I've said this before, and I'll say it again, this is the best team I've seen the Rangers field in 23 years of following them.
They've made pitching and defense look so easy it's stunning, but they still find themselves on the outside looking in for a playoff spot.
My personal preference would be to send the Red Sox home, but I admit to being a little biased against them. Plus, how much drama would a Rangers/Angels ALCS provide baseball fans? It's not Yankees/Red Sox, but not bad either.
Going into the most important homestand since 1999, the Rangers sit five games behind the Angels and two games behind the Red Sox. If the Rangers can close the gap to two or three games before playing the Angels at the end of the homestand, they will be in good position; especially if they continue to play exceptionally well against the Halos.
As for the Wild Card, the Rangers must have a lead of at least two games going into the final week as the Red Sox are unlikely to lose any of their last seven games.
Lofty goals? Sure. Possible? You bet.
The Rangers are hoping to get both Josh Hamilton and Michael Young back on this homestand, even though their offense came to life without them in Cleveland. Most of it due to bad pitching by the Indians, but the Rangers offense had been struggling against bad pitching and completely shut down by good pitching.
If the offense can average four or five runs a game the rest of the way, they should be in good shape.
Now for the pitching.
The Rangers have announced a necessary juggling of the starting rotation to maximize the effect of their best and most experienced starters. Scott Feldman, Tommy Hunter and Kevin Millwood will all get five more starts, while Derek Holland and Brandon McCarthy will each get four.
I cannot make this more clear, the Rangers must have the Kevin Millwood from the beginning of the season in September.
The main issue with Millwood has been the command of his fastball. His secondary pitches are fine, but without that command, hitters aren't swinging at his breaking pitches. If he finds that fastball again, he can go on a roll.
Scott Feldman needs to keep doing what he's been doing all season and Tommy Hunter needs to do a better job in the middle innings.
Brandon McCarthy has been effective since his return, but admitted to losing his focus with a big lead in Cleveland. That cannot happen again.
Derek Holland has had issues making adjustments lately, which have led to three poor starts in a row. But he has shown flashes of brilliance in a handful of starts.
If he can make the necessary adjustments, he's capable of putting together a dominant stretch these last few weeks. Rangers pitching has put the team on their back all season long, answering every challenge and fearing no one.
Now with an improved offense on their side, the pitchers can finish the job started in April and put the Rangers into the playoffs for the first time in ten years.