The wheels haven’t entirely fallen off the Texas Rangers’ season, but some lug nuts are definitely loose.
The only thing that saved them Sunday was that the Minnesota Twins also lost, so the Rangers’ deficit for the second wild-card spot held at 2 1/2 games with 20 to play.
Much can happen in 20 games. The Twins could go on an extended slide. The Rangers could go on an extended winning streak. Cole Hamels could figure things out. Adrian Beltre could have a hamstring transplant. All other wild-card contenders could surrender.
With 20 games left, the Rangers are 71-71. It’s hard to imagine them winning 85 games. Eighty-one? Sure. That would be .500, which is what the Rangers are.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 16-7 loss to the New York Yankees.
1. The most amazing thing about this Rangers season isn’t how badly their bullpen has performed or that Rougned Odor has played the most games despite his struggles or that a .193 hitter batted cleanup for them Sunday.
They’re still alive, with a pulse, in the playoff race. That’s stunning, but it speaks more to the mediocrity of the top-heavy American League than anything else. Mediocre is what the Rangers are — either through players underperforming, questionable in-game decisions, questionable off-season decisions or all of the above.
But that holds true for the Los Angeles Angels, the Baltimore Orioles, the Seattle Mariners and the Kansas City Royals. The Twins are only slightly better, and that’s why they hold what looks to be an insurmountable 2
1/2 -game lead over the Rangers (and Royals).
The Angels are only a game back, and the Mariners are three back.
Guess who the Rangers’ next 10 games are against? The Angels and Mariners.
Should the Rangers overtake the Twins, Angels, Royals, Orioles and Mariners for the second wild-card, it would be even more amazing.
And it’s entirely possible.
2. A team stops only occasionally during a season, and the Rangers won’t stop enough to avoid having to use either A.J. Griffin or Nick Martinez as the No. 5 starter three more times this year.
Maybe Austin Bibens-Dirkx gets a look after what transpired between Griffin and Martinez on Sunday. Griffin allowed five runs in three-plus innings, and Martinez allowed four in two-thirds of an inning.
They didn’t exactly instill a ton of confidence in the staff for future starts, but such is the Rangers’ season. They were counting on Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner to be the No. 5 starter. One of those decisions went well.
Cashner has pitched so well that he’s in line for a hefty contract this off-season, and the Rangers, with three holes to fill in their rotation, need to make him a competitive offer. They have no other choice, or they have to back up the Brink’s truck for somebody else to make the 2018 rotation formidable.
Two somebodies, really. A closer would be nice, too.
Griffin, Martinez and Bibens-Dirkx are likely to compete with others for the final rotation spot, simply from a financial standpoint.
The Rangers could be a tough sell this off-season, too. Beltre and Hamels might be gone after next year. Same for Elvis Andrus, Robinson Chirinos and Martin Perez.
That’s three All-Stars, two lefty starters, one World Series MVP and one future Hall of Famer (and three Venezuelans). Will a premier free-agent pitcher who wants to win sign long-term with 2019 and beyond uncertain?
Better back up a couple Brink’s trucks for multiple somebodies.
3. Odor left the game in the fifth with a mildly sprained left ankle after Nomar Mazara slid for a ball near the right-field line as Odor was giving chase and had his legs swept from under him.
He walked off without assistance, or with just a little assistance, which is more than what Carlos Gomez could do Saturday with a sprained right ankle that was in a protective boot. The left one is available for Odor, but he wasn’t wearing it after the game.
Drew Robinson replaced Odor, who might be better off if he missed a few games. The Rangers might be, too. Robinson can handle second base, but so could Jurickson Profar and Willie Calhoun.
They were not among the September call-ups, as the Rangers didn’t want them sitting on the bench without regular at-bats even if they might be the best option in case of an injury like the one to Odor.
This is akin to me kicking a dead horse, I know, but the team that has always done all it can to make sure it’s covered for a playoff push — they traded Tanner Roark for Cristian Guzman, for crying out loud — is uncovered.
Is it to make sure Profar has an extra year of control? General manager Jon Daniels said no to that last week and cited numerous instances where control hasn’t mattered. Besides, Profar is out of options beginning next season, and teams don’t beat down doors or offer much to get players in that situation.
Besides, if a team had wanted Profar badly enough, a deal would have been done long ago.
A better plan would have been to call him up, give him as many chances as possible to play and maybe he would increase his trade value by performing well.
Maybe I’m wrong, which is entirely possible. I’m sure someone will let me know that, too. But the Profar situation still doesn’t feel right.