Any thoughts of contention for the Texas Rangers are long gone. After an 18-18 start, the Rangers have gone 12-30. The team is now 18 games under .500 and 17 1/2 games back of first place in the American League West.
But as the midway point of the season approaches this week, the Rangers — who own the fourth-worst record in baseball — are just one game under .500 at home with a mark of 20-21. At home, the Rangers boast series wins over the Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox (four-game series), Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros (three-game sweep), and Kansas City Royals (three-game sweep).
The road has been an entirely different story for the 2021 Texas Rangers. As they begin a six-game road trip in Oakland on Tuesday night, the Rangers carry a 10-27 road record with them, which includes a franchise record 16-game losing streak away from Arlington.
“I don’t think it’s a special recipe, like there’s something we’re missing,” said Rangers manager Chris Woodward after Sunday’s win over Kansas City. “We’ve just gotta play better baseball.”
The Rangers were finally able to snap that dreadful losing streak with a well-played series in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. Prior to that, Chris Woodward noticed tangible changes in his team when they were on the road, especially while the team was losing game after game. Players were pressing too much, abandoning the processes that made them a much more competitive team earlier in the season.
A 10-game homestand was just what the doctor ordered in order to stop the bleeding as losses were stacking up, and the Rangers responded with a 5-5 record. Though the homestand got off to a rough start as the Rangers were swept by the Twins, Texas responded with a split of a four-game series with the A’s and a three-game sweep of the Royals.
With momentum on their side, the Rangers just want to do something they haven’t been able to do for quite some time: Be the same team on the road as they are at home.
“We’re focused on what we can control,” Woodward said. “That’s the biggest thing. Not let things snowball on us at times. If we don’t score in the first couple innings, let’s not start panicking. Let’s just stick to what we do in our processes. Prepare the best way we can. Come out and attack. Play with a fearless mentality. That’s something that we preach all the time on the road.”
That’s how the team played when the Rangers were a .500 team earlier this season — even on the road. Believe it or not, the Rangers were 9-8 in their first 17 road games this season. But the 1-19 record since coincides with the decline of several players on the roster. Growing pains were expected with a team as young as the Rangers, and the mental hurdles are typically the hardest for any young player to overcome.
This season, the road has been the most daunting mental hurdle of them all.
“Some of these places, it’s not like that there’s hostile environments or anything like that,” Woodward said. “We’ve just gotta get these guys to feel as comfortable as they do here.”
Just as the Rangers’ performance on the road suffered as the team collectively struggled, the Rangers hope they can capitalize on good form. Since Major League Baseball began enforcing its crackdown on pitchers using foreign substances, the Rangers have gone 5-2, scoring 41 runs in the process.
While Chris Woodward believes the changes have played a role in the recent offensive explosion, he also believes several players on his team are turning a corner on some of the physical and mental adjustments they’ve made, specifically naming Nate Lowe, who has reached base in 13 straight games while posting a massive 1.013 OPS, and a red hot Joey Gallo, who has a .994 OPS in the month of June.
Now comes the true test. The road has been this team’s most formidable foe this season. If the Rangers sustain their level of play in Oakland and Seattle this week, it’s a tangible sign of growth, and more proof that this past week wasn’t just another instance of some good ol’ Texas home cooking.
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