The first half officially ended Sunday afternoon for the Texas Rangers. About three weeks ago, it was a first half the Rangers hoped would never end. They were the hottest team in baseball and had built a 10-game lead in the American League West. Oh, how quickly things change.
Their 15-5 loss Sunday to the Twins put a final spotlight on their recent struggles. The Rangers can reassert themselves with a good start after the break and make this ugly stretch a distant forgotten memory. Play resumes against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Friday. To get back on track, they’ll need to address a few things. Here’s a couple of thoughts and a look at what some of the players and manager plan to do during their four days off:
1. Rotation roulette — You don’t have to be working in the bowels of a sabermetrics lab to recognize the Rangers rotation has been sorely lacking of late. There’s an obvious reason for this: Injuries. Since Colby Lewis, Derek Holland and to some extent Yu Darvish, have been out with injuries, the rotation has struggled to stay afloat. Even reliable lefties Cole Hamels and Martin Perez have failed to go even five inning recently.
“[We need to] get back to what we do best, 27 hard outs, on both sides of the baseball,” Manager Jeff Banister said after Sunday’s loss. “Knock some people off the plate if we need to, take the plate back as a pitching staff, focus on defense and put together a professional at-bat.”
2. Defensive on defense — The Rangers raced out to 54 first-half wins squarely on the backs of starting pitching and solid (and at times superb) defense. Pitching was addressed above. Eight errors in their last 10 games before the break, including two on Sunday.
“We’ve had some defense show up that has been poor and we’ve given some at-bats way,” Manager Jeff Banister said. “These guys understand that. Is our focus there? I think we can always be better more focused no matter if we win.”
3. Break it on down now — Cole Hamels and Ian Desmond are in San Diego for the All-Star Game. Everyone else? They’re relaxing by the pool, hanging out with family, and trying to forget the past two weeks. Banister plans to watch his son play baseball, lay in his backyard hammock, take a dip in his pool and throw a ball for his dog while hanging out with his family. Ryan Rua is headed back home to Ohio for a few days to see friends and family. A.J. Griffin is headed home to Scottsdale, Ariz. Elvis Andrus said his family is in town and he’ll spend time with them but said he might make a quick trip to an island for a couple days.