More at Stake for the Rangers than an AL West Title Down the Stretch
The Rangers have never been in this position before heading into the final few weeks of the season.
Sure, they've won the division three times but all three seasons they had the worst record of the other division winners making the team go on the road in the Division Series each year.
Think back to those division winners and you'll notice two distinct differences between those squads and the 2010 Rangers.
First would be the Rangers pitching staff.
The Rangers not only have an ace on top of the rotation in Cliff Lee, but they also have solid number two caliber starters in CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis and a number three in Tommy Hunter.
The Rangers of the late 90's had a starting rotation filled with overachieving number four starters at best.
The 2010 bullpen is also a difference maker down the stretch, filled with power arms throwing 98 mph heat with exploding breaking pitches that leave many hitters hung out to dry.
The 1996 team didn't have a closer and the other two division winners were weak in setup relief making the John Wetteland signing virtually useless in the playoffs.
The second difference between the playoff teams in the 90's and the 2010 Rangers is a much more balanced offense that's better suited for the tough pitching the Rangers would face if they reach postseason play.
The days of sitting back and waiting on the three run home run are long since gone for Texas.
The only postseason win in club history was won with the long ball and quickly followed with nine straight losses because the Rangers were not equipped to move guys over, bunt for singles or hit for average.
The 2010 Rangers are a top five offense in hitting with runners in scoring position; they bunt for singles, swipe two bases at a time and put unbelievable amounts of pressure on opposing pitchers.
They have beaten ace pitchers throughout the season with strong pitching and an efficient offense which speaks volumes for how they can perform if they win the AL West.
This combination has the Rangers in contention for much more than a playoff birth, something Rangers fans need to start paying attention to.
Thus far the focus of the Rangers fan base has been on the A's and Angels, and rightfully so. This race isn't over yet and those teams require their share of attention and respect.
However, the Rangers are in the middle of a stretch of seven games against the AL Central leading Twins, a team they are competing with for playoff positioning.
So far the Rangers have done well taking the first three games to slightly pass the Twins for the second seed, but no matter what happens over the next week; both teams are going to be competing down the stretch for that second seed.
Not to mention the Yankees and Rays are only 5.5 games ahead of the Rangers for the top seed in the American League playoffs.
With three home games left against the Yankees and a September of the AL East beating up on each other, the Rangers can take advantage and take the top seed if they have a hot September.
The remaining schedule certainly favors both the Rangers and the Twins setting up an interesting possibility.
Could both Texas and Minnesota pass the Yankees and Rays forcing both AL East powerhouses to play on the road in the Division Series?
In a word, yes.
What it all comes down to for Rangers fans is this, the AL West race isn't over yet and they can sit anywhere between one and three in playoff seeding.
The entire American League playoff picture could get very interesting by the middle of September and the Rangers are in position to be right in the middle of it.
How the team plays in September will determine much more than a division title as the AL playoff picture hangs in the balance.