Maybe the Rays are starting to turn things around with just enough time remaining.
Yes, they have faltered, to the tune of an 8-14 record in their last 22 games. But after Monday's win over the Rangers, which gave them a one-game lead in the American League Wild Card standings, the Rays have suddenly won four of their last five.
Despite the loss, Texas remains ahead of Cleveland -- which lost to Kansas City on Monday -- in the playoff picture. On Tuesday it will be the Rangers -- who have lost seven straight -- hoping to rebound and keep a firm grip on their postseason hopes.
"We have a tough group of guys. The job in front of us is not easy, but we have a great group of guys," Rangers hitting coach Dave Magadan said. "They know what has to be done. You can say it 18 different ways, but it's not just saying it, you have to go out and do it. We have the ingredients to do it, we just have to find a way to do it consistently."
That offense will be looking to back right-hander Alexi Ogando as he makes his first start since Aug. 13. Ogando has allowed one run in six scoreless innings in four relief appearances since returning from the disabled list, with his most recent performance coming on Sunday.
Ogando will be opposed by right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, who received a no-decision in his most recent start, against the Red Sox. Hellickson, who lasted only 5 1/3 innings in that outing, is looking forward to making his next few starts in the heat of the postseason race.
"Absolutely. We're playing the teams we want to play. We control our own destiny," Hellickson said prior to the series opener with Texas. "We're playing teams right behind us and the team tied with us as well. We've just got to go out there and play like we're capable of, go play hard and have fun these last two weeks."
Rangers: Berkman to see time at DH
Manager Ron Washington said on Monday that he plans to pencil in Lance Berkman as the designated hitter in this series; the veteran went 0-for-4 in the opener. It was only Berkman's first start since Sept. 3, in Oakland, after he was out from July 7 to Sept. 1 because of inflammation in his left hip and chronic soreness in his right knee.
"He had some time off to get healthy, so we'll see," Washington said. "I am going to give him a chance to swing the bat. He may not hit the ball out of the ballpark, but he can give you a good at-bat and get a base hit."
Rays: Weird year for Hellickson
It's been an interesting season for Hellickson. Now in his third year, the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year and reigning Gold Glove Award winner has walked 12 fewer batters this season than last and also posted more strikeouts (127 to 124) in fewer innings (164 1/3 to 177). His other numbers, however -- 5.04 ERA, 1.345 WHIP -- don't really mesh with those improvements.
"It's just been an inconsistent year," Hellickson said. "I think part of the reason the walks are down is because I'm missing over the plate a little too much, and it's cost me a few games. I really can't put a finger on how I'm striking more people out. The curveball is a little better this year. I just need to throw more strikes and have a little better command of everything down the stretch."
• Tampa Bay's Wil Myers is hitting .391 with four home runs, 10 RBIs and six doubles in his last 13 games.
• Hellickson is 0-2 with a 3.18 ERA in three career regular-season starts against the Rangers.