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  1. Rays

After a dreadful road trip, there may actually be some good news headed the Rangers' way

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 07:  Adrian Beltre #29 of the Texas Rangers reacts after a strike in the ninth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays in game two of the American League Divison Series at Globe Life Park in Arlington on October 7, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) 674215033
ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 07: Adrian Beltre #29 of the Texas Rangers reacts after a strike in the ninth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays in game two of the American League Divison Series at Globe Life Park in Arlington on October 7, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) 674215033
Published May 29, 2017

TORONTO — Over the next 10 days, the Rangers should welcome Adrian Beltre back to the lineup. They should fortify the rotation with Tyson Ross by the weekend, which may allow them to slide Nick Martinez into a long relief role that would help them solidify the bullpen. They will play eight games at home, starting with three against the Rays, with a couple of off days in between. It should be quite therapeutic.

And maybe, just maybe, they will figure out what is troubling them on the road. They will have to if they intend to force their way from 10 games back into the AL West race and perhaps to just stave off the possibility of being trading deadline "sellers."

On Sunday, the Rangers beat the Blue Jays 3-1 despite wasting run-scoring opportunities again. Jonathan Lucroy, the hottest hitter in the lineup right now, delivered a run-scoring single for their only hit in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position. Joey Gallo, as he is prone to do, connected with a big swing for a bases-empty homer. A run scored on a wild pitch. And Andrew Cashner worked efficiently to get Toronto to put the ball in play and on the ground.

It was a good way to finish a lousy road trip during which they lost five straight and six of nine, tied a major-league record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game and lost 21/2 games in the AL West standings. They are 9-18 on the road this year. And their next two months involve a lot of traveling, none of which constitutes a summer vacation.

"We've got a little momentum and hopefully something good to look forward to," manager Jeff Banister said of returning home before being asked about the road issues. "It's about winning games. It's about continuing to play good baseball. The nightly accomplishment is that: the ingredients of playing good baseball, defense, offense, starting pitching, bullpen."

The first step is the return of Beltre from a calf injury that has kept him out of the lineup all year. His presence will change the dynamic of the batting order. It may also help calm what has appeared to be a jittery, over-anxious team. Beltre will work this afternoon then could be activated for the night game against Tampa Bay. Ross will make a rehab start tonight for Triple-A Round Rock and could join the rotation by Saturday.

They need them. It's Memorial Day and the Rangers already face long odds for a third straight AL West title. They began play Sunday 10 games back of Houston in the division. Even in the horrid start to 2015, they were never more than 91/2 games back. Since the start of divisional play in 1969, only 11 teams have come back from deficits as big as 10 games to capture their division. Those that did make the comeback, expended most of their energy in doing so. Only twice have such teams reached the World Series: the 1973 Cincinnati Reds and the 1978 New York Yankees.

They can't do it at home alone. The path to the trade deadline when a club loaded with potential free agents may have to make a decision about its direction is chock full of road games. Between today and July 24, the start of the final week leading up to the deadline, the Rangers play 26 games on the road to 21 at home. The majority of the road games — 14 — are against teams that begin the week with winning records. The Rangers are 2-11 against teams that currently have winning records.

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"We've just got to play better overall," Lucroy said. "The trip started pretty good, but we didn't play well in Boston and the first two games here, we didn't play well. We've got to keep grinding. We have to be more consistent. We've got some guys coming. We've got some power coming and some arms coming, so it's looking up. We've just got to continue to improve."

There is a long way to go.

But they are coming home, about to get reinforcements and maybe the next time they pack up for the road, they will be a completely different team.

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