Holy shit. What. A. Week. Of. Baseball.
Before this final home stand got underway, I surmised it would probably take the Rangers something like 5 wins in their last 7 games to get the postseason conversation started, and most realistically they would have to finish 6-1. But no. After a perfect 7 wins in as many games, Texas has earned itself a one-game do-or-die playoff tomorrow night against Tampa Bay for the right to partake in the real do-or-die wild card matchup, which will take place Wednesday in Cleveland.
To get to this point, the Rangers had to sweep the Astros, which — although a basic, expected outcome in theory — is never something you anticipate. Or at least it shouldn’t be. The real challenge was what followed: A 4-game series against the Angels that, as we now know, they had to sweep, or there would be no Game 163 tomorrow evening.
Because winning was such a necessity down the stretch, each of the last 7 regular season games felt like the playoffs, from the atmosphere at Rangers Ballpark, all the way back to the television screens posted within our homes. Nothing was guaranteed, and the club stood to lose a lot more than they had to gain, making for the best kind of drama and thrill.
The fact remains: Although this last week of baseball has felt a helluva lot like the playoffs, it wasn’t. Not yet. If there is to be a real playoff game at The Ballpark in Arlington, it will not manifest until next Monday, which would be Game 3 against the Red Sox. To get to that point, the Rangers will need to defeat Tampa Bay tomorrow night, and dispatch the Indians in Cleveland on Wednesday in the official wild card game.
Since baseball is a sport where the better team doesn’t always win, any game pinning two relatively evenly matched opponents against one another is quite literally a coin-flip. Mathematically, that would suggest the Rangers have a 50% chance of beating the Rays tomorrow, and another 50% chance of defeating the Indians on Wednesday. Ipso facto, the odds Texas plays Boston in the ALDS are only 25%, or 1-in-4. And that’s something we should keep in mind before getting all pissed off if the Rangers don’t indeed make it there.
If you ask me, I feel extremely lucky my guys are even in this position.
Of course, beating the Rays tomorrow night will be no easy task. If you want to read off David Price‘s career numbers in Texas to make yourself feel better, I’m not gonna be the guy to stop you. But you have to keep in mind that tomorrow night is only one game. Anything can happen in one game. The odds of Price getting lit up are just as good as him pitching 8.0 shutout innings, or having a mundane outing where he allows 2 or 3 runs in 6.0 frames. We’ll know when it happens, and then we can continue the narrative from there.
What the Rangers have working against them is they will be countering with 22 year-old rookie, Martin Perez. Although he has posted a fine season in his own right, the same rules apply to Perez as they do to Price: Anything can happen. In Martin’s specific case, the rules are bent more toward the poles; since his career sample is much smaller than David Price’s, there’s an even greater chance he gets bombed.
But don’t let me deter your faith.
Since Nelson Cruz‘s suspension has been lifted, effective right after Joe Nathan threw his final pitch this afternoon, he will assuredly be in the lineup tomorrow. We won’t know until we see him before determining if that actually means anything — because is it realistic to expect positive results after such a layoff? — but he figures to provide a boost of some sort, even if it’s only mental.
I imagine the lineup tomorrow night will look something reasonably similar to this:
1. Kinsler – 2B
2. Andrus – SS
3. Rios – RF
4. Beltre – 3B
5. Pierzynski – C
6. Cruz – DH
7. Moreland – 1B
8. Gentry – LF
9. Martin – CF
Is that how I would do it? Hell no. But Ron Washington is Ron Washington, so platoons be damned.
Regardless of the game’s outcome, I’m sure of one thing: I’m damn proud of this 2013 Texas Rangers team. At the least, they’ve earned the right to have a chance. And I’m cool with that.