When Nelson Cruz wakes up this morning in Surprise, a 33-year-old getting ready to hit in a group of teenagers that might include Rougned Odor, Joey Gallo, Travis Demeritte, and Juremi Profar, taking live BP against Chi-Chi Gonzalez or Alec Asher or Marcos Diplan, a thousand miles west of his nuclear baseball family while surrounded by 77 Texas Rangers ballplayers a generation younger, he'll probably have the same first thought of the day he's had every day for a while now, wondering if his Rangers career is over, or if there will be another chance, whether in October or in 2014, wondering -- like me and you -- who is going to step up these final two and a half weeks to make sure the 2013 season moves past 162, so he can contribute something again this year, in the calendar month that so far has defined his career.
Will it be Adrian Beltre, whose baseball team this is, who after a monster July (.369/.414/.670) and equally torrid August (.381/.479/.577) is flicking at a .205/.279/.231 rate in September?
Will it continue to be Alex Rios, who in September is hitting a Beltre-like .378/.439/.703?
Will it be Elvis Andrus, whose July (.690 OPS) was his best month of the season after a miserable offensive first half, until he was better in August (.747 OPS), and who's off to an even better September (.931 OPS)?
Will it be Leonys Martin, whose All-Star-level plate work in May and June (.307/.355/.486) has been replaced by a second-half struggle (.238/.300/.326)?
Will it be Juremi's big brother Jurickson? Mike Trout hit .213/.277/.366 in his first 159 big league plate appearances, and no, Jurickson Profar (along with everyone else in baseball) is no Mike Trout, and Profar has been encumbered with inconsistent playing time and the less-than-ideal schedule of varied defensive assignments, but in 329 big league plate appearances he's a .233/.303/.339 hitter. Now would be a great time for him to introduce us to another level. Time for a tear.
The difference between Trout and Profar is no more pronounced than the difference between Cliff Lee and Matt Garza, so keep that in mind when I point out that Lee went 4-6, 3.98 in 15 regular-season starts (team record of 6-9) after Texas traded for the rental lefthander in 2010, recording 21.7 outs per start and fanning 8.0 hitters per nine innings, while Garza has gone 3-4, 4.46 in 10 starts (team record of 6-4) since Texas traded for the rental righthander in July, recording 20 outs per start and fanning 8.5 hitters per nine innings.
Again, Matt Garza is no Cliff Lee and isn't even in the same zip code. But maybe his best baseball for this club is ahead of him.
Will it be Garza?
Will it be Yu Darvish? (That's sort of a silly premise, since we'd already be saying he's stepped it up all season if his teammates were scoring a couple more times a game for him.)
Will it be the starting rotation as a whole, which had been so good all season but is 1-8, 5.26 as a unit in September, allowing opponents to hit .311/.374/.502?
Will it be A.J. Pierzynski, whose September 2005 (.229/.289/.325) and September 2008 (.224/.258/.306) were his worst months in what were his last two playoff seasons?
Will it be David Murphy, a career beast in August (.298/.356/.489) and September (.306/.362/.489) who hasn't done a thing since May this year, hitting .216/.287/.357 in that span? Can he step it up over these final 18 September games, helping his team reach the post-season and helping himself as he nears free agency?
Will it be Mitch Moreland (.288/.338/.561 vs. .188/.270/.356) or Jeff Baker (.317/.391/.695 vs. .241/.318/.397), who were fantastic before fluky June injuries and have been so disappointing since?
It's going to be Ian Kinsler.
Ian Kinsler is going to bring it, starting this weekend against the Oakland A's.
It's Ian Kinsler.