Halfway home: 2nd-half schedule stiffens

Last season, the Rangers started the second half with a four-game sweep of the Seattle Mariners, turning what was a one-game lead in the AL West into a five-game lead after a win in the opening game of the series with the Los Angeles Angels. The lead ended up slipping back to one game, but the Rangers never lost that AL West cushion in part because they got a nice boost to start the second half.

Manager Ron Washington is hoping for a similar run this season, with the second half starting once again in Seattle.

“I’m looking for us to come out (of) the blocks hard, coming out of the blocks in our division,” Washington said. “We better. We certainly showed what we are made of the last two games.”

The Rangers ended the first half with two walk-off wins against the Minnesota Twins and carried that over into a 3-2 victory in Seattle on Friday night. That, coupled with a Yankees comeback win against the Angels, pushed the Rangers to a five-game advantage. Outside of the New York Yankees’ huge lead in the AL East, it’s the largest lead in the league.

But the schedule stiffens in the second half. Texas plays the AL West to start the second half on the road with three in Seattle, two in Oakland and three in Anaheim. Then two teams with playoff hopes in Boston (just 2 ½ games behind in the Wild Card) and the White Sox (tops in the AL Central) come to Arlington, along with the Angels, who are still hoping to catch the Rangers or claim a wild card spot for themselves.

Overall, it’s a tougher schedule this half with 13 games against the Angels, six against the Red Sox, four in New York vs. the Yankees and a slew of games with teams vying for playoff spots. In fact, of the Rangers’ 24 series, 18 of them are against teams that are .500 or better heading into the second half.

“It’s tough,” Washington said. “I never looked at the schedule and thought it was going to be easy. It is what it is. We’ve got Seattle coming out, Oakland and Anaheim. We’re going to go play.”

Oakland ended the first half well, signaling they could be a tougher opponent the second half than previously thought. Still, the AL West appears to be a two-team race.

“Oakland is tough. I certainly never counted them out,” Washington said. “Seattle might have put themselves in a position numbers-wise, but they’ve got three teams to jump to get to the top. I guess when you look at way Oakland has been playing and the way Anaheim has been playing, certainly don’t take anything for granted.

“Every team in our division has a chance except Seattle because they’ve got to jump three teams. I don’t think all three teams are going to fall apart.”