Jeff Banister has heard the jabs taken at his club. The talk of the Texas Rangers being more lucky than good, that their run differential says they’re winning more than they should.
In essence, the naysayers are claiming that the Rangers’ winning ways won’t continue in the postseason.
The manager emphatically dismissed that notion before Saturday night’s game against the Oakland Athletics, one in which the A’s knocked around Yu Darvish and cruised to an 11-2 victory at Globe Life Park.
“I hear all the talk about luck,” Banister said, before laying on the sarcasm. “All right, you got us. We’ve got 472 lucky charms out in that clubhouse with a couple different rabbit foots.”
It says something about the resolve and the resilience of our players, and then also the belief they have in each other.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister
The Rangers’ critics, if you will, cite raw numbers in their skepticism. Entering Saturday’s game, the Rangers were 13th in the majors in run differential at plus-20. They were sixth in the American League, behind even the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros, two AL West clubs the Rangers have left in the dust.
Critics also claim that their run of comeback wins — a major league-leading 45, including eight when trailing after eight innings and a franchise-record nine when trailing in the ninth inning or later — is more luck than skill.
And don’t get them started on the Rangers’ one-run wins. Oh, boy.
The Rangers have won an astounding 34 of 44 one-run games, the most in the majors and the best winning percentage (.773) in one-run games in modern baseball, according to Sporting News. In fact, you have to go back to the 1890 Brooklyn Bridegrooms, who were 14-4 in one-run games for a .778 winning percentage.
Rangers players react to the slights with a shrug and a smile. They don’t care if it’s luck, skill, divine intervention or the baseball gods finally smiling down on Globe Life Park, where, incidentally, the Rangers have the best home record in the AL and are just four wins shy of matching a franchise-best 52 home wins (2011 and 1978).
The Rangers lead the majors with 45 comeback wins, including a franchise-best nine wins when trailing in the ninth inning or later.
“We just don’t ever think that we’re out of it. I feel like if we’re down by one run, we’re probably going to win the game,” said right-hander Colby Lewis, who starts Sunday’s finale against the A’s. “It’s just fun to watch, fun to see all these guys bouncing around, having a good time, and never really putting that extra pressure on themselves.”
Banister chalks it up to clubhouse chemistry, team mentality and, above all, talent.
“The reality is we have some skilled players who are talented and who go out and play to win the baseball game, and they don’t stop playing,” he said. “We have to tell them to stop playing at the end of the night.”
There’s no denying the potency of the Rangers’ lineup when it’s running at full capacity.
Texas is seventh in the majors in batting average (.264), fifth in runs scored (715), third in RBIs (697), 10th in stolen bases (88), fifth in slugging percentage (.437) and seventh in OPS (.761).
34 Wins in 44 one-run games this season for the Rangers. That leads the majors with a .773 winning percentage, the best since 1890.
“I think it says a lot about the different elements in our game and our players,” Banister said. “Being able to play good defense, [get] some timely hitting, run the bases well. I also think it says something about the resolve and the resilience of our players, and then also the belief they have in each other. But you’ve got to have the skill set, too.”
Lewis, who was with the Rangers during their recent playoff runs, including their two World Series appearances, said the current club compares favorably.
“Our lineup is pretty similar to the lineups in ’10 and ’11 where you’ve got, like, 70 percent of our lineup all has 20-plus homers,” he said. “You’re never out of the ballgame. It instills a lot of confidence in the pitching staff and the relievers to go out there and just pound the strike zone because you know we’re going to score runs. I mean, you’ve seen it.
“I don’t know how many seventh inning-or-later wins that we have this year, but that, to me, kinda proves that as a staff we’ve done a decent job of keeping us in ballgames, keeping us close enough where we’ve been able to make those pushes late in the game.”
The skeptics have correctly pointed to the Rangers’ inconsistent pitching. Both the starters and relievers have taken turns struggling. While the starting rotation has, at times, been the backbone of the club, that’s not the case at the moment.
Darvish was knocked around for a career-high-tying seven runs on seven hits, including a three-run homer in the fifth by Marcus Semien that put Oakland up 7-0. Cole Hamels’ three worst starts have come in his past four outings. Darvish has struggled in two of his past three.
Rangers’ relievers have an AL-high 4.73 ERA, but much of that damage was allowed by pitchers no longer on the team.
Banister, when told of the franchise record for late-inning comeback wins, dismissed luck playing a role.
More important, he said, was winning the next game and clinching the AL West as soon as possible.
“I’m sure at some point when all of this is done, as a manager maybe I’ll look back at it and kind of admire it,” Banister said. “Right now, what I’m focused on is how we’re going to win a baseball game today. You know what club record I’m worried about.”
He didn’t say it, but World Series was understood.
“That’s what we’re here to play for, the opportunity to play for that and win it,” he said. “Look, we’ve got to get there. We’ve got some games to play. That’s why today’s win means as much as any other win we’ve had this year.”
Luck, or no luck.
Rangers vs. Athletics
2:05 p.m. Sunday, FSSW