As the Los Angeles Angels ran away with the division, Texas finished second in the AL West at 79-83. It was far from good enough, and the team needed a big turnaround in 2009 to keep hope afloat.
And turn it around, they did. This year, the Rangers are still in second place in the AL West, but this time, they are 15 games over .500 at 65-50. For the past month, they’ve been jockeying for position with the Red Sox in the wild card standings. Even though Josh Hamilton, last year’s hero, has struggled through the first two-thirds of the season, Ian Kinsler and Michael Young have sustained a powerful offense.
So what changed to turn everything around in 2009?
“I think pitching and defense is the basic thing,” Young told NESN’s Heidi Watney on Sunday’s edition of Red Sox Pregame. “We’ve always been able to hit here, but pitching and defense have by far been the most consistent part of our game.”
Another reason for Texas’ big improvement? Its home record. At Rangers Ballpark, Young & Co. are 38-22, while on the road, they are 27-28. Young is hitting .349 at home with 10 homers and 32 RBIs, and he said that a consistent and comfortable approach helps him produce on his own turf.
“I think any hitter should take advantage of the home ballpark,” he said. “Staying at home and [getting] in a routine — I get to the park around the same time, I do the same things to prepare, no surprises — I think
any player, pitcher or hitter, should take advantage of their home ballpark.”
Young has certainly taken advantage against the Red Sox this year: He’s hitting .381 with three homers and five RBIs in nine games. If the rest of his troops can play like that against Boston, Young and the Rangers might have a good shot at seizing the lead in the wild card race — but Young knows he needs to focus on the things he can control.
“We know the wild card is really unpredictable,” he said. “I think we’re trying to take the same approach we’ve had for a while…. We’re trying to make sure we just keep our heads on an even keel.”
You can watch Heidi’s full interview with Young here: