Tuesday , 21 November 2017

Mike Albanese: Rangers Hoping to Avoid Familiar September Slide

mike albanese column mugSitting on my couch this weekend, the scene that unfolded in Los Angeles looked all too familiar for the Texas Rangers.

Lackluster pitching. Struggling hitters. Squandering a division lead.

That’s right, this looks way to familiar to the 2012 version of the Texas Rangers, whose late-season slide ended with a season-ending sweep to the Oakland Athletics, the team which completed the comeback to win the American League West Division.

Despite a division lead that ballooned to 13 games by June 30, Texas lost to Tampa Bay in the one-game Wild Card round and was eliminated from the playoffs.

The 2013 Rangers are doing their best to duplicate that horrendous performance.

Granted, the Rangers didn’t have a 13-game lead to blow this season, and have compiled a 33-21 record after the All-Star break, but have gone just 12-12 since Aug. 12 — the date their eight-game winning streak was snapped.

This year’s version of the Texas Rangers doesn’t have Josh Hamilton in the lineup (and thank goodness for that) but the bat they are missing this season is Nelson Cruz.

Cruz, who has been suspended for the remainder of the 2013 regular season for his suspected use of performance-enhancing drugs, was hitting .269 with 27 home runs and 76 RBI’s.

opinionWhile Adrian Beltre has been able to pick up the slack left behind by Cruz, several key bats have failed to produce in his absence.

Mitch Moreland is hitting just .181 since the break, Jeff Baker has an average of .241, Leonys Martin is hitting .247 and Ian Kinsler is hitting .259.

Kinsler, who many believe to be the main cog in this lineup, and since Aug. 1, has two home runs and 13 RBI’s.

And even though the Rangers, as a team, are a better hitting team since the break — .268 compared to .260 prior to the break – their power bats, with the exception of Beltre, have failed to provide the jolt they so desperately need.

At least waiver pickup Alex Rios has been solid, hitting .297, but has hit just four home runs in 26 games.

Another reason you can expect to the Rangers fail to make noise in October is due to lackluster performance by two key pitchers – Matt Garza and Yu Darvish.

Garza, who the Rangers acquired at the trade deadline from the Chicago Cubs, has failed to give the rotation another strong arm heading down the stretch.

Outside from a dazzling debut against the New York Yankees – 7.1 shutout-innings and five strikeouts – Garza is 3-3 with an ERA hovering toward 4.

The other arm that seems to be slowing down is the “ace” Darvish.

Although Darvish leads the lead in strikeouts with more than 260, he has failed lately to preserve leads and give the Rangers a chance to win.

Some of Darvish’s struggles could be linked to manager Ron Washington and letting him continuously throw 110 to 115 pitches.

For the 2013 Rangers, the final 19 games will determine if this team reclaims the AL West. The final 19 games will decide if the Rangers can make another postseason run. The final 19 games will decide if Washington will return in 2014.

But more importantly, the final 19 games can clear the 2012 Rangers from one of the biggest chokes of all time.

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