Game One of the Texas Rangers’ longest road trip this season, during their longest stretch of consecutive games this season, was played Friday night and was expected to end well after press time.
Their best player was nursing a mild hamstring strain, and their highest-paid position player was hitting below the Mendoza Line. He and the Rangers’ other 2015 co-leader in home runs were batting a combined .203 with 10 homers.
The Rangers’ bullpen is on the rebound, but nevertheless the team had lost 12 of 20 games decided after the seventh inning and had been walked off seven times.
Yet, there the Rangers were at Safeco Field for the first of three weekend games against the Seattle Mariners with the best record in the American League. Their 27 victories since April 26 were tied with the mighty Chicago Cubs for the most in Major League Baseball.
The winning formula isn’t complicated, but solving it is for most teams. The Rangers are getting contributions across the board, from all facets and from all 25 players on some level.
Don’t believe it? The Rangers do.
“Baseball is like line changes in hockey,” center fielder Ian Desmond said. “Every once in a while you’ve got to rely on your starters, every once in a while you’ve got to rely on your ’pen, and every once in a while you’ve got to rely on the guys in the lineup 5 through 9 and sometimes you rely on 1 through 4.
“That’s the way baseball goes. When you have a good team, people pick each other up, and I think that’s what we’ve been doing. We’ve done a great job up to this point, and I don’t see it stopping.”
Desmond asked after Thursday’s game why any reporter would want to talk to him because he hadn’t done anything significant during the Rangers’ 5-3 win. All he did was play nine innings at a position he had never played before this season.
He entered Friday with hits in 14 of his past 17 games, batting .387 to push his batting average to .305. At one point early this season, Desmond was batting .109.
The Rangers have gotten more than could be expected from Jurickson Profar since he was called up to fill in at second base while Rougned Odor served a seven-game suspension. Profar entered Friday with a hit in all 12 of the games he has played.
Four catchers this season, but primarily Bobby Wilson and Bryan Holaday, have given the Rangers some of the best production at the position in the league in addition to helping the rotation post the best ERA (3.39) in the league.
“The sum of all the parts is really what’s crucial here. All of it,” manager Jeff Banister said. “It’s not a one-man show, and that’s the beauty of our ballclub. We really do not depend on just one individual player, and that is one of the better marks of a team.
“It may not be clicking on all cylinders, but it’s clicking on the right ones at the right time. There are guys who step up and do something different every night for us to have an opportunity to win a baseball game.”
That includes struggling sluggers Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland. Fielder homered Thursday, and Moreland doubled twice and had an RBI. Even with those two stuck in slumps, the Rangers’ .265 batting average was fourth in the league and their 286 runs ranked third.
Derek Holland started Friday against the Mariners, looking to continue his recent run of good pitching. He’s had only two hiccups this season, which have knocked his numbers astray, but he is part of the league-leading rotation.
“Most of it is you just look at these guys and you really see what everybody wants to accomplish. You see how everybody feeds off each other. We’re all there to help each other. There’s this great feeling that we’re all equal and all up for the challenge to not only pitch against a team and win, but we’re also up for challenging each other.”
Colby Lewis, scheduled to start Saturday, said that the clubhouse has also played a role in the Rangers’ success. It’s a laid-back environment, yet everyone knows how to be a professional.
A loss doesn’t carry over into the next game. Injuries, even the left hamstring strain Adrian Beltre has, aren’t debilitating. There is a belief that the next man up is going to get the job done.
The Rangers’ winning formula isn’t complicated, and they haven’t had much difficulty solving it this season.
“There are trying times throughout every season, stressful times that can put stress on a team. Good character always overrides those times,” Desmond said. “Losing Beltre, coming out of the game which he never does, that could have been a big blow for us. Faith in the next in the chain of command, whatever it is, we believe in each other and that produces good baseball.”
Rangers at Mariners
9:10 p.m. Saturday, FSSW