It’s the season’s final third, a new trading season with new rules, and, for Texas, a huge opportunity.
The Giants for two more.
Houston in for three.
Seattle away for three, and then three in Minnesota to face the Twins, who currently hold the second Wild Card spot that the Rangers are three games short of.
The Rays (virtually tied with Texas) here for three, then four in Detroit (currently half a game behind the Rangers), after which Texas hosts Toronto and Baltimore — each two games ahead of the Rangers in the Wild Card chase — for three each, getting us to August 30.
Texas plays 28 games in August.
Seventeen are at home.
That’s a massive opportunity, especially if the club has regained a little Castle Doctrine edge. (The Rangers still have baseball’s fewest home wins . . . and most road wins.)
The bullpen now has Jake Diekman and Sam Dyson, and the rotation should have Derek Holland soon.
And will have Cole Hamels tonight.
Facing Giants righthander Chris Heston.
The last time a game featured a pair of starting pitchers who’d thrown no-hitters earlier that same season was 2010, when Arizona’s Edwin Jackson faced Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay on July 28, and Tampa Bay’s Matt Garza faced Oakland’s Dallas Braden on August 22.
Hamels, who watched Halladay beat the Diamondbacks, 7-1, a day after his own start against that same club (in which he’d entrusted a 4-3 lead to the Phillies bullpen, only to see it squandered), was in his fifth year as a big league starting pitcher.
Chris Heston, San Francisco’s starter tonight, was in his first full pro season, in the midst of what would be a 5-13, 3.75 campaign for Low A Augusta.
Since that day when Hamels watched Halladay and Jackson face off, he’s twice been on a Phillies club that finished with baseball’s top regular-season record.
In 2010, the Phillies won an MLB-best 97 games. And then were eliminated in the NLCS by the Giants, who went on to face Texas in the World Series.
In 2011, the Phillies won an MLB-best 102 games. And then were eliminated in the NLDS by the Wild Card Cardinals, who went on to face Texas in the World Series.
Cole Hamels was on baseball’s best team, at least by one measure, in 2010 and again in 2011, and, after going 2-1, 0.86 in those two post-seasons, with 25 strikeouts and three unintentional walks in 21 innings, sat at home watching the Rangers play in the World Series. Twice.
Yesterday he told Rangers reporters: “This team is great, and I’m excited to be a part of it. That’s all I want to do, to be a part of it with these guys and help them continue to win and get to the post-season and go from there. I think that’s all I’m going to try to do tomorrow and the next couple days and every five days. That’s what I do.”
On Friday he attended a presser in Philadelphia and a presser in Texas and, in between, joined his new teammates outside the dugout, first to stand up to whatever it was that a struggling Madison Bumgarner was whining about and then to line up for handshakes, after a third straight Rangers win over a team holding down a playoff position.
Tonight Hamels shoots to make it four straight.
There’s a huge opportunity here, not just in seven hours but over the next two months as well.
Having a newfound edge at home, and having Cole Hamels and a fortified bullpen in place, not to mention another frontline starter nearing his own return and a chance to grab a right-handed bat this month, could make things very interesting, as Hamels and his new teammates look to continue to win, and get to the post-season, and go from there.