A runner has a specific strategy in each race he or she competes in, regardless of the competition or age level. The epicenter of that strategy is always “the kick”. Timing “the kick” just right is usually the difference in winning or losing. This tactic is simply when the runner will choose to sprint near the end of a race and pull away from the pack. This “kick” requires training and practice to find the perfect time for that runner to maximize the opportunities in order to finish near the top. The Texas Rangers have also specialized in a “kick” of their own the past two seasons and I believe we are witnessing that strategy being employed right now in 2012.
In 2010, the Rangers entered June with a 27-24 record and tied for first with the pesky Oakland Athletics. The Angels were only 2.5 games back with a record of 26-28 and the Mariners were showing up every game with 9 players on the field. During June the Rangers went 21-6 that included an 11 game winning streak from June 12 until June 24th. When the dust had settled and July appeared, the Rangers had built a comfortable 3.5 game lead and never really looked back. A lot of the division championship that year had to do with their June run, but you also have to give a lot of credit to the fact that the AL West just wasn’t very good. Despite that fact, the Rangers punched the rest of the division in the face during the month of June and no other team seemed to recover and the rest of the 2010 story is history.
Fast forward to 2011. The lead in the AL West belonged to the Rangers for 151 of the 162 games played. But, the race was much closer than that number seems to indicate. It was a heated division between the Rangers and Angels for much of the summer. The lead hovered between .5 games and 7 (a slim 2 game lead over LAA on August 27th in fact) for much of the year until September. When September began the lead was 3.5 games and there was still a lot of doubt about whether the Rangers had this thing wrapped up or not. But, the Rangers saved their “kick” for just the right time and went 19-6 in the month and won the division by a laughable 10 games. All fans who followed the team last year knows that this 10 game lead never felt like a sure thing until September, but we have come to expect this team to pull away at some point in recent years and the current season being no exception.
So far this season, the Rangers have lived up to the pre-season expectations that they would be one of the best teams in all of baseball. They started out hot and appeared to have pulled away by the end of June, but as all things do in the great game things evened out and the rest of the division caught up to them and made things interesting. The Rangers have basically led this thing from the get go and it never felt like that would change-until July. During the month of July they delivered a putrid 9-14 record and saw a 6.5 game lead on June 30th shrink to 3 by month’s end. They had been exposed and questions about this teams chances of making a 3rd consecutive run to the World Series was in serious jeopardy until our good friend August arrived. This month hasn’t ended and I realize there is a lot of baseball left, but thus far the Rangers are 18-9 during the month and just finished a 10 game home stand with a 7-3 record. With a handful of games left in August and an entire month remaining, will we look back at this stretch as the point in the season the Rangers “kicked” and pulled away from the division? Only time will tell, but recent history has shown that when this team gets hot and starts winning games, they do so in bunches and their talent cannot be matched by anyone in baseball.