With two games go to, Rangers’ season has that 2012 feeling
(AP photo/Lindsey Wasson)
No need to bury the lead here: The Rangers are staring at the very real possibility of missing the playoffs.
They have lost two straight games at Seattle, with Friday’s loss an 8-0 fiasco, and now are facing what looks like the tall task of having to win one of their final two games to secure a wild-card spot.
Jon Gray won’t be pitching this afternoon. He’s on the injured list with a forearm strain. The Rangers will start Andrew Heaney but don’t have a starter for Sunday. They are essentially looking at two bullpen games, and everyone knows what a dicey proposition that is.
The Mariners, meanwhile, will start Luis Castillo and George Kirby at home, where sellout crowds will be hanging on every pitch. About 1,000 miles to the south, the Astros will be starting Justin Verlander against the Diamondbacks in a game featuring two teams fighting for the postseason.
The nightmare scenario that seemed unlikely two days ago is in play. If the Rangers, Astros and Mariners finish with 89 wins and the Blue Jays win 90, the Rangers don’t make the postseason.
The flip side is the Rangers still control their destiny, needing to win only once to reach the playoffs. Two wins give them the American League West, as would one win and an Astros loss. No wins and two Astros losses would as well.
It’s right there for them, just as it was in 2012.
There are differences, of course. The 2012 Rangers were the best team in baseball for, oh, the first 155 games of the season. They went to Oakland for the last three games of the season needing only one victory to clinch the West for a third straight season and lost all three.
They then bowed out of the playoffs in the wild-card game.
These Rangers were in third place as recently as last week but came to Seattle on Wednesday night leading the Astros by 2 1/2 games and the Mariners by four. Those margins are down to one and two.
Seattle beat the Rangers on Thursday, scoring twice in the ninth for a 3-2 win. Things started well Friday for the Rangers, with Nathan Eovaldi retiring the first six hitters. The Rangers had plenty of base runners the first three innings, but couldn’t score against Brian Woo.
Maybe his third-inning escape lit a fire under the Mariners, who scored three times against Eovaldi. The third run came when Leody Taveras misread a flyball to center field, not quite as bad as Josh Hamilton’s play in game 162 in 2012, but a gut punch nonetheless.
Seattle scored five in the fourth, four on a grand slam by J.P. Crawford about 22 hours after his winning double in the series opener.
Manager Bruce Bochy surrendered in the seventh, pulling the regulars for rest. The offense needs to be on top of things today and Sunday with so much uncertainty ahead on the mound.
Heaney and left-hander Martin Perez are the best of what the Rangers have left. Dane Dunning and Jordan Montgomery, who started Wednesday and Thursday, might be asked to pitch on their bullpen days.
Whatever it takes at this point. It feels like it’s going to take a lot.
Jeff Wilson, email@example.com