ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are no longer trying to get back into playoff contention. They are there right now.
The Rangers (54-53) may still be on the outside looking in, but the view is much better and much closer after they completed a three-game sweep of the Astros with a 4-3 victory on Wednesday night at Globe Life Park, with Nick Ramirez leading the way by allowing one run on one hit over five innings on his 25th birthday.
The Rangers have also won seven of their last eight games, putting them two games out of the second American League Wild Card spot and in third place, just five games behind the first-place Astros, in the American League West.
If the Rangers can maintain this, they will at least be playing meaningful games through the last two months of the season.
"We are starting to play our best baseball right now," said shortstop Elvis Andrus, whose RBI single capped a three-run first inning in the Lone Star Series finale. "We understand the last two months of the season you have to stay on our toes on every pitch and in every inning. That's what you have to do to get to postseason, and that's what we're doing right now."
The Rangers started this homestand losing two to the Yankees. But they rebounded by beating the Yankees twice, taking two of three from the Giants and then sweeping the Astros for the second time this season.
"That was huge," said catcher Chris Gimenez, whose second-inning home run ended up being the difference. "Any time you can sweep anybody, especially your division rival, it's huge. You get some momentum and carry it through September, you never know what might happen."
All three opponents on this homestand had been playing well before running into the Rangers. The Yankees had won 10 of 12 before losing the final two to the Rangers. The Giants had won 13 of 15 before coming to Arlington and the Astros had won 10 of 13.
"This was a good homestand for us," first baseman Mitch Moreland said. "We are putting runs on the board early, having big innings, throwing the ball well and playing good defense. It was a good all-around [homestand]."
In their last eight games, the Rangers have batted .312 with 47 runs scored and 10 home runs. They've hit .301 with runners in scoring position. Their pitching staff has a 4.38 ERA, including a 3.80 ERA by a bullpen that is being used extensively. Their defense has committed three errors and not allowed an unearned run.
"There is a lot of energy in the dugout and on the field right now," manager Jeff Banister said. "It is solidifying the belief that they can get to where they want to go. We talked about playing better at home and winning at home, this is a big series, not only at home but a team that's in first place. They are one of the ballclubs we are trying to run down. They are all big now. There is not a small one in the bunch."