The magic number for the Texas Rangers this season is down to 15.
They need 15 more wins to ensure that they avoid a 100-loss season, which at one point last week seemed like a real possibility.
A few players even mumbled it under their breath.
The Rangers lost 6 of 7 games on their season-half-opening homestand, including one they led 10-2 in the seventh inning, and were headed on the road to face the Houston Astros and Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Rangers went 4-1 away from home and have found the Baltimore Orioles’ pitching staff to be especially generous through the first two games of their four-game series.
How generous? The Rangers have scored 28 runs in two games.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from an 11-3 victory Friday night.
1. Ariel Jurado was cruising right along until the fifth inning, when his pitch count started to mount and after the Rangers had just scored seven times in the fourth.
Was he affected by the long wait between innings? Manager Jeff Banister seemed to think that was it more so than Orioles hitters catching up to Jurado their third time through the batting order.
Nevertheless, he pitched the Rangers into position to win their second straight game. With three pitchers who could log multiple innings available, Jurado going short wasn’t a catastrophe.
He won his second straight start since his second recall from Double A Frisco. The first was last weekend against an Astros lineup that lacked their two best hitters, but it was far better than the Orioles’ lineup that pretty much lacked hitters altogether.
Jurado will continue to get starts the rest of the season. Doug Fister (knee) still isn’t throwing, and if Chris Tillman, signed Monday to a minor-league deal, is going to get starts at some point in the September, they will come at the expense of Bartolo Colon or Yovani Gallardo.
Tillman could emerge as another cheap option for the 2019 rotation. With four starters needed for a rebuilding team, the Rangers are probably going to at least get a short look at him.
Mike Minor, who starts Saturday, is the only start under contract next season. Martin Perez, who starts Sunday, has a $7.5 million option and is pitching well enough to force the Rangers to consider picking it up.
As things stand with 51 games to go, without any surveying , of the free-agent market, here’s a way-too-early prediction: Perez, Minor, Butler, Jurado and Edinson Volquez.
Keep in mind, this is a rebuild rotation — cheap, young in spots, a couple veterans and two potential trade chips in Minor and Volquez, who is rehabbing in Arizona after Tommy John surgery a year ago and is expected to be ready for spring training.
Chi Chi Gonzalez is also rehabbing in Arizona and will be in the mix.
The Rangers would have flexibility if a young pitcher — add in Joe Palumbo and Jonathan Hernandez — were to make a case for an MLB trial run.
Is that the way the starters will lineup up on Opening Day? Probably not. The Rangers might find some value via trade or free agency that they can’t pass up. They might decide that $7.5 million is too much for Perez.
Jurado, though, is looking like he will be a contender next spring.
2. Josh Hamilton wasn’t able to make the Hall of Fame Luncheon on Friday after backing out late Thursday. Something came up, he said, and he wasn’t able to make it after all.
That didn’t sit well with some with the Rangers, mainly because they had used him in promoting the event featuring Vladimir Guerrero. The Rangers aren’t inducting anyone into their Hall this year but are honoring Guerrero for being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
It’s a nice gesture that he accepted their invitation the weekend after being in Cooperstown. It also speaks to how much the 2010 Rangers mean to him. That was his only season with the Rangers and the only trip to the World Series in his terrific career.
Adrian Beltre essentially replaced Guerrero’s bat in the lineup in 2011 and ended up playing in what stands as the only World Series of his career. Beltre is currently torn between accepting a trade to a contender, if there’s one to be found this month, or staying with the team where he notched his Hall of Fame-caliber milestones and numbers.
The Hall of Fame is filled with players who never won a World Series. The lack of a ring is a void, but it shouldn’t tarnish a career.
“When I played, we won five division championships with the Anaheim Angels,” Guerrero said. “We never went to the World Series. When I was here, we were fortunate to go to the World Series. We didn’t win it, but for me, at least I went to the World Series one time. That was fun. That was fine.”
Here’s a thought: Does Beltre come to the Rangers if not for Guerrero helping the Rangers reach the World Series?
Beltre has said many times that he came to the Rangers because they appeared to be on the verge of an extended stretch of success, and going to 2010 Fall Classic was the beginning. He almost got his ring in 2011, and the Rangers have gone to the playoffs three others times with him.
They also threw $96 million at him, so maybe he would have come anyway. But if it came down to the Rangers and the Angels having the more promising long-term outlook, Beltre chose wisely.
3. They did it again Friday night.
Rougned Odor had another home run, this time a grand slam, and Joey Gallo connected for a two-run shot earlier in the Rangers’ seven-run fourth. Each homered Thursday as well, and Odor took five walks.
They are at the top of the list of players who needed to show something this year, with Jurickson Profar and Keone Kela also on the list. Kela did, and now he’s gone. Profar is also showing the Rangers something.
And now, so is Willie Calhoun. The centerpiece of the Yu Darvish trade went 1 for 4 with a two-run double, his third double in the past two games after entering Thursday with none in his career.
He has collected a hit in eight of his past 10 games (10 for 31), and he has a .267/.292/.400 slash line. In other words, he didn’t do squat early on.
True to his numbers, he’s looked very much like a quality hitter. Many of his hits, including all three doubles, have been to the opposite field. He loves to swing, but if Odor can become more selective, so can Calhoun.
Odor, who had to rush home Thursday before the media reached the clubhouse, said on Friday that he is still an aggressive hitter but selectively so. He continued heaping praise on Shin-Soo Choo and has learned something for the Rangers’ lone All-Star this season.
Choo has told Odor that just because a pitch is going to be a strike, that doesn’t mean he has to swing. He has to swing with two strikes, but it’s OK to hit with two strikes.
Odor was a good student Thursday, drawing five walks and hitting a two-run homer on an 0-2 pitch.
After all the angst Odor created last season and over the first two months, seeing what his doing now should be a joy for Rangers fans.