For their biggest game of the season so far, the Texas Rangers trotted out Jim Adduci at first base, Joey Butler in left field and Martin Perez on the mound.
That Round Rock Express-friendly lineup might have worked against the Iowa Cubs or the Nashville Sounds. But Sunday wasn’t the Pacific Coast League; it was the Rangers’ last chance to stop a runaway train — the Oakland Athletics.
Predictably, Oakland won 5-1 for the series sweep, and Texas, in full retreat mode for the second straight September, slunk off to Tampa Bay to begin the next big series.
The Rangers outwardly talk as if they still have a chance in the American League West. Forget it, boys. That ship has sailed. They’re not overcoming a 6½-game deficit with 14 to play entering Monday night.
The good folks at Baseball Prospectus calculate Texas has a 0.6 percent chance to win the division.
Even wild-card odds are getting dicey. Calculating the remaining schedules of contenders, the website coolstandings.com gives the Rangers a 56.7 percent chance of earning one of the two bids. Baseball Prospectus is a tad kinder, at 60.2 percent.
Cleveland, way below the national radar, now has better odds than Texas or Tampa Bay. The Indians, thanks to a soft closing schedule, have a 69.9 percent shot, according to coolstandings.com. The Yankees, Orioles and Royals are long shots.
Texas can’t win if it can’t score. The Rangers, averaging 3.1 runs over the past 15 games with a 3-12 record, are ninth in the league in scoring and 10th in on-base percentage.
In sheer desperation, manager Ron Washington is turning to September call-ups like Adduci and Butler. Adduci is batting .412, Butler .500 in limited time.
“I’ll ride the hot hand with Adduci against right-handers, and I’ll certainly use Butler against lefties,” Washington told the media.
Adduci, 28, and Butler, 27, had never been in the big leagues before this year. Another 2013 Express alum, 20-year-old infielder Jurickson Profar, has been thrust into a prominent role and is flailing at .237.
Don’t blame it on the newbies, though. Veterans Ian Kinsler, David Murphy and Mitch Moreland are well below career norms.
This is a team so offensively challenged that it has lost four 1-0 games for Yu Darvish. That hasn’t happened in the majors since Orel Hershiser pitched for the Dodgers in 1989.
“Our heart is into it; the effort is there, just not the big base hits,” Washington told reporters. “We’re trying every combination we have.”
Of course, the combinations would work better had Texas not traded Chris Davis (50 home runs, 131 RBIs) to Baltimore in 2011 or had Nelson Cruz (27 homers, 76 RBIs in 108 games) not been suspended for doing steroids.
Oh, one possible cruel twist for Texas: The Astros will play a role in who wins the wild cards. They finish against the Indians, Rangers and Yankees. Lose a game to the Dis-Astros, and you just might spend October on your couch.
The six wild-card contenders are listed in order of their odds of making the playoffs, according to coolstandings.com, factoring in remaining schedules:
Cleveland (12, 6h/6a): S17-18 at Kansas City; S19-22 Houston; S24-25 Chi. White Sox; S26-29 at Minnesota. Playoffs: 69.9%
Texas (13, 7h/6a): S17-19 at Tampa Bay; S20-22 at Kansas City; S23-25 Houston; S26-29 LA Angels. Playoffs: 56.7%
Tampa Bay (13, 7h/6a): S17-19: Texas; S20-23 Baltimore; S24-26 at NY Yankees; S27-29 Toronto. Playoffs: 53.3%
Kansas City (12, 5h/7a): S17-18 Cleveland; S20-22 Texas; S23-25 at Seattle; S26-29 at Chi. White Sox. Playoffs: 8.1%
New York (12, 6h/6a): S17-19 at Toronto; S20-22 San Francisco; S24-26 Tampa Bay; S27-29 at Houston. Playoffs: 6.5%
Baltimore (13, 6h/7a): S17-19 at Boston; S20-23 at Tampa Bay; S24-26 Toronto; S27-29 Boston. Playoffs: 5.9%