Texas Rangers punch playoff ticket; set sights on AL West title as regular season comes to a close

The Texas Rangers are back in the playoffs! Yes, the Texas Rangers, the team that nobody outside of the organization and some believing fans gave a real chance to do so. As fun as making the playoffs was last night, their focus is now on securing the AL West title.
Texas Rangers v Seattle Mariners
Texas Rangers v Seattle Mariners / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

For just the ninth time in franchise history, the Texas Rangers will be participating in the MLB playoffs. This will be their first appearance since 2016 and one that is perhaps a bit sweeter after going through some extremely lean years, in recent history. After winning just 60 games in 2021 and 68 games last season, the playoffs seemed like a distant dream at the beginning of the season, despite the positive offseason acquisitions.

Texas Rangers are going to the playoffs

Last night Texas didn't even look like the same team that got blown out 8 to 0 on Friday evening. On Friday, the team was pressing, and it looked like the pressure of the situation was getting to them. However, the way that they came out battling on Saturday, was a testament to the leadership and fight within this clubhouse.

Bruce Bochy didn't make every move perfectly, every night throughout the long regular season, but he was a rock-solid anchor that led the team to the postseason. Without him calling the shots and keeping the players and other coaches focused on the long game, I don't think that this year's team would have been able to celebrate a playoff berth last night. It took a special leader to navigate the rollercoaster ride of the 2023 regular season, and Bochy was the right man for the job.

Texas Rangers look to clinch the AL West on last day of regular season

With one game to play the Rangers are sitting at 90-71 and one game in front of the Houston Astros in the AL West. The division will come down to the last day of the regular season, and why not? It has been a dog fight all season long and the drama of it being decided at the last possible moment is fitting.

With either a Texas win, or an Astros loss to the Diamondbacks, the Rangers will be the AL West division champions. It is always nice to win the division, but with the new playoff format that started last season, the Rangers are playing for a bye and a trip straight into the ALDS. Fangraphs gives the Rangers a 72.4% chance at winning the AL West today.

If the Rangers end up taking the AL West, they will be the second seed in the American League and would take on the winner of the Twins and either the Blue Jays or Astros in the ALDS starting next Saturday in Arlington. On the flip side, if the Astros end up winning the AL West, the Rangers will go right back to work on Tuesday and will take on the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg in game one of the AL Wildcard round. The Wildcard round is a best two out of the three series, with all of the games taking place at the home of the higher seed.

Date and Time

Probable Pitcher Rangers

Probable Pitcher Mariners

Sun 1st - 2:10 CT

Dane Dunning RHP 12-6, 3.72 ERA, 136 SO

George Kirby RHP 12-10, 3.46 ERA, 165 SO

Dane Dunning to start on short rest with AL West on the line

Texas isn't messing around with the game today, and will be sending out Dane Dunning to the bump, on short rest. Dunning last pitched on Wednesday when he threw seven scoreless against the Angels. He used 87 pitches in that game, and while he is getting the start today, it is unlikely that he will go extremely deep into the game.

It was thought that Martin Perez would be the starter, but the move to start Dunning makes sense. There is a strong chance that both pitchers will be used, so by starting Dunning and bringing in Perez from the pen, they are both able to stay in the roles that they have been occupying for a while now. Dunning can serve as a long opener of sorts for Perez and then he can come in and take the game into the latter innings.

Even though the Mariners technically have nothing to play for (they were eliminated from playoff contention last night) they are professionals and won't just hand it over to the Rangers. Their starting pitcher, George Kirby, is one of the best young pitchers in MLB. Back on May 9th, in his only start against the Rangers this season, Kirby threw seven scoreless innings in route to the victory.

This is it, the last day of the regular season. It's been a long summer, and here we are at game 162. The AL West will be decided before the sun goes down. The Phillies proved last year that a team can make it from the Wildcard round all the way to the World Series. So, winning the division isn't a must have, but it sure would be a big deal for this team. The one thing that is certain after last night, is that the Rangers will be playing baseball beyond this afternoon, and that makes me so happy. Let's go Rangers!

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