One playoff contender down, two more to go on this critical homestand.
The Texas Rangers, the leaders of the American League West, finished off their third win in the four-game series against the Cleveland Indians, the leaders of the AL Central, on Sunday.
Next up are the Seattle Mariners, tied for second in the West behind the Rangers. The two will play three games Monday through Wednesday before the team tied with the Mariners, the Houston Astros, comes to Globe Life Park on Friday.
With an 8 1/2 -game lead, the Rangers have a chance to put the division race away. They will have Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels pitching Monday and Tuesday. They are 8-4 this season against Seattle and 11-2 against Houston.
Things are trending the right way, but, well, there’s still baseball.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 2-1 victory Sunday.
1. Derek Holland has made two starts since coming off the disabled list, working six innings in each and allowing two runs on eight hits, one walk and one hit batsman.
He probably could have pitched into the seventh inning in each, but National League rules got him Tuesday at Cincinnati and caution got him Sunday.
What he has done, though, has exceeded expectations and given hope that the Rangers will have a capable third or fourth option in the postseason, where it is looking more and more like the Rangers will be playing.
And, then, there’s the club option the Rangers hold for 2017 at a very reasonable $11 million. Two starts won’t convince general manager Jon Daniels to pick it up, but five more in September and quality work in October might.
No one needs to tell Holland of his status. He knows. He knows he wants to stay. He knows he can be an asset when healthy. He knows he hasn’t been healthy for three straight years.
The Rangers know that, too, and know that if they don’t exercise the club option, they have to find somebody better. That pitcher doesn’t appear to be in the organization, and the free-agent pitching market is pretty thin.
If Holland wants to ensure his return in 2017, he needs to continue doing what has worked well for him the past two starts. He has thrown strikes, a bunch of them, and his fastball command has allowed him to get swings and misses with his secondary offerings.
Sounds easy enough. Holland is capable enough. He needs to be to convince Daniels to keep him around.
2. Sam Dyson worked a scoreless ninth inning and now has 29 saves.
If only it had been that clean and easy.
The right-hander had to get two outs with the bases loaded to preserve the victory just after he had issued two walks on eight pitches.
The outing, though a success, continued to leave some feeling uneasy with the closer, who was appearing in his 61st game. That’s tied for the most in the league.
The Rangers, though, don’t currently have much of an alternative.
Jeremy Jeffress isn’t an answer at this point, though maybe he will be at some point soon. MLB extended his stay on the restricted list as it finishes its investigation into his arrest for suspicion of driving while intoxicated.
Matt Bush has impressed, but the Rangers might be hesitant to give a rookie regular closing duties.
One thing that will help Dyson is regular work. He hadn’t pitched since Wednesday, which is a significant gap for a closer and a sinkerballer. So, the Rangers find themselves in a Catch-22: They want to monitor Dyson’s workload, but he’s at his best when he’s pitching frequently.
And as manager Jeff Banister told the media afterward, as long as the game ends with the Rangers in the lead, Dyson has done his job.
3. A quiet morning clubhouse led reporters to Mitch Moreland, who made the mistake of going to his locker. But the conversation with him led produced a good topic for Banister about how the Rangers’ lineup has changed as the year has progressed.
Compared to what they were, the Rangers have been more of a homer-hitting club than one that was forced to manufacture runs. Their wins Wednesday at Cincinnati and Thursday against Cleveland, in which they hit three homers in each game, come to mind.
Moreland, meanwhile, is a good September away from the first 30-homer season of his career. The timing couldn’t be better, with him heading into free agency for the first time.
Thirty-homer power is quite a commodity in the game these days. Would the Rangers want to make an effort to keep it?
The Rangers have a player with 40-homer potential waiting to take over at first base, but they are likely to endure some growing pains as Joey Gallo acclimates to the major leagues. They could have Moreland, who they know is going to hit, say, somewhere in the low 20s and play really good defense at first base.
Why not both? The Rangers will need a designated hitter this off-season.
The Rangers, though, have other free agents to address: Ian Desmond, Colby Lewis and even Carlos Beltran. There’s Carlos Gomez, too, though he’s making that decision an easy one.
Holland’s contract, as noted above, will be on the front burner. The Rangers might also want to extend Yu Darvish, Rougned Odor and Jonathan Lucroy, though that money wouldn’t start to count until 2018.
I’m guessing the Rangers won’t make Moreland a qualifying offer, which would represent around a 250 percent raise. But he’s making case for the Rangers to bring him back, and a 30-homer season might convince them to do so.