The team that couldn’t win at Globe Life Park only a month ago now can’t lose there, and the sudden surge at home has the potential to serve the Texas Rangers well down the stretch.
Twenty-seven of their final 47 games are at home, including 11 against bona fide wild-card contenders and four against the team that can’t pull away in the American League West.
The Rangers themselves are bona fide contenders for an AL wild-card spot and again climbed above .500 on Saturday night after a 12-4 throttling of the Tampa Bay Rays, another team in the wild-card hunt.
The win was the Rangers’ sixth straight at home, and with it they moved within 1 1/2 games of the second wild-card spot. The two teams ahead of them in the AL West also lost, so the Rangers enter Sunday only four games behind first-place Houston.
“It’s important to do the things we talked about early in the year, to string together some W’s at home, and that’s the way it should be,” manager Jeff Banister said. “It’s crucial with the number of games that we have left here at home to be able to play well in our own ballpark and string some wins together here.”
Chris Gimenez, Adrian Beltre and Shin-Soo Choo each hit a home run and had three RBIs, and Colby Lewis allowed only one run in six innings. Gimenez drove in the first run in the Rangers’ seven-run sixth with a single, and Beltre’s three-run shot capped the inning.
Choo had three hits and scored three times to continue his second-half surge (.342, four homers, 15 RBIs), and every Rangers starter collected at least one hit.
Yovani Gallardo will pitch the finale Sunday against the Rays, who saw All-Star starter Chris Archer surrender back-to-back doubles to Choo and Prince Fielder in the first and a two-run homer to Gimenez in the second to fall into a 3-0 hole.
It was 3-1 after Lewis (13-5) endured a 15-pitch battle with Asdrubal Cabrera to end the Rays’ sixth, a key sequence with Cabrera representing the potential tying run. He homered off Jake Diekman in the eighth.
“I love that battle. I don’t love that it took 15 pitches,” Banister said. “You feel comfortable with him on the mound and how he pitches. That’s an old war horse out there doing what he does.”
Josh Hamilton started the Rangers’ half of the sixth by beating out an infield hit, the first of seven hits in the inning. After Elvis Andrus doubled, Hamilton was out at home trying to score on a Rougned Odor grounder to third, but Gimenez singled to center.
Archer was tagged for five of the eight runs in the inning. He entered the game with a 2.62 ERA and exited with it at 2.93 after his second start this season against the Rangers allowing at least five runs.
“We needed a game like this just to take some of the pressure off guys,” Gimenez said. “It’s not that you let up. It’s just we did a good job of stepping up and putting the nail in the coffin. That’s what good teams do when you have a chance to take advantage of things like that.”
Only three weeks ago, the Rangers were coming off a 21-5 loss to the New York Yankees to send them to their 12th loss in their past 13 home games and a 16-28 home record.
In the 10 games since, the Rangers are 9-1, and the only loss came when Tanner Scheppers squandered a three-run eighth-inning lead in an eventual 9-7 loss to San Francisco in Cole Hamels’ Rangers debut Aug. 1.
Why the sudden turnaround?
“I think it’s because we got tired of all the questions about it,” first baseman Mitch Moreland said.
The Toronto Blue Jays hold the first wild-card spot by three games over the Los Angeles Angels, who are the second wild-card team by a half-game over Baltimore. The Rangers are next, a half-game ahead of the Rays and Minnesota Twins.
Toronto and Baltimore visit the Globe for a six-game homestand that begins Aug. 25. The Astros visit for four games Sept. 14-17, and the Rangers’ close the regular season Oct. 1-4 with four home games against the Angels.
“We know how quick you can lose or make up ground,” Moreland said. “That’s something when you’ve played for a couple years and get to be a part of it, you know to take your time. There’s no reason to panic in those situations. We’ve been able to do that the last couple of games, and hopefully we can continue it the rest of the year.”
Continuing to win at home the rest of the year will serve the Rangers well, too.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760