'Work in progress' Rangers eye 2nd-half run
Despite injury-plagued rotation and uneven 'pen, Texas 3 games behind in WC
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers must look to the 1995 Yankees for inspiration now that they are 42-44 at the All-Star break and 16 1/2 games behind the Astros in the American League West.
With their division title hopes appearing to be slim, the Rangers will be trying to become only the second team since 1995 to win a Wild Card spot despite having a losing record at the All-Star break.
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The 1995 Yankees are the only team having done that. They were 30-36 and 7 1/2 games behind in the AL Wild Card race at the break, before going 48-29 in the second half.
The Rangers are only three games back in the AL Wild Card, so their task isn't quite as daunting. But Texas understands it has to get its own act together before worrying about other Wild Card contenders.
"We are a work in progress," third baseman Adrian Beltre said. "Obviously we had a lot of injuries, and we had to find a way to get through it. We had some good streaks and some bad streaks. Right now, we are trying to find a way to be more consistent. We need to start playing better, help each other more and win more series."
The Rangers are hoping for better health in the second half, but that can be an elusive proposition. No matter who is on the field or on the disabled list, they need to get on a roll and do it quickly.
"They are all critical based on where we put ourselves," manager Jeff Banister said. "We have positioned and put ourselves in a spot where we have to start playing well and consistently win baseball games."
What went right
Nothing went right for the Rangers for an extended period of time, but they had a few impressive stretches where they played well enough to keep alive the idea they could still be a playoff contender. That included a 10-game winning streak against some bad teams in May and a more impressive 5-1 road trip to Washington and Houston in June.
What went wrong
The Rangers' offense was plagued by strikeouts, their rotation was clobbered by injuries and their bullpen was nowhere near as good as Texas thought it would be. The last one was the biggest one. On Opening Day, it was inconceivable that the Rangers' bullpen would have that many problems. This looked like Texas' biggest strength in Spring Training.
What we learned
The Rangers remain a talented team, and their winning culture has not waned. Neither have the injuries. This is still a team that could pull together and make a serious second-half run. Maybe the division title is beyond their reach, but all other goals remain in play.
Top everyday player
Shortstop Elvis Andrus had an All-Star-worthy first half in coming back from offseason surgery to repair a sports hernia. He is just the 15th player since 1933 to have at least 100 hits, 20 doubles, 20 steals and 50 RBIs before the All-Star break.
The Rangers' world has turned upside down: Their best pitcher has been their softest thrower. Alex Claudio continues to baffle AL hitters with a fearless assortment of pitches thrown from an odd angle.
Right-hander Austin Bibens-Dirkx went from being an obscure journeyman Minor League pitcher to the best story on the Rangers this season, stepping in to help ease the burden on the injury-plagued rotation.