The Texas Rangers will once again try to reach five games over .500 tonight as the New York Yankees come to town for a four-game series.
Texas doesn't look like they will contend for the AL West title, 11.5 games behind the best team in baseball (LA Angels), but a record of 58-54 has the Rangers just six games out of the Wild Card race.
The team above the Rangers in that race is the New York Yankees. Texas is just 3.5 games behind the Yankees in the Wild Card standings and with a miracle four-game sweep could overtake the pinstriped players.
Don't count on the sweep, but the way the Rangers are playing right now, a 3-1 series win isn't out of the question. The only problem is that the way the Yankees are playing right now, a 3-1 series loss isn't out of the question either.
The Rangers can take a big step toward a playoff appearance with the four games against the Yankees followed by three games against Boston the following week. Texas will need help from others as they will not face the Chicago White Sox again this season.
But you have to take it one game at a time, and that starts tonight.
Joba Chamberlain (4-3) vs. Vicente Padilla (12-5)
Both teams send a great deal of talent to the mound without knowing what they are going to get out of their starter.
Padilla has been more consistent this year than his past two seasons with the Rangers, which just means that Texas fans are waiting for him to fall apart. So far it hasn't happened; Padilla hasn't lost since July 4. In his three starts since then, Padilla is 2-0 with a 3.60 ERA and 13 strikeouts. For the Rangers to win this series they need a strong showing from Padilla in the opener.
Chamberlain has completed his transition from the bullpen to the starting role. It was a heavily debated and often questioned move. Chamberlain made a name for himself at the University of Nebraska as a guy who could pitch a complete game. That experience as a Husker made for a quick progression through the minor leagues to the show.
But he made it as a Yankee coming out of the bullpen, and now that he is a starter his numbers are more consistent. Going at least six innings in his last five starts he is 2-1.
Chamberlain started the July 1 game against the Rangers in the Bronx. He went four innings giving up two runs and got the no decision in an eventual 3-2 Rangers win.
Both will battle a severe Texas heat that will be well into triple digits at game time. If Padilla can keep his cool on the mound, that advantage goes to the Rangers.