The Texas Rangers were in first place in the American League West at the end of June, and they kept up that early season form throughout the month of July. They started the month with a 6-2 record and maintained that slim margin of victory through the month. The only time their wins got any smaller was in the final two games of the month. However, their losses were kept to a minimum with a 5-1 win over the Oakland Athletics on July 3rd and a 5-3 win over the Seattle Mariners a day later. This gave the team a 9-3 record in their last 12 games and a three-game lead over the second-place Athletics. They also had a four-game lead over the third-place Mariners.
The Rangers’ success this past month has been down to a number of key factors. First off, the starting pitching has been excellent. As mentioned, the team went 9-3 in their last 12 games, and since the beginning of the month, they are 4-0 with a 2.64 ERA in five September starts from Dallas Keuchel, the reigning AL Rookie of the Year. Keuchel didn’t have a bad game in all five of those starts, resulting in a 1.84 ERA, and he hasn’t given up a run in his last 31 ⅓ innings pitched.
Keuchel’s excellent start to the season has helped the Rangers to jump out to an early lead in the AL West. They’ve already won more games than the previous two seasons combined and have the best record in the AL through 15 games, thanks in part to their pitching. A big reason for that is the team’s offense, which has carried them so far this year. In 2015, the Texas offense was 15th in the AL in AVG/OBP/SLG and 29th in runs scored, but this year it’s been a different story. Through 15 games, they’re already scoring 4.7 runs per game, which is fourth in the AL and led the way for their nine-game winning streak in mid-July. The key to the team’s success this year has been their outstanding hitting, led by their star third baseman, Adrian Beltre. Beltre is currently in the midst of one of the best offensive seasons of his career, batting.321/.412/.559 with nine home runs and 27 RBI through 15 games. In addition, he’s scored 19 runs, and he’s driven in 17.
The Rangers pitching staff has also been crucial to the team’s success this year. As mentioned, Dallas Keuchel has been excellent in his five September starts, allowing just four runs in 31 ⅓ innings pitched with a 0.85 ERA. Behind him, the bullpen has also stepped up and pitched well. Joe Nathan, who has appeared in four of the last five games for the Rangers, has thrown 12 ⅔ innings and hasn’t given up a run. He’s recorded 44 saves with a 2.45 ERA, and his 36 strikeouts are the most by a Ranger relievers since 2012.
In addition to the pitching, the team’s strength has been their depth. Infielder Ian Desmond has been one of the standouts for the Rangers, hitting.357/.421/.571 with three home runs and 17 RBI through 15 games. In addition, he’s scored nine runs and driven in 12. Catcher Robinson Chirinos has continued his fine form from last year, when he hit.288/.350/.477 with seven home runs and 35 RBI, and he’s currently sixth in the AL with 14 runs scored. The team’s outfield has also been among the league leaders in both hits and runs scored, with Michael Choice and José Bogaerts combining for 62 RBI through 15 games. In addition, they’ve hit 24 home runs, most in the AL.
More Than Meets The Eye
Although the pitching and defense have been up to par, the biggest reason for the Rangers’ success this season has been their excellent coaching. In 2015, they were 14th in the AL in team ERA with a 3.70 mark, but so far in 2016, they’re sixth with a 2.64 ERA, which ranks second in the league. The Rangers have also led the way in the AL in both hits and runs scored, and although their record is just three games out of first place at 15-8, it’s clear the team is more than pleased with their season-to-date performance.
The Houston Astros are next in line to win the AL West in the season’s remaining games. They’ve also won three of the last four games against the Rangers, so their win streak against the AL West is now up to five games. In order to stay competitive, the Rangers will need to continue to have success against pitching upgrades in their lineup.