All anyone has been able to talk about for most of the 2015 Major League Baseball season, has been the meteoric rise from the ashes of the Houston Astros. And why not? After being in the gutter for the last few seasons, stockpiling top draft picks, and making shrewd moves to upgrade the big league roster–ones that help augment the infusion of young talent, the Astros sit atop the American League West, with a 64-54 record, good for a three-game lead on the second place Angels.
But, there is a team that Houston shares the great state of Texas with, one that had seen their fair share of ups and downs over the past couple of seasons, one that had been among the elite of American League teams not too long ago, and were left for dead this season. Yes, the Texas Rangers are once again contenders, and they are quietly rising in both the AL Wild Card standings as well as the western division.
The Rangers are only 6-4 in their last ten, but have won four in a row–and they appear to be clicking on all cylinders. The acquisition of Cole Hamels at the time was a head scratcher around baseball. Especially when it later became known that Hamels could’ve gone to first place Houston–and he rejected that opportunity. He chose instead to go to a rebuilding Rangers’ team, one that wasn’t expected to do much during the second half of the season. Staff ace Yu Darvish went down with season-ending arm surgery, the Rangers have had to use younger, unproven arms, and also living with the loss of lefty Derek Holland (who is now rehabbing and should be set to return soon).
While everyone is talking about the white-hot Toronto Blue Jays and their AL East battle with the New York Yankees, the dominance of the Kansas City Royals in the AL Central, and the feel-good story that is the Astros, the Rangers are quietly doing what needs to be done to reach October baseball once again. The Rangers just completed a weekend sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays, and the offense appears to be what GM Jon Daniels had originally envisioned when he began rebuilding the Rangers last season.
Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo has already surpassed his disappointing output from his first year in Arlington, hitting .245 with 15 home runs and 53 driven in. Last year, the first of a seven-year deal, he hit only 13 home runs and drove in 40 in almost 530 at-bats. Big Prince Fielder is hitting almost .330, with the power to back it up, former and now current Ranger Josh Hamilton is still trying to get his feet underneath him since being dealt back to Texas, and Adrian Beltre is healthy once again. The re-acquisition of Mike Napoli gives the team lineup flexibility and post-season experience.
The Rangers heading into the week, are trailing Houston by only four games. They sit exactly one game out of the second and final AL Wild Card spot. The Rangers have three remaining games against second place Anaheim, and an all-important seven head-to-head games against the Astros. This is indeed turning into the wild, wild west.