In the final days of July, while the proclaimed contenders were working on deals to bolster their chances down the stretch, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels was doing some window shopping.
Daniels' team was five games below .500 (47-52), and not only in third place in the American League West, but there were also five teams between Texas and the Minnesota Twins in a bid for the second AL Wild Card spot.
Daniels, however, couldn't help but check out what was available. And Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels caught his eye. Daniels knew that with three years remaining on his contract after this season, Hamels could help fill a major long-term void in the rotation, and if the Rangers somehow had a few things fall their way in the second half, the ace could be integral to a postseason bid right now. What's more, Hamels and his wife, in ranking the teams as a potential landing spot, had Texas as No. 1 on the list of 30 as the best fit for the lefty.
Things have certainly broken right.
Coming off a four-game sweep of the Astros, the Rangers now have the AL Wild Card ambitions in their rearview mirror, having knocked the Astros out of the top spot in the AL West. Texas goes into the weekend with a 2 1/2-game lead on second-place Houston, having won 32 of its past 47 games.
And Hamels, along with the non-waiver Trade Deadline addition of relievers Sam Dyson and Jake Diekman, has played a key role in the Rangers' resurgence.
The three are products of deals that made a difference in baseball's stretch drive to the postseason.
• David Price got a do-over. He was a Trade Deadline headliner for the second July in a row. While Price never provided that spark to the Tigers down the stretch a year ago (4-4, 3.59 ERA in 11 games), he has been an impact addition with the Blue Jays, going 7-1 with a 2.17 ERA in nine starts. During that stretch, Toronto has rallied from fourth to first in the AL East.
• Yoenis Cespedes has been such a factor in the Mets' surge to the top of the National League East that he is actually being mentioned in NL MVP Award talk, even though he spent the first four months of the season in the AL with Detroit. Since Aug. 1, he is hitting .295 with an NL-leading 42 RBIs and 17 home runs. And the Mets in that span? They have a best-in-the-NL .698 winning percentage, and they have turned a two-game deficit in the NL East to an eight-game lead on the Nationals, who now sit in second place.
• Hamels was battling a groin problem when he first arrived in Texas, and the Rangers lost his first two starts. Now healthy, Texas has won his past six starts and Hamels has averaged seven innings in each of the past six.
• J.A. Happ was nothing special in Seattle, but he has provided a major lift after being dealt to a Pirates team trying to catch St. Louis in the NL Central and hold off the Cubs in the NL Wild Card race. The Bucs have won six of his eight starts. Happ has allowed two or fewer runs in each of his past seven starts, and Pittsburgh fans already are wondering if the club could retain him in 2016.
• Ben Zobrist brought versatility to the Royals. He is a switch-hitter who can play multiple positions. Zobrist is tied for second on the team with 162 at-bats, and he's hitting .315 since Aug. 1 despite not having an everyday position. He filled in for the injured Alex Gordon initially and was getting primary time in place of struggling second baseman Omar Infante, who seemed to accept the challenge when he started for the first time in a week on Thursday and turned in a seven-RBI effort. Zobrist also has made starts at third base and in right field.
• Ben Revere wasn't as flashy an addition as Price or Troy Tulowitzki, but he filled a need for a speedy outfielder with basestealing ability at the top of a Blue Jays lineup filled with sluggers. Revere's .321 average since Aug. 1 is second on the team, and his 31 runs scored in 42 games ranks third.
• Kevin Jepsen came to the rescue of an injury-plagued Twins bullpen. He is second in the AL with 23 appearances since Aug. 1 with a 2.14 ERA, and he converted seven of eight save opportunities since his arrival from Tampa Bay, filling the void created when Glen Perkins went on the disabled list. Jepsen is 30, but isn't eligible for free agency until after the 2016 season.
• Jonathan Broxton and Steve Cishek could be easily overlooked additions by the Cardinals, but the two right-handers have fortified the bullpen. Broxton, acquired from the Brewers, and Cishek, who came from the Marlins, have made a combined 39 appearances and compiled a 2.04 ERA with eight holds.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.