Welcome to playoff season: Texas Rangers clinch the AL West
What do people expect from the Texas Rangers? They expect greatness. They go into every season expecting the Rangers to win the World Series. While that might not always be the ending they receive, the Rangers are a team that excels at stunning performances. Their wins over Oakland on Friday and Saturday were nothing short of that. Sunday’s game – not so much. But even with the loss on Sunday, the Rangers are the kings of the American League West. Break out the champagne – the Rangers are going to the playoffs!
A confident manager
Jeff Banister knew the Rangers were a good team. What he needed was the assurance that they had the talent to make a playoff run. He got that answer clearly from his players. It was stamped with a come-from-behind-win after a rain delay against the New York Yankees. At that point, the Rangers’ manager knew his team had the heart to win baseball games — that they had the level of dedication and heart necessary to take them to where they needed to be real World Series playoff contenders.
Friday night’s 3-0 win at Oakland sealed the deal on the first step in the Rangers’ goal – an AL West title. This was secured by Adrian Beltre and his two-run home run in the seventh inning. With that win, they clinched their seventh AL West title – their fourth since 2010. Now it’s on to chase bigger hardware. A World Series title is firmly in their reach, and they are going after it with all they have.
The weekend that did it
Oakland’s starting pitcher, Kendall Graveman, started Friday night with six perfect innings. In the seventh, however, Beltre unloaded on what was Graveman’s first slider of the game. In total, Graveman allowed three runs and four hits over seven innings, but that was enough for the Rangers to win, as the A’s were scoreless.
On Saturday, the Rangers showed the same skill that got them to their AL West title with a 5-0 win over Oakland. Elvis Andrus, the lone veteran in the lineup, hit a pair of two-run homers to put the stamp on the Rangers’ AL West title. After battling flu-like symptoms the day before, Andrus was determined to show and prove the day after their title win. Even with being 0-3 on the road, Yu Darvish had a pretty consistent night, allowing only two hits, with nine strikeouts and one walk in seven innings. Three relief pitcher finished out the shutout to add one more win to the Rangers’ quest for home-field advantage.
On Sunday, their streak fell short with a 7-1 Oakland win. Even with the title secured, the Rangers are shooting for home field advantage, and this loss could impact that quest. The A’s, however, were able to break out of their losing slump with seven runs in the second inning. Adrian Beltre got the Rangers’ only run in the seventh, now leading the team with 32 home runs this season and 445 in his career. A’s rookie Jharel Cotton pitched seven clean innings, giving the Rangers pitching that they had never seen before from the team, therefore throwing them off for the 7-1 loss.
Are they ready for Boston?
Here’s where things get interesting – with the Rangers competing for home field advantage with the Boston Red Sox. They are technically in a tie with the Red Sox, but due to the Rangers’ advantage based on division record, they are ahead of the Red Sox in their ranking. The Cleveland Indians follow closely, but home field advantage is essentially the Rangers’ to lose.
They head into their next two three-game series poised for playoff play against Milwaukee and Tampa Bay. The stakes are high, as the Rangers want to have the best chance for home field advantage and for the cards to finally fall in their favor. They are poised for World Series-winning play and must maintain the camaraderie they have played with all season, as well as their ability to win come-from-behind victories to go into the playoffs fresh and ready to win.
Tampa Bay and Milwaukee are no longer in the wild card race, and the results of these games will have little effect on their ability to reach postseason play. Even so, the stakes are high for the Rangers, and they will have a lot to show and prove on Monday as they continue their home field quest against the Brewers. But now, for the Rangers faithful, it is time to celebrate and make a run for some playoff tickets. The Rangers are in and ready to rock!