BY: Richard W. Humphrey
SEVEN GAME WINNING STREAK FORCES WILD CARD PLAYOFF
ARLINGTON, Texas – For the first time in Ranger history, the team will play game number 163 in a season, as they beat Los Angeles Sunday afternoon to tie Tampa Bay for the second Wild Card playoff berth. The Rays also won Sunday to finish with a 91-71 record that matches the Rangers. It was the first time for the Rangers to play the last game of the season with making the playoffs in the balance. A year ago, the Rangers played game number 162 to determine the division champion, but the losing team was assured a playoff berth as a Wild Card team. This year though, it quickly became win or go home for Texas.
Yu Darvish started for the Rangers, and he gave up a first inning home run to Angels phenom Mike Trout, putting Texas behind 1-0. That score held until the bottom of the fifth when A. J. Pierzynski led off with a double. Geovany Soto walked, and they both advanced on a throwing error. Craig Gentry then singled them home to put Texas on the scoreboard with a 2-1 lead.
It didn’t last long. Three of the first four Angel batters in the sixth reached base on a single, double play ground ball, double and walk. That was enough for manager Ron Washington, who replaced Darvish with Neal Cotts to face former Ranger Josh Hamilton. Hamilton stroked a single to left field that scored Erick Aybar to tie the game at two.
However, Texas proceeded to score in each of the sixth, seventh and eighth innings to run the score to 6-2. Included in the Texas 10 hit attack was home runs from Adrian Beltre and Soto. Cotts (8-3) earned the win, while Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers and Joe Nathan shut out the Angels over the final three innings to secure the win, which was the team’s seventh of the week. The Rangers also finished 15-4 against the Angels in the season series.
When the day began, it was possible for the Rangers to lose and still be involved in post season play. For that to happen, the Rays also had to lose. That idea was dispelled quickly as the Tampa Bay and Toronto started two hours earlier than the Rangers. Tampa pushed across six runs in the first inning to seemingly put away the game. They added another later and shut out the Blue Jays for five innings. In the sixth inning though, the Jays struck for three runs. They added another in the seventh and two more in the eighth to close to within one. Rays’ manager Joe Maddon even got ejected from the game before Tampa finally threw another scoreless inning at the Jays, as they hung on to win 7-6.
At that point, it was imperative that the Rangers win Sunday or their season would come to an end. There was also a possibility of a three way tie for the two Wild Card spots if the Cleveland Indians lost. They however jumped on Minnesota for two first inning runs, ran the lead to 5-0 with two more runs in the sixth and another in the seventh, and won easily 5-1.
Consequently, Cleveland is in as the number one Wild Card team with a 92-70 record. They actually finished just a game behind Detroit for the Central Division championship. They will host the Wild Card “play-in” game Wednesday. Their opponent will be Texas or Tampa, which face each other Monday night in Arlington. Texas won four of seven against Tampa during the regular season to earn home field for the playoff game, which counts as a game 163 for the regular season. The expanded rosters of September will be utilized, and the statistics from the game will count as regular season statistics.
Texas announced after Sunday’s game that Nelson Cruz would be activated for Monday’s game. Sunday’s game with the Angels was the 50th and final game of his suspension for using performance enhancing drugs. He likely will start at designated hitter. The pitching matchup is David Price (9-8, 3.39) for Tampa Bay against Martin Perez (10-5, 3.55) for Texas. The game will be nationally televised on TBS.
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