Gil LeBreton

Rangers too busy welcoming the cavalry home to watch standings

The return of Mike Napoli and Carlos Gomez to the Rangers’ lineup has put the long-awaited punch back into the offense.
The return of Mike Napoli and Carlos Gomez to the Rangers’ lineup has put the long-awaited punch back into the offense. AP

In Boston they show the division standings on the Green Monster scoreboard.

“It’s a good thing we’re not in Boston,” Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister said Saturday.

He was joking, of course. But his message was the same.

The Rangers aren’t standings-watching or scoreboard-watching, even now, when they finally have their noses above water.

“Right now, June 17th, it doesn’t matter,” Banister assured.

“If tomorrow was the end of the season, we’d be really concerned, but it’s not.”

The climb back into contention – if it’s ever going to happen this season – starts from within. The Rangers should know that as well as anyone.

The 2012 club had a five-game lead in the AL West as late as Sept. 24, but still managed to finish behind Oakland. Banister’s 2015 Rangers, on the other hand, were in third place, trailing by eight games on Aug. 2, yet eventually overtook the Astros.

They began Saturday 11 games behind Houston in the AL West standings.

But it doesn’t matter, the manager said. Not on June 17.

After pounding the Seattle Mariners 10-4 on Saturday, the Rangers have won seven of eight and eight of their last 10.

More significantly, maybe, the cavalry has begun to arrive.

Mike Napoli and Carlos Gomez returned from the disabled list Friday and have combined for three home runs and 10 RBIs in the two games since.

The Rangers needed them, especially if Napoli is going to produce as his career numbers suggest.

“To be able to insert Gomez and Nap and have them do what they did is crucial for us going forward,” Banister said. “We need that up and down the lineup. We needed the lineup to be lengthened out.”

You can do the math. Less than two weeks ago, second baseman Rougned Odor was swinging at anything and batting .203. When first baseman Napoli went on the disabled list, he was hitting .192.

In the past eight games, Odor has 11 hits, four homers and has driven in seven runs.

So is it a tease, or just a team that’s finally performing the way it was supposed to?

The current display of efficiency began with winning series on the road against division leaders Washington and Houston. That can’t be minimized.

Nor can the reality that third baseman Adrian Beltre remains in the lineup, despite spraining his ankle June 6. The Rangers are 26-27 this season without Beltre in the lineup.

Beltre avoiding the disabled list this time, Banister said, was “huge.”

“That’s the heartbeat of our lineup,” he said. “What he brings is irreplaceable.”

Just a tease?

I don’t think so. When you can put 10 runs on the scoreboard, even when Jonathan Lucroy and Joey Gallo are penciled in at the bottom of the lineup, it looks like a wakeup call.

The Rangers are finally healthy. Even Saturday’s news, that pitcher Andrew Cashner was headed to the 10-day DL, was shrugged away by Banister, who called the injury “fairly minor.”

Banister knows that the return of Cole Hamels, co-ace of the pitching staff, may be only days away.

The thought of catching the Astros still seems unrealistic. But it’s only the middle of June.

The Rangers aren’t watching the standings, the manager promised. They’re busy welcoming the cavalry home.

Gil LeBreton: @gilebreton

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