Texas has been hot of late, and it’s not just the weather.
The Rangers are playing the kind of ball that can get you back in the postseason picture. They’ve won seven of their last 10 games and have reached the .500 mark for the first time since the end of last month.
But a familiar foe steps into town for a big four-game series, the Toronto Blue Jays. The last time these two met at the Globe, the Jays took the first two games of the 2016 ALDS, roughing up both Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish in the process. The Jays would go on and sweep the Rangers out of the playoffs. It was the second straight year the Rangers season ended on the field in Toronto.
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Now you have two teams that have struggled out of the gate while trying to keep those playoff dreams alive. Health with the pitching staff has been a problem for both Texas and Toronto. Cole Hamels will make another rehab start for Double-A Frisco on Wednesday but is expected to return soon from his oblique injury. Andrew Cashner and A.J. Griffin are on the disabled list with oblique injuries themselves. Yu Darvish has been solid but continues to struggle with control at times, giving up the long ball more often than usual. The Rangers did finally get Tyson Ross on the mound, who looked good in Friday’s 10-4 win over the Mariners.
On the Jays side, the starting rotation has been Marcus Stroman and whoever else is available after that. Stroman has been sensational for Toronto this season with a 7-3 record and a 3.15 ERA. Francisco Liriano and J.A. Happ appear to finally be at full strength. Both Liriano and Stroman are scheduled to pitch in this series.
The offense seems to be finally clicking for a Rangers lineup that many expected to see on an everyday basis when spring training began, only to be offset with various injuries and slumps. Adrian Beltre is back and approaching the magical 3000-hit club. He’s expected to make history later this summer. Mike Napoli has returned from the disabled list and showing more power at the plate. Rougned Odor seems to be over his early season slump and making solid contact. Joey Gallo continues to be “must-watch TV” every time he steps in the box with his ability to hit moonshots.
While the Rangers are playing good ball, the Blue Jays do present a formidable task. Texas lost two of three in Toronto earlier this season and has dropped six of nine to the Jays since May of last season. Including the postseason, the Rangers have lost two straight and five of last seven against the Jays in Arlington.
The A.L. West division may be out of reach with the Houston Astros maintaining an 11-game lead over the Rangers in the standings. However, the Rangers are just a game out of the wild card with the Jays a game behind them.
There’s still plenty to play for during the hot summer nights in June.
*Rangers have recalled pitcher Tanner Scheppers from Triple-A Round Rock and moved pitcher A.J. Griffin from the 10-day to the 60-day disabled list. Outfielder Jared Hoying has been optioned to Round Rock.