Before I launch into these couple of bullet points (and any others that I may tack onto this post), I feel compelled to say that it's been killing me not being around as much lately. Your priorities shift, you get busy, your available time dries up, and then things like this happen, and that kills me. You start out not missing it that much, and then you realize that there's something missing from your routine, something that you've come to depend on, and that's when you realize that you do, in fact, miss it a lot, and that it's really not so easy to neglect a product that you've invested thousands of hours into over a span of many years.
So, yeah, there's that, and if the last week or so has hammered home any sort of point at all, it's that the stage is going to have to expand here, because I just don't think I can do it all anymore. And with that sobering realization/admission aside ...
● T.R. Sullivan -- and others -- have talked recently about how this team has been tested to the hilt in terms of physical/emotional stress over the last couple of years and (in particular) this year, how there are several guys battling lingering injuries and others who just don't seem to have as much gas left in the tank at this point in the season as they did in past years, and AJM talked about this a bit last week as well, pointing out that a preponderance of the Rangers' starters are on pace to appear in 155 (or more) games this season and have received few breathers in the process, which could augur unfavorably for their chances of making a deep run during the month of October.
The problem with trying to buy some of those guys additional rest now in advance of the post-season, of course, appears to be twofold: (a) Ron Washington doesn't regard the alternatives as experienced/talented/what-have-you enough to justify sitting his everyday pieces; and (b) the Athletics simply won't die, as Oakland has whittled the Rangers' lead down to three games while taking possession of the second-best record in the American League. I suspect that, in Washington's mind, this is a time where you want to ride the players who have gotten you this far as hard as you have all year long, because even though we still may not perceive the Athletics as serious threats to the division crown, the sentiment in that clubhouse probably swings the other way.
Now, granted, the Athletics face a much tougher schedule (three more in Anaheim, three games vs. Baltimore, and then a 10-games-in-10-days road trip at Detroit, New York, and Texas) down the stretch than the Rangers do, are less talented on the whole, and would need to overcome that three-game deficit on top of everything else ... but as long as the Athletics remain within such close proximity, and as long as the race remains somewhat open, I don't think you're going to see guys like Adrian Beltre or Josh Hamilton or Ian Kinsler getting full days off, and you hope that they all have enough left in their energy stores -- and, for that matter, are able to remain healthy enough -- that this doesn't cost them dearly in October, or in their upcoming clashes against AL West clubs.
● The question of who should be the Rangers' No. 1 playoff starter has been getting some play of late, and even though Matt Harrison led the way as the prohibitive fan favorite for that title for much of the season, Yu Darvish has swung the numbers back in his favor with his monster run over his last 4-5 starts in conjunction with Matt Harrison's recent struggles. I find myself leaning towards the line of thought that says "yeah, probably Darvish, but there's still a few weeks left for evaluation purposes, and you want to see who your first-round opponent is before making a firm determination. In any event, you're probably going to be okay with whichever way they decide to roll there.
Ryan Dempster, meanwhile, is all but guaranteed the third spot, and Derek Holland is on track for the fourth spot, with Scott Feldman (who had a legit case going for him until he hit the skids again) and Roy Oswalt (who was originally signed with the idea of being the playoff-tested veteran who could step it up in October, and now probably won't even be on the post-season roster) both likely ending up on the outside looking in. So it goes.