Rangers staying loose during pennant race

Rangers staying loose during pennant race

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers love their Mike Napoli-issued mixed-martial-arts-style shorts with the American flag design, club logo and Never Ever Quit mantra.

Their pitchers love to run around the outfield chasing a ring frisbee or wearing ghoulish Halloween masks for photobombs during television interviews. Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor have become obsessive postgame terrors with the water buckets.

The Rangers are in a heated pennant race and they have reacted to it by going nutty.

"Yeah, we're a little different," pitcher Derek Holland said. "We're not like every other team. We like to have fun. We're very passionate, we just have a different way of showing it. A lot of teams don't like it, but we're not here to please them."

The Rangers haven't this much fun since the "Claw and Antlers" phenomenon during the chase for a 2010 postseason berth.

"Right now, everything is just clicking," Andrus said. "As a team, we have been really loose all year long. When things weren't going well, that's the way we were. Right now we're playing great baseball and everybody is trying to find a way to enjoy it. We got a pretty good team and a bunch of characters. It's all a part of it."

"When you're having fun and laughing and if something goes bad we make fun of each other a little bit," designated hitter Prince Fielder said. "It's part of it. It's still a game and you have to treat it that way or else you'll lose your hair fast."

The Rangers are hardly the first team that's tried to find different ways to stay loose in the middle of a postseason drive.

"Believe it or not, it is eerily reminiscent of 2013 in Tampa Bay," catcher Chris Gimenez said. "The fun and shenanigans going on in the locker room translates to the way we are playing on the field. Honestly, I have always been a big believer in playing baseball when there is not a lot of pressure. Just throw it out there on the field.

"Nobody expected us to be here, so it's fun to prove people wrong. A lot of people are getting on the bandwagon, but we understand what's at stake and that it is within our grasp. We understand it is achievable. Everyone believes it."

The Rangers were known as a "loose" team under former manager Ron Washington and have carried that over with Jeff Banister.

"It does have a lot of similarities in the way the clubhouse interacts with each other, but it's different," Holland said. "We're the 2015 team. We have a little different way of carrying ourselves with swagger."

Banister's main message is to maintain the focus and concentration once the game starts.

"They are loose, I believe so," Banister said. "But again, they're loose before the game and they are loose when the game starts. But they are all business during the game."

Being loose also prevents the Rangers from getting down when things aren't going their way and Banister likes that part as well.

"I hope we win out," Banister said. "The probability of that is unlikely. Is a loss going to be a letdown? The thing I have confidence with is the ability to bounce back for our ballclub. The ability to wash it off, I think that's where their confidence is at also.

"That allows them to be loose, plus me or this coaching staff is not going to walk around here like our feet are on fire, waiting for something to happen."

Worth noting

Kyle Blanks on Friday had arthroscopic surgery on his left foot to treat a chronic condition. He had surgery on his right foot for the same condition on Sept. 4. Blanks will be on crutches for a few days before beginning rehab.

• Catcher Robinson Chirinos, sidelined because of a torn tendon in his left shoulder, is taking batting practice without problem and getting closer to playing in a game. Chirinos is hoping it will be this weekend, but that may be premature.

• The Rangers won Wednesday and Thursday without having to use closer Shawn Tolleson. They hadn't won two straight that way since May 31-June 2.

• Outfielder Josh Hamilton, who had left knee surgery last week, appeared as a pinch-hitter on Friday night, striking out in the ninth inning.

"We knew he could be available today, so we got him out there," Banister said.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.