Even by the dim light of a baseball winter’s hot stove, it wasn’t hard to see that these four weeks were going to be a critical stretch for the Texas Rangers.
When they finally awoke from the June 27 rain delay marathon in New York — the first of two wins over the Yankees ended at 2:44 a.m. — the Rangers were 51-27 and had a 10-game lead in the American League West.
After Sunday’s victory in Kansas City, they’re 57-42 and the division lead has been trimmed to 2 1/2 .
The Rangers have played only four home games in 28 days. Summer in Texas has arrived with a blast-furnace vengeance. The Friday night fireworks have probably gone stale. The grandparents have grown tired of the players’ kids.
But there’s no place like home.
Seven consecutive games at Globe Life Park will take the Rangers to the trading deadline and mark a frenzied week that likely will determine their season’s fate.
The Rangers need a starting pitcher. They need another bullpen arm or two. They could use another studly bat.
They also need to rediscover the magic elixir that was propelling their starting pitching during the first 78 games of the season.
There already have been hints over the weekend that reliever Keone Kela’s return from injury will have a positive ripple effect on the bullpen. Manager Jeff Banister, however, clearly could use at least one more dependable arm.
Help from the farm will be minimal, as season-long evidence has shown. But if I were Banister, I’d like to take another look at Michael Roth and maybe see if Connor Sadzeck can handle the big spotlight.
The Rangers have been linked in rumors with the White Sox, Rays, Padres and Athletics. When Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that Chicago had flatly turned down a “king’s ransom” for lefty Chris Sale, Rangers fans had to think that it was Jon Daniels who was offering the golden prospects.
We don’t know that for certain — Daniels is in stealth mode these days — but Texas is one of the few clubs that could assemble such a pile of trade chips.
I don’t get the White Sox thinking, though. At one point this season Chicago was playing like the best team in the American League. And suddenly they’re offering their best pitcher in a garage sale?
If you don’t ask for the moon, I guess, you’ll never know.
To some of us, it’s always seemed like either a mystery team or the Tampa Bay Rays would be Daniels’ eventual trade partner.
The Rangers are believed to covet Chris Archer, but the Rays reportedly want Jurickson Profar in return.
Ouch. But I’d have to do that deal.
Profar has all but proven that he’s healthy and he’s going to be a solid big leaguer. Plus, if Prince Fielder is done for the season, the lineup needs Profar.
Archer, meanwhile, is having an awful season from a metrics standpoint. His body language hasn’t been all that inspiring, either. He’s also 28 years old, just one year younger than Derek Holland.
But who would you trust in the third game of a playoff series, Archer or Holland or Martin Perez?
Even in his “bad” season, Archer has struck out 147 in 123 innings.
Judging from an informal sampling on Twitter and Facebook, trade talk anxiety has already unsettled Rangers fandom. And with good reason.
We’ve seen Rougned Odor and Nomar Mazara, and they are big leaguers. We’ve seen enough of Profar to know that he’s going to be special. And on a still night, if you go outside, you can hear Joey Gallo, all the way from Round Rock, hitting another home run.
The welcome mat is waiting for the Rangers.
Welcome to the week that probably will shape their season’s fate.