It is finally here. The month of October has arrived and great baseball has already been predominant in the first few days. The Texas Rangers will begin their quest to return to World Series tonight against the Baltimore Orioles in what will be the first ever Wild Card game. This may not be what fans or the Rangers ever had in mind for the 2012 season, but this is reality and they must now deal with the card they have dealt themselves. To make that return trip and hopefully win the "Fall Classic" this time around a few things will have to take place and they will need to take place quick. Many feel this team has already checked out, but tonight in Arlington will be the first true indicator of this team's state. Here are the top-five things the Rangers need to return to the World Series.
Yu Darvish Needs to Be an Ace
The Rangers signed Darvish to be an "ace" and while they have seemed willing for him to take time to grow in the big leagues, the hope has always been that he would be dominating hitters by this time. That has started to take place and he has found consistency that has been very important for this team down the stretch. Had Darvish not been as consistent as he was during August and September, this team would not have even made the postseason. He has not allowed more than three runs in a game since the 6th of August in Boston. During that time he has never thrown more than 120 pitches in a game and has worked at least 6 2/3 innings.
Darvish is capable of dominating a game and he will get his first opportunity against the Orioles, which happen to be a team he has never faced. They need a solid start from him in the Wild Card, another in the ALDS and then he needs to be ready to go multiple times once the ALCS comes around. It would have been nice for this postseason to be not so pressure packed for Darvish, but that will not be the case. This team needs him and needs him bad.
Josh Hamilton Needs to Show Up
The Rangers do not need the April and May Josh Hamilton. They just need a consistent one that does not give away outs at the plate or in the field. He has been a complete mess recently and for a big portion of the season. Everyone is still talking about his misplayed ball against Oakland on Wednesday, but his defense has gotten worse throughout the season and his bat is not providing the production this lineup needs. You can expect guys like Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli to be ready for October, but Hamilton also has to be there. This team will not make it back to the World Series with a sleepwalking Hamilton. You may be fed up with Hamilton's antics and who isn't, but they need him as much as ever.
Adrian Beltre Has to Be Healthy
This is not saying that Beltre has to be 100% or even playing the field every game, but the more he is on the field, the better the Rangers are. He is the best third baseman in baseball and his presence in the field alone is a boost. Even if it is situation where he can play third for a game and then DH for a game, the Rangers need him in the field as much as possible, along with him being able to fully swing the bat. This truly is Beltre's team and the bigger presence he can have in games, the better.
The Bullpen Needs to Get Outs
This bullpen may not currently have Mike Adams and it may be missing Neftali Feliz, whom many believed would not have stayed in the rotation for the postseason, but this is still a loaded bullpen. Koji Uehara is throwing the bell better than ever, Joe Nathan is fully capable of slamming the door and there are plenty of other weapons. However guys like Robbie Ross and Alexi Ogando have to return to form. They have to come in the game and get batters out like they are capable of. This is one of the most talented bullpens in baseball, but they were incapable of holding many leads down the stretch. You can't do that in the postseason and even if everything else is going right, this team can' win without Uehara, Ogando, Ross, Scheppers and Nathan getting the outs they need to get.
The Fans Have To Dominate Rangers Ballpark in Arlington
After the Rangers' collapse during the 2011 World Series, many questioned how the fans would respond. There was a bit of negativity for awhile, but before the 2012 season began the Rangers had the most season ticket holders in the history for the franchise. Then during the season "The Ballpark" was sold out more times than ever and it was a single season record for attendance. Not to mention it was regularly one of the loudest ballparks in baseball. I really don't know if I heard more negativity after Game 6 or after Game 162 in Oakland, but many sound as if they are jumping ship. "The Ballpark" needs to once again be alive and provide that atmosphere that this team has grown to love. This team has been dead and a stadium that is alive might be one of the few things that can bring them back.
John Bowman is a lifelong baseball and Texas Rangers fan that loves to ponder the deeper aspects of the game. Some of his first baseball memories involve Arlington Stadium nachos, Charlie Hough's knuckleball, dirt on Pete Incaviglia's uniform and the voices of Mark Holtz and Eric Nadel as he fell asleep.
- Sports & Recreation
- Josh Hamilton
- Adrian Beltre
- Yu Darvish