BY: Richard W. Humphrey
The torturous week came to an end for the Rangers Sunday afternoon with a win that secured a winning week at 4-2 and brought their season record to .500 at 68-68. The American League West championship is long gone as the Rangers are 15 games behind suddenly resurgent Houston and the elimination number is down to 12. Any combination of Houston wins and Texas losses totalling 12 eliminates the Rangers mathematically from winning the pennant.
The Rangers are still alive for a playoff berth as one of the two Wild Card teams. Currently the Yankees have the best record among teams not among the three division leaders. They are 1.5 games ahead of Minnesota, which leads Baltimore and Los Angeles by 1.5 games, Seattle by 2.5 games, Texas by three games, Kansas City by 3.5 games and Tampa Bay by four games. Toronto, Detroit, Oakland and Chicago are all but mathematically eliminated from making the playoffs.
The week started with the totally unnecessary controversy over where to play the games scheduled to be played in Houston on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Hurricane Harvey had literally closed the town, making a move of the series mandatory. The logical place to play the series was in Arlington. Both teams had flown from the West Coast last Sunday to Dallas. The players on both teams clearly wanted to play in Arlington, as it would have allowed the scheduled off day on Monday to still be an off day, and limit the travel involved.
The Rangers were willing to mobilize the cadre of more than 1,000 workers on essentially 24 hours notice to facillitate playing the games in Arlington. However Astros management was insistent that the Rangers bear the burden of losing three play dates on their schedule. They only wanted to play if the teams could swap dates. Ultimately, the Astros chose to play the series in St. Petersburg forcing the teams to travel on the scheduled off day last Monday.
Houston had won four of six games in Arlington in the previous two series this season, but the road weary Astros lost two of three games in Tropicana Field. By Thursday, both Houston airports had opened, and the Astros were able to go home to deal with the real life problems caused by the hurricane.
Winning two of three didn’t feel all that good to Texas. In game three, Adrian Beltre, the heart and soul of the Rangers’ offense, suffered a severe hamstring strain on the artificial surface in St. Petersburg. He’s lost for an estimated four weeks, essentially the rest of the season.
The Rangers did play three more games in Arlington over the weekend again, before striking out for Atlanta to complete interleague play. The Rangers won two, but again they didn’t feel good. On Friday night, the Rangers took a 6-2 lead over the first three innings, and with ace Cole Hamels pitching on an extra day of rest, it looked like a win early. Hamels wasn’t sharp though. He needed 101 pitches to struggle through five innings, giving up four runs.
The Angels rallied to tie the game at nine in the eighth inning, but the Rangers scored in their half of the inning. Alex Claudio faced six batters before securing the third out in the ninth inning with the bases loaded. Rangers won 10-9.
On Saturday, the Rangers took a 4-2 lead into the ninth inning. The Angels however tied the game with two runs in the ninth and tallied three more in the 10th to win 7-4.
Sunday looked much like Friday and Saturday. The Rangers took a 5-2 lead after four innings, and a 7-3 lead after six. The Angels however scored two runs in the ninth to draw to within one run at 7-6. That was the final, as Luis Valbuena grounded into a force out with the bases loaded to end the game.
Martin Perez was Sunday’s winning pitcher, his sixth win in his last six starts. His ERA is 3.15 in that span, and the six game winning streak ties his career high.
After the brief trip to Atlanta to start the week, the Rangers return to Arlington next weekend to face the Yankees in their only regular season appearance against Texas.
As for making the playoffs, the bottom line for Texas is that it will most likely take at least 84 wins to be the second Wild Card team. The Rangers need to go 16-10 to reach 84 wins. The time is short. It is no longer a long season. Texas simply cannot let winnable games slip away.
* The Rangers called up corner infielder Will Middlebrooks, right handed pitcher Paolo Espino, and catcher A. J. Jimenez when the rosters expanded on September 1. They have indicated that more callups will be coming once the minor league seasons are over at Round Rock and Frisco.
* It is unlikely that Willie Calhoun will be brought to Arlington as a September call up. Calhoun was the centerpiece of the Rangers’ haul of minor league prospects in the Yu Darvish trade. He has certainly played well enough to deserve the promotion, but he is not on the 40-man roster, and does not need to be put on the 40-man to protect him from the Rule 5 draft this winter. The Rangers need the spot on the 40-man roster this winter, and with Texas still in the race for a playoff berth, Calhoun would see little playing time anyway. He did further his case to be called up by hitting a walk-off grand slam home run this weekend, driving in eight runs in the game.
* Game time on Friday was 4:33, the longest nine inning game in Ranger history and the third longest nine inning game in Major League history. The combined game time of the three game series with the Angels was 12:31.
* Sign of the Rangers’ bullpen struggles. In 11-1/3rd innings in the Angels’ series, the pen walked 12 batters.