In August, the Texas Rangers sat nine games back of the Houston Astros in the American League West, with four other teams ahead of them in the wild card chase as well. Of course, that is golden compared to where they sat near the end of April, when they were 8-16 and looking like they were heading to the same subterranean depths where online betting fans saw them for most of 2014, when they lost 95 games and their manager, Ron Washington, headed out the door with about a month left, with bizarre rumors of an extramarital affair involving a member of the press that had come from Asia to report on Yu Darvish in his wake.
AL Playoff Online Betting Team Preview: Texas Rangers
— MLB (@MLB) October 5, 2015
But then came the rest of August – and September. The team traded for ace Cole Hamels at the trade deadline and brought in Mike Napoli, whose heroics propelled the Rangers through the 2011 ALCS and almost brought them their first World Series title in 2011. Now they are back in the postseason, after a 2012 wild card berth and a 2013 appearance in Game 163, a play-in for the last wild card position. As AL West champs they have an AL Divison Series against Toronto coming up.
Napoli remembers the disappointment of coming up short with the Rangers in 2011, as right fielder Nelson Cruz misplayed a David Freese fly ball into a triple, which tied the game in the ninth, and then the Rangers took the lead in the 10th – only to give it up again, and then lose the game in the 11th. Game 7 would go to the Cardinals as well. Napoli is back now, playing three different positions, and he is part of a lineup that hopes to help match the offensive power of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Rangers had a run differential in the regular season of +18; the Blue Jays’ differential was +221. The Blue Jays got 120 home runs from just three players. However, the Rangers have Hamels, a crafty left-handed ace with a changeup that baffles righties too. The rotation is set up to have Hamels pitch Game 2 and then a potential Game 5. The Blue Jays’ ace, David Price, is set to pitch Game 1 against the Rangers’ Yovani Gallardo, a ground-ball machine who is good for five or six innings.
Other key contributors for the Rangers include Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre and Shin-Soo Choo. Choo’s seven-year deal worth $130 million opened some eyes in the baseball world after he signed it in the 2013 offseason. After a year and a half of underperforming, Choo sat down with his wife, who told him to find his foundation again. He did it, and since the All-Star break, he has hit .343 with a .455 on-base percentage. If the Rangers can keep the Blue Jays’ offense in check and get some timely pitching from their starters and a bullpen that can be quite shaky, they could find themselves propelled to the ALCS.