We talked back on August 3 about the stretch of games between the last Rangers-A’s series and the one that kicks off today, 24 games for Texas that included no opponents with a winning record and 25 for Oakland that included 15 against teams with more wins than losses.
The Rangers went 17-7.
The A’s went 14-11.
In the process, Texas went from 2.5 games down in the West to one game up — though at one point (10 days ago) the Rangers had pushed their lead over the A’s to 3.5 games.
Series losses to Seattle, Chicago, and Minnesota notwithstanding, it was an outstanding August for Texas (20-7), coming off a brutal July (11-15) that triggered talk show segments questioning whether trading for the market’s best-available starting pitcher, Matt Garza, had been a mistake.
But the way Texas lost its series to the White Sox and then its home set against the Twins — especially in light of how the schedules stack up for the Rangers and A’s the rest of the way — leaves a bit of an uneasy feeling as Texas heads into this four-week sprint. In each of the club’s two losses to Chicago and three games against Minnesota, the offense managed to score two runs. That’s 10 runs in five games against two awful teams, from the same offense that, in between, put up nine runs in three innings against Felix Hernandez.
Maybe it’s just as well that Texas has 16 of its final 26 regular season games against winning teams.
I don’t really mean that, but the way the offense produced against King Felix twice and Chris Sale once in a 12-day stretch, we all know it’s still in there, and there’s not going to be any room for letdown against Oakland, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Oakland again, Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Houston, or Los Angeles again.
The Rangers went 4-9 down the stretch in 2012, when even one more win might have meant no Game 163 and a completely different October. Texas can’t coast this September, because the division lead is in present danger and because the schedule is tough and because the only six games Oakland plays against winning teams over its final 26 are these three hosting the Rangers and next week’s three in Arlington. Texas can’t coast this September, because most of the players on the roster remember what happened 12 months ago.
Cancel out the common opponents and sites, and here’s what the Rangers and A’s have left:
TEXAS: one home game against the Angels, three at home against Pittsburgh, four in Tampa Bay, three in Kansas City, three at home against Houston
OAKLAND: four in Houston, three in Minnesota, four at home against Minnesota, three in Seattle
If Oakland wins twice more than Texas these next four weeks, the best the Rangers can hope for is another Game 163 berth.
Last year, Texas and Oakland had each other seven times in the final 10 days of the regular season.
The A’s won five of those seven games. If they’d won only four, the Rangers would have had a best-of-five to play next, rather than a win-or-go-home game that ended their season.
This year, for better or worse, Texas and Oakland face each other zero times in the final 10 days. They’re done with each with two weeks to go, unless one wins Game 163 and draws the other after that.
When I think of the 2012 season, I have a hard time thinking about anything other than October 1, 2, and 3 in Oakland. It will be different this year.
That doesn’t make this afternoon or tomorrow night or Wednesday afternoon, or September 13 or September 14 or September 15, any less huge. Just less irreversible.
This is going to be a month we’ll long remember as Rangers fans. No matter what happens, buckling up for whatever these next four weeks bring sure beats all those decades when football season necessarily replaced the local baseball team’s annual playing out of the string.
Let’s go, Derek. Be great.