Rangers back with the bats as they face Yanks
Sandoval to rejoin Giants, perhaps to play first base; Tigers glad to be done with Texas
Texas: So much for all that teeth-gnashing about the demise of the Rangers. A team that scored an American League-low 81 runs during July has been robust in August. The Rangers open a three-game series against the Yankees on Monday night having won eight of 11 games. They have expanded their lead from three games to a best-in-baseball 6 1/2 games over upstart Oakland. And they have scored a best-in-baseball 71 runs since Aug. 1, thanks in no small part to a resurgent Josh Hamilton.
Hamilton's 15 August RBIs are the second most by an AL player this month and four more than his total for the month of July. Now Texas visits Yankee Stadium for a four-game series. The Rangers and Yankees are jockeying for the best record in the AL. Why? The best record gets to play the team that advances from the one-game Wild Card playoff, which should be an advantage because of the demands of that one-game loser-go-home matchup.
San Francisco: Despite having won only five of their last 15 at AT&T Park, the Giants still have the National League's third-best home-field record, and with Washington arriving on Monday, San Francisco is primed to get an offensive boost with Pablo Sandoval expected to come off the disabled list.
Manager Bruce Bochy hinted during the weekend that Sandoval could wind up with playing time at first base, although third base is his primary position. And from a team standpoint, that makes the most sense. During Sandoval's absence, the Giants picked up Marco Scutaro, whose arm strength was an issue while he was playing shortstop and second base for Colorado but has flourished at third base with San Francisco. Besides, first base has been the biggest black hole on the Giants this season. The five players San Francisco has tried there have combined to hit only .265 with eight home runs and 52 RBIs.
Cincinnati: The Reds have put the angst of August behind them. They rebounded from a five-game losing streak, which included being swept by the Brewers, with three consecutive wins over the Cubs, and the future is promising. With the arrival of the Mets at Great America Ball Park for a three-game visit beginning Tuesday, Cincinnati looking at a 26-game stretch in which only six games will be played against teams with winning records -- St. Louis and Arizona. The Reds are headed into a stretch in which they have four games at home with the Cubs, seven games against Philadelphia and six with Houston. Big deal? Well, the Reds are 37-15 against NL teams with losing records.
Pittsburgh: In late July of last year, the Pirates saw a gut-wrenching, controversial, 19-inning loss at Atlanta send them into a tailspin during which their hopes of claiming their first winning season since 1992 was wiped out. Tied for the NL Central lead prior to that game, the Bucs went on a season-ending 19-43 freefall that left them 24 games out of first place.
The Pirates got off to a strong start again this year, although the cloud of last year's crash lingered over the franchise. The Bucs took a swipe at erasing that nightmare last weekend. Having lost three in a row and on the verge of being swept by the Padres, of all teams, the Pirates, who share baseball's best home record at 36-20, reclaimed their home turf in style. Clint Barmes, whose error set up a four-run first inning for San Diego, delivered a grand slam to key a nine-run Pirates fourth, wiping out a 5-0 deficit and sending Pittsburgh on its way to an 11-5 victory.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: After making a mini-run at being a postseason factor, the Angels have settled back into the disappointment that has hung over their season despite their major offseason additions of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson and their Trade Deadline, head-shaking addition of Zack Greinke.
After losing two of three at Seattle during the weekend, the Angels are closer to the last-place Mariners (7 1/2 games) than they are to the AL West-leading Rangers (eight games). Three games out on the morning of Aug. 1, the Halos have lost eight of 11 since. The bullpen is 2-5 in that stretch, but the real concern is that the Angels have only one win in the past eight starts of Wilson, who is 0-4 with a 5.77 ERA in that stretch, and are 0-3 in the starts by Greinke, who is 0-1 with a 5.68 ERA.
Detroit: The Tigers can celebrate. Not because they are getting a shot at the last-place Twins this week, but they have only nine games remaining against AL West teams, and are still very much alive in the AL Central and Wild Card races.
After losing two of three in Texas, leaving them 3-7 against the Rangers this year, the Tigers can look ahead without their vision too blurred by their personal nightmare -- the AL West. They have home-and-home series remaining with the Angels and a three-game visit to Oakland. But they are finished with the Rangers and Mariners. They went 1-5 against Seattle, which underscores their 9-15 record against the AL West. By contrast, the White Sox, who have a two-game lead on the Tigers in the AL Central, are 17-9 against the AL West.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.