The Texas Rangers won two out of three with the Kansas City Royals, a series that ended on Wednesday. Here are three takeaways from the series.
Next Up for Leadoff
For a while, it seemed like Eli White might be the answer at the top of the batting order. For a while, it was Marcus Semien. That was never meant to be permanent, but it certainly helped jog Semien out of the doldrums of April and May.
Now up? Josh H. Smith.
The rookie is making more appearances at the top of the order since he returned from the injured list on June 21. He’s hitting .258 as the Rangers head to New York to face the Mets.
What makes Smith intriguing at the top of the order is his speed, which was exactly what made White intriguing at that spot. The issue, at least with White, is that he was hitting .200 when he got hurt.
Smith is hitting much better, but the sample size is much smaller. He has just 31 at-bats.
Last week, we watched Smith score from first on a weak single to right field. His wheels are something else.
Plus, he just tied the Rangers record for most games reaching base to start a career — 11, tying Nick Solak. The streak ended on Wednesday.
But the key to being a consistent leadoff hitter is getting on base, however possible. For now, Smith gets the chance to prove that he can be that hitter. And, if he can be, that makes the Rangers offense — which has been quite inconsistent all year — all the better.
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Martín Pérez, All-Star
Each team gets at least one player named to the All-Star Team. It’s a Major League mandate. If the Rangers only get one, it had to be Martín Pérez, right?
Pérez is 6-2 with a 2.22 ERA entering his scheduled start on Saturday at New York. His six wins puts him in the top 10 among AL pitchers. His ERA is now fourth in the AL. His quality starts (11) are third in the AL. He’s fourth in the AL in innings pitched (93 1/3). His 77 strikeouts is in the top 20 in the AL.
Pérez probably has two or three more starts ahead of him before the team is selected. While both Adolis García and Jonah Heim are certainly worthy of consideration, Pérez is the player that has to get the nod, if it only comes down to one player.
When are the Rangers Wild Card material?
At what point do the Rangers say they’re truly a Wild Card contender? And how invested should they get in making a run that would be a year ahead of schedule?
The Rangers are well behind the Astros in the AL West. But when it comes to the Wild Card race, they’ve been in striking distance for about a month. Texas has been anywhere from four to six games back of that final Wild Card spot during that time. The only thing that has really stood in Texas’ way is getting on a hot streak.
The Rangers finished June with a 12-14 record after going 17-10 in May. Texas probably has to show by the All-Star Break that it has a team capable of being augmented enough via trade to make a run without tampering with the organization’s future. The Rangers shouldn’t push all their chips to the table — as they did a year ago in the Joey Gallo trade — to try and make a run at a Wild Card berth that might never materialize.
The fact that Texas is competitive this season is a positive step. Nudging toward a Wild Card berth with what the Rangers currently have is plenty to energize the fan base. But the organization should be looking for opportunities to continue the building process without sacrificing the future.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard