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5 things that changed the season for Rangers

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are the fifth team in Major League history and the second American League team to make the postseason after having their league's worst record the previous season. After going 67-95 last year, they went on a 46-28 tear after the All-Star break to capture the AL West title on Sunday.

Here are five things that changed the Rangers' season as they face the Blue Jays in the AL Division Series. The first two games are scheduled for Thursday (2:30 p.m. CT on FS1) and Friday at Rogers Centre in Toronto. The Rangers will host Games 3, and 4 (if necessary) on Sunday and Monday. A Game 5, if necessary, would be the following Wednesday in Toronto.

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1. Delino DeShields took over in center field and the leadoff spot
There is no doubt that Leonys Martin is a premium defensive player with one of the best arms in the game. But the Rangers were desperate for a leadoff hitter, and DeShields provided that once he moved to the top of the order in May.

2. Shawn Tolleson took over as closer
This was another move that happened in May after the Rangers grew weary with beleaguered closer Neftali Feliz. Tolleson, a waiver claim two years ago from the Dodgers, brought stability and reliability to the role, and he allowed the Rangers to focus on reinforcing the rest of the rotation.

3. Cole Hamels leads the rotation reinforcements
The Rangers acquired Hamels from the Phillies at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, giving them a true No. 1 starter. But it also helped that Martin Perez and Derek Holland came off the disabled list after the All-Star break and enabled the Rangers to stabilize their rotation down the stretch. Colby Lewis and Yovani Gallardo were steady from wire-to-wire.

4. Second-half offensive surge
The Rangers were a much better offensive team in the second half, a surge led by Shin-Soo Choo and Adrian Beltre. With those two leading the way, the Rangers went from 4.20 runs per game to 5.04. Their team OPS went from .712 before the All-Star break to .767 afterwards.

5. Second-half additions were big
Hamels was not the only player acquired after the All-Star break. The Rangers also added left-hander Jake Diekman and right-handers Sam Dyson and Ross Ohlendorf to the bullpen to go with Keone Kela and Sam Freeman. They added Mike Napoli, Drew Stubbs and Will Venable for needed offensive depth. They also had to compensate for injuries at catcher by adding Chris Gimenez and Bobby Wilson.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.
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