You’ll find it difficult to convince a Texas Rangers fan the fact the team’s turnaround happened in St. Louis was a coincidence. If there’s one thing the baseball world has learned since 2010 — the Rangers’ first trip to the World Series that ended disappointingly in St. Louis — this team has real fans and those fans recognize what took place in Texas’ three-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals on the road.
The Rangers have won six of their last seven games — all against division leaders — to drastically swing their season in late June and grab a one-game lead over the Oakland A’s, who the Rangers beat three times in four days last week. The kicker is the Rangers trailed in all three of those wins and in all three wins over the Cardinals, which is impressive in itself, but it’s especially meaningfully to Texas considering this team has been horrendous at brining home runners in scoring position in the month of June.
Of course, the loss of Ian Kinsler to injury in late May played a huge part in the Rangers’ hitting slump as a team, but the team has slowly returned to form since his return to the lineup and now Texas is a powerhouse in the batter’s box once again with No. 5 as the leadoff man. When asked about it and his struggles in particular during Kinsler’s absence, Elvis Andrus said the Rangers’ success is tied directly to his partner’s return. In addition, Rangers manager Ron Washington summed up the team’s situation as it relates to Kinsler perfectly:
“He’s the straw that stirs the drink.”
Truer words were never spoken.
Even going back to late last season, Rangers fans were debating who should be kept with a new long-term if only one could be retained: Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli or Kinsler. The case for Kinsler was simple: he’s a team player and he’s a true leader who leads by example with consistent play, especially in crunch time. Yours truly is proud to say that I advocated Kinsler be the one kept and I’m even happier to say that out of those three players previously listed, Kinsler is the only one still in Texas and he’ll be there through the 2018 MLB season.
The Rangers are now without a Texas-sized distraction and they have their unquestioned leader back. Let the race for October begin with Kinsler leading the way.