If you saw the way the Texas Rangers were playing a month ago, you’d have a hard time believing that the same team is currently undefeated this postseason. Texas has not only been able to find, but flip the proverbial switch en route to their 7-0 playoff record and momentum against their in-state rival and reigning World Series champion Astros.
The Rangers are playing their best baseball of the season and playing like a team destined to return to the World Series for the first time since 2012. But a turnaround in their play didn’t just happen overnight.
It’s been hard to ignore Texas’ red-hot offense that has been able to find their form and take their production to another level. And it hasn’t just been the usual suspects like Marcus Semien and Corey Seager, but others like Mitch Garver, Leody Taveres and rookie standout Evan Carter that have made the Rangers’ lineup so potent.
When the season began, Texas believed their rotation would center around free-agent signing Jacob deGrom. But a torn UCL would prevent that from happening. The major trade deadline acquisition of Max Scherzer was a strong move for a team going all-in, but his right shoulder injury in September was the last thing the team wanted to see.
But Jordan Montgomery and Nathan Eovaldi have been everything the Rangers have needed and more this postseason. They’ve gone 5-0 with a 2.19 ERA, giving them what they have missed from the two Cy Young Award winners. They’ll get Scherzer back for Game 3 on Wednesday, and if he’s even 75% of himself, it could be the difference between Houston getting their first victory and Texas having a chance to close out the Astros in Game 4.
The biggest area where the Rangers have seen a dramatic shift from their regular-season performance has been in their bullpen. It’s not a secret that Texas’ relievers have had some issues, especially in the backend of their pen with their high-leverage relievers. The Rangers’ 4.77 ERA ranked as the seventh-worst in all of MLB this season. Their deadline acquisition, Aroldis Chapman, who is no longer in the closer role at this point in his career, wasn’t exactly shut-down when he arrived in Texas either with an ERA near 4.00.
Over the course of the last month, things have fallen into place for pitching coach Mike Maddux, with his relievers doing a complete 180 in October. They’ve cut their ERA to a stellar 2.01 and have been a boost to a red-hot stretch for Texas.
Like any strong team in the postseason, manager Bruce Bochy has been able to lean on someone in the big moments, and that’s been longtime reliever José Leclerc. Leclerc is having a monster postseason, pitching in all seven of the Rangers’ games with a 1.23 ERA and is three-for-three in save opportunities.
The Rangers have been extremely strong in their first seven games this postseason, and going into their home ballpark, they have a good opportunity to continue that success. When the season began, it was probably not unreasonable to say Texas would be in this position. But after everything that has happened to their Opening Day roster plans and up-and-down season, not many would have predicted it would go like this.
For Texas, as long as the story ends with a trip to the Fall Classic, it’s all worth it.