Monday newsletter time: Rangers’ fortunes much brighter after critical sweep
(AP photo/Tony Gutierrez)
ARLINGTON — The Rangers picked a fine time to go on a five-game winning streak.
They won two straight last week to finish off a three-game series against the Red Sox and then pulled off a weekend sweep of the Mariners, winning the Sunday finale 9-8.
In the course of six days, the Rangers went from 1 1/2 games out in the American League West and tied for the final wild-card spot to 2 1/2 games up in the AL West and a 96.8 percent chance of making the postseason. They have seven games remaining, all on the road.
The final four are at Seattle, which must first face the collapsing Astros in a series that will leave one of those two teams on the brink of elimination. Theoretically.
If the Rangers don’t take care of things in Anaheim against the embarrassing Angels, the last series at T-Mobile Park will be as intense as the series the Mariners and Rangers just played.
If the Rangers do take care of the Angels, they might be popping bottles in Seattle.
The Rangers popped six home runs Sunday, including two by Marcus Semien and a key two-run shot by Evan Carter, and needed every one of them. The Mariners kept coming, threatening each of the final three innings, but three relievers who have struggled at times this season — Jonathan Hernandez, Brock Burke and Jose Leclerc — recorded critical outs to seal the win.
Nathan Eovaldi pitched into the sixth inning, his longest outing since returning from the injured list, and that’s a positive sign. The next time he’s needed will be Friday at Seattle. He could be pitching a clincher, and then be set up to start the Rangers’ second postseason game.
He’s still not quite right, it would appear. His command has wavered at times, and the fastball still seems to be missing a few miles per hour. However, Eovaldi was pleased with the carry on the fastball and how he survived without his best stuff.
The Rangers survived, and in so doing put themselves in terrific position with seven games to go.
Astros in trouble
The month started with many in the game noticing the cushy ride the Astros would have late in the season, with a home series against the A’s and home-and-home three-game series against the Royals. Both teams have lost 100 games.
And the Astros went 2-7 against them.
The Royals completed a three-game sweep Sunday as the Astros went 1-5 on a homestand that included losing 2 of 3 to the Orioles. OK, the Orioles are really good and would probably take 2 of 3 from the Rangers. They did, in fact, do that in April, though the Rangers returned the favor in May.
The good news for Houston is that the Rangers swept the Mariners, so Houston holds a half-game lead for the final wild-card spot as the two teams open a three-game series tonight at Seattle.
The bad news for Houston is that the Mariners are 8-2 this season against the Astros and hold the tiebreaker should they finish deadlocked for the final wild-card spot.
Houston’s main issue is starting pitching. Their three starters allowed all 16 runs to the Royals, including seven (six earned) by Framber Valdez in the opener.
If things go poorly in Seattle, the Astros might not get to defend their world championship.
Right-hander Jon Gray has not been very good this month, and he’ll be the first to tell you so.
His inability to get past five innings has put the bullpen in a bind, which has put the team in a bind, but it hasn’t been the end of the world. Still, he needs to do his part this week.
Gray is scheduled to start the opener of season-ending road trip tonight at Anaheim, and the Angels aren’t very good. He’s not going to have it easy, but he has a chance figure some things outs before his next expected start Saturday at Seattle.
The Rangers have not named a starter for Tuesday in Max Scherzer’s spot as they wait to see just how many innings the bullpen might have to work behind Gray.
Martin Perez would seem to be out of the mix after pitching Sunday. The two main candidates would appear to be Andrew Heaney and Cody Bradford, but both will be available in long relief tonight.
Get your tickets
An AL West title would give the Rangers a bye in the playoffs and send them directly to the division series as the No. 2 seed and hosts of the winner of the wild-card series between the No. 3 seed and the No. 6 seed, which at the moment would be the Twins or the Astros.
If that happens, the Rangers would host the first two games of an ALDS. If the Rangers end up as one of the wild-card teams and advanced to and ALDS, they would host Game 3.
Individual tickets go on sale in a couple hours. They can be purchased at texasrangers.com/postseason, by calling 972-RANGERS (726-4377) or at the Globe Life Field Southeast Box Office.
The box office will be open until 5 p.m. today and will be open the rest of next week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Youth softball and baseball took me away from Globe Life Field on Saturday and also from Fort Worth, where TCU beat up SMU to retain the Iron Skillet. Afterward, SMU coach Rhett Lashlee did not shake hands with TCU coach Sonny Dykes.
Lashlee had taken a few shots at the Frogs about a month ago after SMU paid to get into the ACC, which is sure to see Florida State, Clemson and North Carolina and N.C. State leave soon. There was a rumor last season that Lashlee gave the Frogs’ defensive signals to TCU’s Big 12 opponents.
Just be a pro. It’s not hard.
Anyhoo, Rangers Today wasn’t off all weekend. Here’s our latest, in case you missed it.
The Sunday Read: Evan the Great
Friday on the Farm: Wyatt the Great
T.R.’s Memoirs: Juan gone no more
Dog did nothing wrong. I would, however, like a word with the grounds crew. Enjoy.
— out of context dogs (@contextdogs) September 24, 2023
Jeff Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org