Towards the beginning of August, it may have been tough to see how the Texas Rangers could have had an advantage over the Oakland Athletics. They finished July with an 11-15 record and had a team ERA of 4.17 over that span. They also saw designated hitter Lance Berkman and pitcher Yu Darvish spend time on the disabled list.
To top off their woes, Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz was suspended for 50 games as punishment for his connection with the Biogenesis lab. Fortunately for the Rangers, their woes seemed to end following the Cruz suspension.
Texas has been one of the hottest teams in baseball in the month of August. The Rangers have gone 19-6 this month and hold a three-game lead over the Athletics in the American League West. With September quickly approaching, here are some reasons the Rangers have an advantage over the Athletics heading into the final month of the season.
It may not be much, and to be fair, the Athletics have one more home game than the Rangers do in September, but Texas will still be playing 14 of their final 27 games at home. With a slight division lead already in tact, Texas will need to take advantage of these home games, which will be played against significantly weaker opponents.
Of its 14 September home games, Texas faces the Minnesota Twins, the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Angels in eight of those matchups. Those three teams are a combined 160-234 and have an 80-118 record on the road.
Texas boasts a 38-27 record at home this season and has a 26-6 record against those three teams so far. While both the Athletics and the Rangers are heading into September with a similar amount of home-field games that month, Texas has the added advantage with a slight lead in the division and matchups against lesser opponents.
They're the Hotter Team
It's a bit of an obvious statement, but if Texas can ride its hot play into the remainder of the season, it'll have an easy advantage over Oakland in September.
Texas' offense and pitching have been nothing short of stellar during the month of August. Any numbers close to what it has managed this month will easily put them in the playoffs and lead them to a division crown.
Offensively, in August, the Rangers drove in 144 runs as a team while hitting .275 with a .346 on-base percentage. While the Athletics still did a nice job of their own offensively, they ultimately drove in 22 fewer runs and have hit for a lesser average (.266).
On the mound, the Rangers were just as solid. They posted the fourth-best team ERA in August (3.18), and hurled 217 strikeouts—the seventh highest of the month. Of their 19 wins in August thus far, eight of them have been credited to pitchers Yu Darvish and Martin Perez.
The Rangers are in a groove right now, and they don't look to be cooling off anytime soon. They may need to continue this hot streak if they hope to hold off Oakland for the division title.
Elvis Andrus is Finally Hitting
Texas has been searching for a consistent bat out of Elvis Andrus for just about the entire season. The need for Andrus to step up and perform only became greater as Texas lost other productive bats from its lineup.
First, Berkman got off to a hot start only to cool off and eventually land on the disabled list. Even though the Rangers went out and acquired Alex Rios, Cruz's loss still hurts. Fortunately for Texas, Andrus is helping fans and the organization alike forget about its recent losses.
No, he isn't hitting one home run after another like Cruz had done for Texas throughout the season, but he has done just about everything else.
Through the first four months of the season, Andrus, a career .273 hitter with a .339 on-base percentage was hitting .253. But as the team has gotten hot, so has Andrus' bat.
His stats in August have been a great turnaround and a much needed boost for a guy who just signed an eight-year contract extension this offseason. Andrus has posted a .308 batting average over this past month, hitting one home run while driving in 16 RBI and stealing 11 bases.
On the season, the talented shortstop has only 49 RBI, the fact that he has posted nearly a third of those over this past month speaks volumes to what he means to this team. Should he continue at the pace he's on right now, he may even post a new career high in RBI this season, something that would have been asinine to think of just a short while ago.
Don't discount Andrus' bat heading into the final month of the season, and don't overlook how important he has once again become to Texas' offense.
All stats and info courtesy of MLB.com, Baseball-Reference.com, ESPN.com and HuffingtonPost.com.
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