There are two games left in the 2023 regular season and the Texas Rangers (89-71) still find themselves in sole possession of first place in the AL West. In most cases that would at least mean that the team has locked up their playoff spot, but that isn't the case. The Rangers are one win away from a playoff berth and have a magic number of two with the Astros for the AL West division title.
Nightmare playoff scenario for Texas Rangers
The odds are still in the Rangers favor of making the playoffs and even winning the division, but the momentum that they had built over last weekend and through Wednesday has come to a screaching halt. There is a scenario where, if the Rangers drop their next two contests to Seattle and the Astros split their remaining two games to the Diamondbacks, Texas would be tied with both teams for the division lead at 89 wins. In this nightmare case, the Rangers would be left out of the playoffs due to the three-way tie breaker rules.
Texas Rangers starter, Jon Gray, to 15-day IL
Let's not dwell on if that will happen or not (that will gain us nothing), and instead focus on tonight's game in Seattle. Jon Gray's spot in the rotation is up today, but unfortunately, he will not be making the start. Instead, he was placed on the 15-day IL yesterday, with lower forearm tightness. He would be out until a possible game five of the ALDS but would likely not return until a possible ALCS series (if the Rangers make it that far) at best.
The Gray news seems to come at a time when the team has been gut punched by injuries and bad pitching performances. Chris Young's mantra of "you can't have too much pitching" is playing out for sure this season. Fortunately for the Rangers, they will be able to turn to a proven starter in Andrew Heaney.
Andrew Heaney to starter for Texas Rangers
Heaney was sent to the bullpen when Nathan Eovaldi came off of the IL himself. He hasn't made a start for the Rangers since September 4th, against the Houston Astros. Heaney has started 27 games this year for Texas, and has pitched a total of 143 innings, has a record of 10-6, has 149 strikeouts, a 4.28 ERA, with a WHIP of 1.378. Those are hardly Cy Young numbers, but Heaney does give the Rangers a veteran on the mound and someone that should be able to go out and battle.
Seattle has had trouble hitting the off-speed spinners this year, and specifically, spin from lefties. That should be in Heaney's favor as he is not only a lefty, but one that can spin the ball. Heaney has pitched four times against the Mariners this season. Twice as a starter (May 9th and June 3rd) and twice over the last week as a reliever. In the two starts he went 0-1, but actually pitched better in the loss than the no decision. Recently out of the pen, Heaney has pitched 3 1/3 scoreless with four strikeouts, against the Mariners.
Even if Heaney has a solid outing, getting the win tonight will take a total team effort. The Rangers looked extremely tight in last night's game, and will need to be relaxed, both at the plate and in the field this evening to get the job done. The Rangers have only made the playoffs eight times in franchise history. With a win tonight, they can make it nine.
Tonight's game will start earlier than the last several. The first pitch will be at 6:15 CT and will be televised nationally on FOX. Let's go Rangers!