THE END IS NEAR

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

The Texas Rangers’ chances of making the playoffs are all but mathematically over as the team was swept in a three game series this weekend in Oakland. The offense simply didn’t show up as the only scoreboard damage in the series came on solo home runs from Nomar Mazara and Shin-Soo Choo. Oakland won by scores of 4-1, 1-0 and 8-1.

The Athletics have been out of any type of pennant race since at least June and maybe earlier, but they have been tough on the Rangers all season, and they have played particularly well as the season comes to a close. They have now won seven games in a row, a season high; and they have won 14 of their last 17 games. They hold a 9-6 lead in the season series against the Rangers with four games to go starting Thursday in Arlington.

The Rangers arrived from Seattle in the wee hours of Friday morning with optimism about catching Minnesota for a Wild Card playoff berth. They had sweept a three game series against the Mariners to extend their winning streak to four games. They were tied with the Angels, both of which trailed Minnesota by 2-1/2 games (two in the loss column) for the second Wild Card spot.

The sweep at the hands of Oakland coupled with Minnesota completing a four game sweep of the Tigers this weekend all but mathematically eliminated Texas. The Rangers have fallen 5-1/2 games behind the Twins. The end result is that with six games to go for the Twins and seven games for the Rangers, a Ranger loss or a Twins’ win means the best that can happen to the Rangers is a tie for the spot. One of each, two Twins’ wins, or two Rangers’ losses eliminates the Rangers altogether. Playoffs in Arlington are not happening this year.

The Rangers finished with a 37-44 road record (.457 winning percentage) this season, which included 1-8 at Oakland.

Texas opens a seven game home stand on Monday to wrap up the season. They start with three games against Houston, which has clinched the West Division title. Colliin McHugh will start Monday’s game for the Astros, followed by aces Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander on Tuesday and Wednesday

NOTABLE:

* The Rangers team batting average for road games this season was .224, the worst by any Major League team since the designated hitter was introduced to baseball in 1973. Rougned Odor (.168), Nomar Mazara (.208) and Joey Gallo (.208) will finish with the three worst road batting averages among qualifying candidates. Mike Napoli finished at .198, but did not have enough at bats to qualify.

* Ranger batters reached the 1,400 strikeout plateau this weekend. They have already set the team record for strikeouts in a season, and are just the ninth team in American League history to strike out 1,400 times in a season. The amazing part of the stat is that two of the other seven also reached 1,400 this season. The Rangers are just third in the American League in strikeouts, trailing Oakland and Tampa Bay.

* Ranger manager Jeff Banister left the team after Friday’s game, going to the Houston area to be with his ailing mother, who is suffering from complications of recent surgery. Bench coach Steve Buechele was the acting manager in Banister’s absence on Saturday and Sunday.

* Saturday’s loss was the sixth time the Rangers have been shut out this season.

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