Texas Rangers: Meandering Toward the AL West or Charging Toward AL Home-Field Advantage?
A) Despite Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Oakland A's they're playing well enough to maintain a comfy cushion in the American League West, holding a 7.5 games lead with only 51 games remaining.
B) They were held to two or fewer runs five times on an uninspiring 4-5 road trip, and a nail-biting collapse is imminent.
If you're in the B) crowd, move along. Nothing to see here. Bigger leads have been blown in lesser time, but with Cliff Lee on the mound and Josh Hamilton in the batter's box I think the Rangers are safe. It might get scary before it's over, but ...
If you're in the A) crowd, take a moment to dream big(ger). Just winning the AL West might not be grandiose enough.
The Rangers have a legit chance to do something they've never done in 39 seasons of baseball in Arlington: Earn home-field advantage in a playoff series.
In baseball the top two best records in each league play at home in the first round against the third division winner and the wild-card team. Right now the Rangers have the AL's second-best record, 5.5 games behind the New York Yankees but a game ahead of the Central-leading Chicago White Sox.
So while you're keeping up with the Angels and A's, keep the other on the White Sox and Twins. If Texas holds off the A's and finishes with a better record than the Central winner, it means more October baseball in Arlington.
The significance? The Rangers are 36-21 at Rangers Ballpark (only the Yankees are better at home in the AL). At home Texas hits .292; on the road .256.
So if you're in the A) gang, the Rangers need to play better down the stretch. Not just to win a division, but to potentially win their first-ever playoff series.