Rodriguez has been hit or miss. Perez should immediately give the rotation a big boost.
5. Get some bullpen help – Forget about getting Cole Hamels at the deadline. He’s too pricey both in dollars and prospects. The Rangers do need pitching but it has to come in the bullpen. If you’re looking for a reliever on the current staff with an ERA better than rookie right-hander Keone Kela’s 3.11 you’re not going to find it. And Kela has struggled lately with his workload. If you’re relying on the foursome of Kela, Shawn Tolleson, Sam Freeman and Tanner Scheppers to be your winning pieces until October, you’re at least one arm short.