Friday newsletter time: Rangers clinch sweep, winning season with rout of Blue Jays
(Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
My gosh. Who saw that coming?
Maybe the Rangers did. They don’t show up at the ballpark expecting to lose every game, but even they know they hadn’t been playing very well as they headed to Toronto for a critical series.
The Rangers left Canada on Thursday night with a four-game sweep after they pulled away late for a 9-2 victory, their sixth win in a row. The victory was No. 82 on the season, clinching the team’s first winning season since 2016.
The Rangers outscored the Blue Jays 35-9 in what rates as their best series of the season, especially considering the what was at stake.
They entered the series trailing the Blue Jays by 1 1/2 games for the final wild-card spot and now are one game ahead of Seattle for the second wild card and 1 1/2 games up on the Blue Jays.
The Rangers also are only a half-game behind the first-place Astros in the American League West.
“We got really good performances out of all our starters, the bullpen was great and we scored a lot. That’s a pretty good recipe for success,” first baseman Nate Lowe said. “We’ve got a good thing going.”
Corey Seager finished a triple shy of the cycle, driving in three runs, and Lowe ripped a two-run single in a decisive five-run seventh. Jonah Heim homered, and the Rangers’ bullpen worked 5 2/3 one-hit innings behind Nathan Eovaldi, the first 2 2/3 of them by Cody Bradford.
Jose Leclerc got arguably the biggest out of the game, though, pitching himself out of a sixth-inning jam by striking out Vladimir Guerrero Jr. with runners at first and second in a 4-2 game.
“Really nice job by the bullpen,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “You look at Leclerc’s job, that’s really some of the best stuff we’ve seen from him all year.”
The only thing that went wrong in the series was losing Max Scherzer (shoulder strain) for the rest of the season. Mitch Garver (foot) and Leody Taveras (hand) were dinged up but seem likely to play this weekend at Cleveland.
Josh Jung (thumb) was cleared to resume baseball activities, and he will spend Friday and Saturday at the Rangers’ Arizona complex to see some pitching and get game-ready. He should be activated from the injured list Monday, and Adolis Garcia (knee) could follow next weekend.
While the Rangers are on the rise, the Guardians have lost ground in the AL Central since taking the plunge on three waiver claims to end August. They are nine games below .500 and have lost seven of their past 10 games.
But things can change in an instant. Just ask the Blue Jays. Just look at the Rangers.
Eovaldi getting closer
The Rangers squeezed 3 1/3 innings and 73 pitches out of Eovaldi in his third start off the injured list, and he should be able to pitch as deep as the fifth or sixth inning his next time out.
He struggled over the first two innings, allowing a two-run homer to Guerrero in the first and striking out Bo Bichette to end the second with the bases loaded by three walks.
The ability for Eovaldi to go deep in games would help keep the bullpen fresher and give a boost to the rotation after losing Scherzer. Eovaldi was one of the Rangers’ six All-Stars and the only pitcher. He has pitched well in the postseason in his career.
His contributions, no matter which way they go, will go a long way toward determining the Rangers’ playoff fate.
The Rangers sent out a press release Thursday morning about purchasing tickets for the playoffs. There was a lot to unpack, and I’m not sure I’m the one who should be doing the unpacking for you guys.
Fortunately, the Rangers included some links, including the one fans need to get registered for the postseason ticket opportunities. That one one is here, and another is here. The press release can be found here.
The Rangers have 16 games remaining, but the deadline to register is 11:59 p.m. Monday.
Rangers on the Grid
My work day was interrupted by the Rangers returning to the Immaculate Grid. The day would have been interrupted by the Grid regardless, but it’s always more fun when the Rangers are on it.
The objective is to find the most random combination of Rangers and the teams/categories they are matched with. On Thursday, it was the Rays, a Gold Glove winner and a Hall of Famer. My answers are pictured to the right.
Pete Fairbanks was one of three recent players who could have fit. Jose Canseco would have worked, too.
The Rangers have had plenty of Gold Glove winners, and Ivan Rodriguez overshadows how good Jim Sundberg was defensively at catcher.
I went with Harold Baines instead of Gaylord Perry for the Hall of Fame grid.
Hope those of you who play, including T.R. Sullivan, did better than me.
Card of the Week
Bradford was a sixth-round pick in 2019 (Baylor) but didn’t pitch that season because he was recovering from surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. He didn’t debut in 2020 because no minor-leaguer played thanks to the COVID pandemic.
When he finally did pitch in 2021, he did so at High A Hickory before graduating to Double A Frisco later in the season. The two-year delay to his career might be why Bradford doesn’t have a baseball card from one of the recognized companies.
But he does have a couple cards, including one that was a giveaway this season at Triple A Round Rock. But that isn’t the Card of the Week.
The 2021 giveaway at Hickory is.
Bradford gets the nod this week because he has pitched so well since being recalled from Round Rock to start the month. He pitched really well before he was sent back Aug. 1 after the Rangers added Max Scherzer, Jordan Montgomery and Chris Stratton.
The Rangers are going to have openings in the rotation next season. Bradford should get the opportunity to fill one of them, and if he doesn’t win one he should be on the Opening Day roster.
He’s been that good in a season in which some minor-league arms didn’t develop as the Rangers were hoping.
The Blue Jays the past four nights against the Rangers. Enjoy.
Oops.. 😂 pic.twitter.com/Da70G7Qfyc
— Buitengebieden (@buitengebieden) September 13, 2023
Jeff Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org