By the end of it, the Texas Rangers will still have more than half their season left to play. But the nine-game road trip starting Friday in Seattle could become a season-defining journey.
The Rangers play the three teams ahead of them in the American League West and a strong showing could put them back in the thick of the division race. It could also help determine whether the Rangers become buyers or sellers at the trade deadline next month.
“I really, really think this road trip could tell the fortune of our next three to four months,” outfielder Shin-Soo Choo said.
“It’s obviously a big trip … big trip,” reliever Jason Frasor said. “No doubt about it.”
It begins with a three-game series in Seattle followed by a series at division-leading Oakland. After an off day Thursday, the Rangers wrap up their trip with three games against the Angels.
Winning within the division has always been preached by manager Ron Washington, and the Rangers have done that. They’re 13-11 against the division and .500 or better against each team.
But those games were played before the Rangers’ suffered a number of significant injuries.
The day after they beat the Mariners on May 21, their last division game, the Rangers placed Prince Fielder on the disabled list with a herniated disk in his neck. They also announced that day that second baseman Jurickson Profar re-injured his shoulder and would likely miss the entire season.
Alexi Ogando went down two weeks later with right elbow inflammation. Mitch Moreland followed and is sidelined with a left ankle injury.
Jim Adduci then re-fractured his left pinky, forcing the Rangers to go with a fourth-string option at first base in veteran minor leaguer Brad Snyder.
And, on Wednesday, the Rangers placed right-hander Tanner Scheppers back on the disabled list with more right elbow inflammation, the same injury that has already cost him more than a month this season.
It marked the 20th time the Rangers have used the DL this season, the most they’ve used it since 2010.
“At some point, we’ve got to start getting blessed by the baseball gods,” Washington said. “We have to. But we have to make that happen. They’re not just going to come down and say, ‘OK, you’ve been through enough misery. I’m going to take you out of it.’ No, you’ve got to pull yourself out of your misery. We have a lot to do with it. We can’t do it on wish and prayer and hope. We’ve just got to go play.”
The Rangers went into their last road trip following the news of Fielder and Profar and responded by going 7-4. Washington believes his team will do it again this time around.
He seemed unfazed that the trip begins with the Rangers facing two of the top pitchers in the game, with Felix Hernandez starting Friday and Hisashi Iwakuma going Sunday.
Texas is countering those two with Nick Tepesch and Nick Martinez sandwiched between a Joe Saunders-Erasmo Ramirez pitching matchup Saturday.
“We’re not afraid of Hernandez, we’re not afraid of Iwakuma,” Washington said. “Bring it on.”
That’s the mindset the organization is taking at this point. General manager Jon Daniels reiterated the front office wasn’t going to give up on the season and was reluctant to say this road trip would dictate how it approaches the trade deadline.
“As an industry, nobody declares [buyer or seller],” Daniels said. “You just have to figure out what moves are right for your club.
“We’re not going to make any wide-sweeping evaluations or anything until we have to. We know what’s going on, we know where we are, but we’re not going to come back that Monday after the trip and make an announcement.”
The team could do it for him.
Defining road trip?
The Rangers face the three teams ahead of them in the AL West:
Rangers lead season series 5-4
Season series tied 3-3
Rangers lead season series 2-1