A quick look at the numbers that emerged Monday night:
The Texas Rangers improved to 33-10 in one-run games this season, which is staggering.
The Rangers improved to a mind-boggling 14-3 this season against the Houston Astros. Thirteen of the 17 games have been decided by two or fewer runs.
Rougned Odor hit his team-leading 31st home run of the season and his 30th double, giving him the first 30 homer/30 double/85 RBI season by a Rangers player under age 23 since Ruben Sierra in 1987.
The Rangers’ lead in the American League West remained unchanged at 9 1/2 games, though the second-place team has changed. It’s the Seattle Mariners, with the Astros in third place at 10 1/2 games back.
The Rangers’ magic number is nine games. If all goes perfectly, they could clinch as soon as Sunday.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 4-3 victory.
1. Martin Perez seemed like a long shot for the postseason rotation two weeks ago after getting whacked around at home by Cleveland after getting whacked around at Tampa Bay to extend his road woes.
Now, he’s pitching well enough to force a tough decision come October.
Perez allowed two runs on only three hits in 6 1/3 innings and might have had his best stuff of the season. Manager Jeff Banister liked Perez’s fastball and how the changeup made it better.
The left-hander has turned in three straight quality starts, two on the road. If Perez has swing-and-miss stuff, as he did against the Astros, to go along with his penchant for keeping the ball on the ground and his effectiveness against left-handed batters, he can be a winning postseason piece.
He must also keep his emotions in check, which he did in a few tight spots.
At this point, it’s difficult to project the No. 4 starter in the postseason behind Yu Darvish and/or Cole Hamels and Colby Lewis, especially with ...
2. Derek Holland in the bullpen. He was saying the right things Monday when asked about being moved to a relief, a move that Banister insists is temporary.
Holland could start as soon as Sunday.
One thing he said while trying to say the right things was that he hasn’t been pitching well enough and needs to pitch better. No one with the coaching staff told him that. They haven’t told him anything other than he’s in the bullpen for now.
The last time out, Thursday at Seattle, wasn’t great, but it could have been a lot worse. He allowed four runs in 4 1/3 innings, but the Mariners had 13 base runners against him and didn’t make much solid contact.
In a three-man race for the fourth spot in the playoff rotation, Holland looked like the front-runner. Maybe he still is. He has allowed four runs in 18 innings in his previous three starts.
That’s better than others still in the rotation had done.
The issue with Holland could be the Rangers’ issues in their bullpen, primarily with left-hander Jake Diekman. He has three weeks to solve whatever is wrong with him and to restore any of the confidence that has been lost in him.
He took a step in that direction with his perfect 12th inning to close out the victory.
Until he’s all the way back and with the Rangers still attempting to clinch, Holland might have more utility as a lefty reliever than as a starter.
3. The Rangers, as everyone knows, are in terrific position as they hunt their second consecutive AL West crown. With 17 games remaining, only the next two are against a team with a winning record.
The players have started to talk every now and then about getting themselves rested and fine-tuned for the playoffs. So, yeah, they know what’s going on with the standings, whether they’re looking on their own or being reminded by the media.
Yet, they have a reminder that keeps them from going into cruise control: 2012. Those who weren’t around have a few guys reminding them about losing the AL West despite leading Oakland by five games with eight to play.
“We’ve been through a tough time in the playoffs before,” Adrian Beltre said. “What was it, five years ago, in Oakland? We respect the teams that are behind us. They are good teams. The bottom line is we need to win ballgames and make sure that we clinch early enough to get some guys some rest. We’re trying to win every ballgame we can.”
Since taking a 10 1/2-game lead in the West on Sept. 3, the Rangers have gone 4-5. They didn’t play well at Seattle, losing 3 of 4, but got good starting pitching in winning 2 of 3 at Anaheim.
Then, came the opener against the Astros. Good starting pitching and defense, an offense that started fast and disappeared, a blown save, good relief work in extras and Odor.
As Banister said, the Rangers have been winning like that all season.
No cruise control there, at least not yet.