The Texas Rangers are closing out August in a fine fashion, but there are several players who will need to step up come September if the team intends to stay hot.
September's schedule will surely test the team's durability, as the Rangers only get two off-days and finish the season by playing 17 games in a row. The Rangers will also play the AL's current wild-card leaders, the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays, a combined 10 times.
In the middle of the month, the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are the National League's fourth-best team, will make the trip to Arlington for a three-game series.
Those three teams are all looking to nail down a playoff spot and make a run in their respective divisions. With the September competition stiffer, the Rangers will need to rise to the occasion.
Yu Darvish is one such player capable of doing exactly that.
In games that Darvish has pitched, the Rangers have gone 14-11. While Darvish does boast a 12-5 record, he's made many costly mistakes that have kept him from winning more games.
To paraphrase Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas, Darvish is held to a higher standard because he's such a great talent. If Darvish doesn't capitalize on a two-run lead, he has failed. It's nitpicking, but that's what is expected of him as an ace.
Another pitcher who will need to step up is Matt Garza.
The Rangers made the trade for the starter in July, but he hasn't had a stellar August. If the pitching rotation holds true, Garza's first September start will be against the Angels. He'll then face the Pirates, Rays, Royals and will finish up against the Angels.
These players and more must step up for the Rangers in September. Check out which of their teammates also made the list.
Tanner Scheppers is a player that the Rangers shouldn't be too concerned about, as he makes the honorable mention of players that need to step up.
Working out of the bullpen since the All-Star break, Scheppers has only had a couple bad outings. He had his second loss of the season in late August against the White Sox and had his worst outing against the Angels in late July.
In that game against the Angels, he gave up four runs on five hits. The Rangers will face the Angels seven times in September, as Scheppers will want to forget all about his earlier performance.
In Scheppers' last two outings, he's proven that he can recover from poor performances. After his loss to the White Sox, he threw consecutive nights against the Mariners and didn't allow a hit.
As noted before, there shouldn't be too much cause for concern about the hard-throwing righty. The Rangers can expect him to show the same consistency he's shown throughout the entire season.
Mitch Moreland is going to have to continue to be a home run threat, as well as a consistent hitter come September.
As of Aug. 30, Moreland has hit six home runs for the month. That is close to the eight he hit in May, his best month, but Moreland is lacking in doubles. In July and August, he has only combined for three doubles after hitting seven in May.
Since his return from the disabled list in June, Moreland has batted 208. With the competition getting tougher in September, games will be closer and players lower in the lineup will need to produce.
In the nine games that Moreland has played against the Athletics this season, he has four home runs and six RBI. The Rangers will need that production to continue, as they face the Athletics six more times in September.
Moreland is going to have to deliver against the Athletics so that the Rangers can build on their division lead.
Matt Garza has had a subpar August that he'll need to leave behind as September rolls around.
Garza's only two wins came against the Houston Astros, a team that he's not probably going to face again this season if the pitching rotation holds true. In his five August starts, Garza gave up at least four runs and seven hits. He lost to both the Athletics and the White Sox.
Going into his next scheduled start on Saturday, Aug. 31 against the Twns, Garza has a 5.50 ERA fr the month of August, but did record eight strikeouts in three August starts. Two of those starts, however, came against the Astros, a team which owns MLB's worst record.
Garza is going to have to limit his earned run average, as well as the amount of home runs he has been serving up, having allowed seven home runs in his last five starts.
A crucial matchup that Garza will likely face will be against the Pirates. In his first start against the Pirates in May (see video), Garza gave up one hit over five innings and had a no-decision.
David Murphy has been very inconsistent for the Rangers this year.
Murphy is batting .221 with 12 home runs and 41 RBI. Coming off a season in which he hit for a .300 batting average, Murphy has been vastly underperforming.
As the Rangers' schedule picks up, Murphy will have to step up his game and provide some type of consistency in the lineup. Much like Mitch Moreland, Murphy is going to have to find a way to produce in the bottom half of the order.
There's also no telling what Moreland, Jurickson Profar and Alex Rios will provide in that portion of the lineup. As a proven veteran, Murphy must step up and do his job.
The left field spot seems to be wide open, as Craig Gentry and Jeff Baker have seen their playing time increase. If Murphy responds to the threat of completely losing his left field spot, he could easily step up for the Rangers in September and return to the .300 hitter that he's capable of being.
For Yu Darvish, it's simple: Limit the mistakes.
During his last outing against the Chicago White Sox, Darvish cruised through nearly six innings. With two outs and a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth, Adam Dunn stepped up to the plate with a runner on base.
A major home run threat, Darvish left the first pitch over the plate and Dunn lifted it over the left field fence (see video). Instantly, Darvish saw his lead vanish and the Rangers ended up losing, 3-2.
Pitching with a lead is something that Darvish needs to continue to improve upon.
Darvish has been brilliant this season, to say the least. He leads the American League in strikeouts, owns a 12-5 record, boasts a 2.68 ERA and opponents are only hitting .191 against him.
Still, Darvish will need to hold onto leads and limit his mistakes come September.