It's no secret. The Texas Rangers have not been a successful road team in recent seasons. They are undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with at the Ballpark in Arlington, scoring the fourth most runs at home in the AL, only 32 less than the leading New York Yankees, in seven fewer games. Their .488 slugging percentage at home leads all AL clubs.
Unfortunately, the success at home has not translated into the ability to win on the road, as the Rangers stand at 18-22 away from Arlington, the second-lowest road winning percentage among MLB division leading teams.
June began in a promising fashion, as the Rangers put together a five-game road winning streak, taking the series clincher in Tampa Bay, before an impressive four-game sweep of the AL Central-leading Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
On the strength of dominant starting pitching performances, the Rangers appeared to have put their road woes behind them, and were on their way to becoming a more complete ballclub.
However, a short, three-game home-stand against the Tigers and a 10-game road trip that took them through Minnesota, the Bronx and Atlanta has seen them stumble and lose all the momentum gained from their hot streak during the first week of June.
Just 3-8 since the five-game winning streak, the Rangers now sit just three games above .500, and currently hold only a 0.5 game divisional lead over the Seattle Mariners.
During the 10-game stretch away from home, the Rangers were outscored 59-38 by the Twins, Yankees and Braves, as Texas stumbled at the plate, as well as on the mound, furthering the notion that their success is based primarily upon an ability to hit at home.
Even the previously unbeaten Alexi Ogando ran into trouble, enduring the worst start of his career in Yankee Stadium, and taking his first two losses of the season during the team's cold streak.
Fortunately, the Rangers have six games at home beginning today, as they welcome the Houston Astros and New York Mets to the Ballpark. With no disrespect intended toward the Houston ballclub, a home series against the team with MLB's worst record is always a welcome sight when you're in the midst of a difficult stretch of your own.
Texas will host the Mets for a three-game series, before heading out on the road once again for a short three-game set in Houston. The Astros, only 13-25 at home, may offer the Rangers an opportunity to build another hot streak, centered around 16 of 19 games in Arlington to close out the first half of the 2011 schedule.
Following that short flight to Houston, the Rangers return home to host the plummeting Florida Marlins, losers of 10 straight contests, and 18 of 19 games in the month of June.
Needless to say, the Rangers are currently enjoying the softest portion of their schedule that they will see all season long.
Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean a thing if you don't produce the results, as baseball has a unique way of overturning the odds, unlike most other major sports.
Keeping that in mind, the Rangers are fully aware that they face a stretch in which they need to be successful. Facing last place clubs in five of their next six series presents Texas with a critical opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the still-lingering Mariners.
After the difficult road trip that they just endured, the Rangers know that an opportunity exists right before them and they must take full advantage of it to close out the first half of the season on a positive note.
With a mostly-healthy lineup full of their regulars, and a forgiving schedule loaded with home games for the foreseeable future, the Texas Rangers are poised for another hot streak and should be able to rebuild the divisional lead that has dwindled in recent weeks.
Despite the odds, the Seattle Mariners are proving that they intend to stick around, and if the Rangers don't take full advantage of the opportunity presented to them at the moment, it may be a prolonged dogfight for the AL West title deep into the dog days of summer.
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