This is the first season in Major League Baseball’s modern era in which all teams play each other. It’s time, really, for an easy way to boost the national appeal of this region-scarring sport. However, some of the matches still seem a little strange.
Consider the Mets’ current home, with series against the Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers, and Seattle Mariners. Sure, the Mets gave up the pennant race a month ago, but the American League West version thrives in Flushing.
“Those dog days are over,” said Rangers manager Bruce Bochy, who watched a race or two. “You’re looking at just over 30 matches.”
The Rangers spent 140 days with at least a share of first place until Sunday, when they lost for the ninth time in 10 matches. The Mariners, baseball’s hottest team since the start of July, have edged past Texas at the top of the division, with the defending champion Houston Astros closing in from behind.
“We’ve been in first place for months – it’s good that this happened, what happened to us,” said Martin Perez, who beat the Mets Monday in a 4-3 Texas win. “You look down and you have to go up again.”
Even before this week, of course, the Mets had done their part to sway the AL West standings, sending Max Scherzer to the Rangers and Justin Verlander to the Astros before the August 1 trade deadline. Both have thrived in their first five starts, compiling a 7-2 record with a 2.72 earned run average.
The Mets will never play the Astros again, but they welcomed Scherzer back on Monday with a video tribute. Scherzer, who smiled at the scoreboard camera after the game, did his work for the Mets, but he never expected to leave the job half done. He was 20-9 years old with the team and signed through 2024.
“We’ve settled down here,” Scherzer said before batting practice Monday. “We thought we had a great organization. It was like ‘making sure we try to win in 2024’ and that’s what I was really trying to use the no-trade clause for.”
Scherzer reiterated that he waived the clause because the Mets insisted on curtailing their ambitions in the short term. He said he appreciated this honesty from owner Stephen A. Cohen and general manager Billy Eppler, who acquired their top prospect, Luisangel Acuña, from Texas in the trade.
But again, there is nothing stopping Cohen from converting. Would anyone be shocked if the market for starting pitchers caught on this winter, with Aaron Nola, Blake Snell and Julio Urias all available in free agency? More importantly, would Scherzer be surprised?
He said, “I don’t know.” “I wouldn’t speculate about it.”
In any case, Scherzer moved further, trying to do with the Texans what he had done with the Washington Nationals: win the first World Series title in franchise history. The Rangers have lost twice — to Bochie’s San Francisco Giants in 2010 and to the St. Louis Cardinals the following fall — and have invested heavily since they fell to 102 losses in 2021.
Midfielders Corey Seeger and Marcus Semin signed for a total of $500 million prior to last season. Both were great. And when the free-agent prizes took a hit last December – Jacob DeGrum had Tommy John surgery in June and Nathan Iovaldi missed six weeks with a forearm strain – Rangers were traded for Scherzer and Jordan Montgomery.
“To see the commitment – the first off-season for the batters and the second off-season for the weapons – it’s really promising as a player in my shoes to be part of the bad team and now to be part of the good team,” he said. First baseman Nathaniel Lowe, whose two-run single in the ninth made the difference for Texas on Monday.
“They are committed, both money and effort, to meeting organizational needs. Some organizations may wait or fly within budget or have certain limits on what they think they can get from the group, but there seems to be no ceiling for this group.
Scherzer felt the same way shortly after his trade from the Mets. But the wobbly bullpen and the hitters’ recent struggles with runners for scoring position have tested the Rangers.
“I was traded and thought I had never seen a team higher than the high caliber,” Scherzer said. “We won eight games in a row, we were really outpacing the others, and then all of a sudden, we were on eight straight, and we were being beaten. And that’s just baseball, you never get as high as you think, and you never go as low as you think. Now we’re at a point where It’s like, “Okay, let’s see who we really are.”
The schedule will soon be normalized for the Rangers, who only play AL teams in September and will face the Mariners seven times in their last 10 games. Until then, the Rangers will be hoping for wins like Monday’s, their first win all season despite trailing after eight innings.
In fact, as Boshi suggested, things could be much worse. At 74-57, the Rangers have already won more games than they did in the entirety of last season — and they still have two more games to play against the fading Mets.
“You look at where we are this year and you look at what the club was like last year, which one would you like?” Bushi said. “So you have to enjoy this. And that’s what we play for.”
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