A Season Defining Road Trip
The Rangers currently sit two games under .500, a daunting eight games out of first place in the AL West – behind three different teams, but are just 2.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot. The Oakland A’s, your current AL West leaders, are playing out of their freaking minds and have put an almost insurmountable distance between them and the Rangers over the last three weeks or so. The Angels, who happen to lead the Wild Card race, are also beginning to play well, but Texas only sits 3.5 games behind them at the time this was written.
I’m sure you’ve heard the cliché saying or just from fans that don’t really see the big picture in baseball—mainly football fans. I would have to disagree completely with that statement, though.
Games matter just as much in April as they do in September, because, if you win games in April as opposed to taking them lightly, maybe you put enough room between you and your opponent that those games in September aren’t as important as they would have been had you not goofed off in April.
That’s why I believe that the Rangers current road trip, which happens to be the longest of the season, is season defining. Texas will play seven of the next 11 games during the day, a time that Texas has been notoriously bad at. They will travel to Detroit and Minnesota and play in parks where they have been fairly dreadful, and by the end of the trip, they will have played 16 games in 17 days in four cities and two different time zones, including 13 games straight without a day off.
We all know the injury bug has infested the Rangers clubhouse, and no team can really overcome this type of plague. In fact, some people have already called this a lost season. I don’t believe that it’s a complete loss of a season just yet, but after this road trip it could be. They may be without Prince Fielder for an extended period of time depending on the results from his doctor’s visit, which would only magnify the situation.
I want to take a look a little deeper into the road trip though. I mentioned above that the Rangers have seven upcoming day games and have been relatively bad during the day. Take a look at the chart below, and you will see that Texas, minus the 2012 season, just seems to not be able to hit or score runs during the day, at least compared to when they play at night.
(Note: The slash line for 2014 does NOT include the game played Wednesday afternoon but the W/L, Runs, R/PG and HR categories DO include the game)
Guess what? That’s not even the bad news. The bad news is where Texas has to go on the road trip – Comerica Park and Target Field.
The Rangers are 27-37 overall at Comerica Park, which is their first stop on the trip. They started 3-11 in the Motor City after the park opened in 2000. Things haven’t gotten much better either. Over the last three seasons, the Rangers are 8-8 and just 5-5 in their last 10 games. It’s not just the record that hurts Rangers fans, it’s also the site where Josh Hamilton broke his arm sliding head first into home while trying to tag up and score on a ball that was popped up foul in front of the dugout.
Moving on to Target field, the numbers are just as mediocre. Texas started 1-9 in their first 10 games in the Twins new outdoor ballpark that opened in 2010 and are just 6-11 overall in the Twin Cities. The good news? All six of those wins have come in their last 10 games as they are 6-4 over the last couple of seasons.
However, just like Comerica, it’s not just the record that haunts the Rangers. Anyone remember the Dave Anderson interference call that got Michael Young called out while trying to score the game tying run in the 9th inning that ended the game?
Not all things in Detroit and Minnesota are bad though, as I’m sure we all remember the 2011 ALCS where Nelson Cruz went all Reggie Jackson on the Tigers.
To say that this is an important road trip is, at least to me, an understatement. This is a season defining road trip for Texas. You can try to make up some ground on Oakland and Anaheim, or you can get blasted and fall so far behind that you are closer to the Astros than you are anyone else.
If you can come out of this trip with 7-4 record, then I think you have successfully navigated the longest trip of the year and have shown signs of life. An 8-3 record would be amazingly awesome, and you would settle for 6-5, but I think the goal should be 7-4. If you go 5-6 or worse than 4-7, then in my mind, you can consider this season a wash, because at that point you’re likely to be out of the AL West race and more than a handful of games back in the Wild Card. Even getting everyone healthy would be a long-shot to compete for a postseason berth.
Now is the time to make your move, Texas. If you have any kind of run in you, now is the time to let it all out.
So, have you stopped yelling at me yet? Have I convinced you that this road trip is very crucial to the Rangers season? Am I panicking or making this more than it really is? Does it really even matter?
Every game matters. That’s the way baseball go.