For as big and bad as the 2019 Houston Astros are, they showed some compassion toward the Texas Rangers this season by not eliminating them from the American League West race until Sept. 4.
That’s still early to eliminate the third-place team, but the Astros tapped the brakes some with a five-game losing streak during an impressive 19-9 August.
The Rangers weren’t eliminated from the wild-card race until the Oakland A’s beat them Friday and allowed them to officially begin planning for 2020.
Of course, the Rangers have been looking ahead since an eight-game slide in July spoiled a surprising first-half run into wild-card contention. Players hit the trading block ahead of the July 31 deadline, and four players arrived from the minors Aug. 2.
The expectation is that the Rangers will pursue a third baseman (Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson) and a starting pitcher (Zack Wheeler, Tanner Roark) this off-season. They could also look at a first baseman, say Jose Abreu, and those leery of 200 more Jeff Mathis at-bats are hoping the Rangers take a run at Yasami Grandal.
A closer, though, is not at the top of the shopping list. It might not be on it at all.
“I think early in the season we might not have said that,” manager Chris Woodward said Tuesday.
That’s how far Jose Leclerc has come. He has saved his season and his job.
“He’s had a hell of a season,” Woodward said.
Leclerc tossed a scoreless eighth inning in the Rangers’ 4-1 loss to the Houston Astros, who connected for three solo homers off Lance Lynn. The offense was shut down by Justin Verlander, the Cy Young favorite who tossed six scoreless innings.
Now, consider this about Leclerc: He had an 8.44 ERA after blowing a save April 30. Opponents were hitting .318 against him and had a 1.055 OPS, albeit in only 10 2/3 innings over 13 appearances.