With what’s on the line the rest of the season and with it feeling so close that the Texas Rangers could just snap their fingers and have the American League West clinched, the four games at Safeco Field rate as a big disappointment.
Teams are going to go through series like the ones the Texas Rangers just did against the Seattle Mariners. Over four games, the Rangers didn’t put together a complete effort.
If the offense was good, the starting pitching was suspect.
If the starting pitching and offense were good, the defense and bullpen were dicey.
The thing is, the Rangers continue to lead the American League West by 8 1/2 games. They could clinch the division title on the end of the next homestand.
If the Rangers go 10-11 over their final 21 games, all but three of them against teams with losing records, second-place Houston would have to go 19-3 just to tie for the division lead.
The Rangers are almost certain to win the West, but it might not happen as quickly as they would like.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 6-3 loss.
1. Even after Derek Holland allowed a homer and a single with two outs in the second inning, he seemed to be in good shape in his fourth start off the disabled list.
The third was bumpy, but he struck out the Seattle Mariners’ two most fearsome hitters to end a bases-loaded threat.
But then the fourth happened. Seattle didn’t exactly beat him around the park, but they did enough to squeeze out four hits, a walk and three runs and in the process push Holland’s pitch count to where he almost out of bullets.
In the end, it wasn’t good enough, no matter how many of the hits against weren’t well-struck, and four runs on 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings extended the rotation’s recent woes. The last time through the rotation, the five starters posted an 11.70 ERA and won only once.
Yu Darvish returns to the mound Friday, apparently having cured whatever it was that ailed him Sunday. He seemed to take to the adjustment with his release point during his bullpen session, so the Rangers are expecting his usual good stuff at Anaheim.
The Rangers could use it. After winning seven straight and stretching their lead in the West to 10 1/2 games, the Rangers have won once.
They want to be peaking this time of year with the playoffs in their future.
2. The Cleveland Indians and umpire Jim Joyce did the Rangers a favor by beating the Astros and reducing the Rangers’ magic number to 14. But in so doing, the Indians moved to closer to the best overall record in the AL.
The Rangers continue to pace the AL with an 83-58 record, two wins better than the Indians. That’s just a one-game difference for home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs, though the Rangers won the season series and would hold the tiebreaker if the teams finished tied.
The battle for home-field advantage could come down to the last week.
In 2011, the Rangers had to win the finale at Anaheim to avoid opening on the road. That was before the current wild-card format in which division goes couldn’t face each other in the division series.
So, the AL East-champion New York Yankees couldn’t play the wild card-winning and East runners-up Tampa Bay Rays. If the Rangers lost to the Angels, they would have had to go to New York from Anaheim.
But Mike Napoli hit a two-out two-run homer in the ninth inning for a 3-1 win, and the Rangers got to open the division series at home against Tampa Bay. Detroit had to go to New York, and the Tigers won the series and give the Rangers the home field for the championship series.
Should the Indians pass the Rangers, the Rangers would still have home field for the division series and play the champion of the AL East. If the Rangers prevail, they would host the winner of the wild-card game and open at home in the ALCS.
While watching the Astros the rest of the season, keep an eye on the Indians.
3. Don’t let anyone, especially Spanish broadcaster Eleno Ornelas, say that I haven’t backed Alex Claudio 100 percent this season.
Don’t let anyone say that I tried to designate Claudio for assignment in spring training, early in the season, in the middle of the season and even as recently as last month.
Don’t let anyone say that I assume runs are going to score when Claudio comes into a game.
If someone does try to say those things, I take the Fifth.
Each season one player’s performance surprises me, and there’s no doubting that this season it’s Claudio. The lefty tossed another 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Holland and got the Rangers out of a jam in the fifth by fielding a Leonys Martin chopper and starting an inning-ending double play.
Even Claudio’s teammates have been impressed.
Remember last month when Claudio replaced the injured Lucas Harrell and tossed four scoreless innings in a 5-4 victory? Ian Desmond was effusive with his praise, noting how remarkable it is that Claudio survives in today’s game with a fastball that can barely break a pane of glass.
But he does and has this season. It’s been a pleasant surprise, arguably the biggest of the season.