The Texas Rangers have punched their postseason tickets for the third consecutive season. They have assured themselves of being at least one of two American League wild card teams.
But that only got a light toast Sunday night, recognition but not celebration. They real celebration will come if they win one of three games at Oakland this week, as a victory would clinch the American League West.
The Rangers understand the importance of winning the division, too. In previous years, the wild card team was in a five-game series to start the playoffs. This year, the wild card teams are pitted against each other in a win-or-go home one-game series.
“We never had our mind on the wild card,” third baseman Adrian Beltre said. “We had our mind on the division.”
Here are a few potential playoff scenarios with three games left. It’s important to remember that the better seed will start the ALDS on the road, as it’s a 2-3 format this year instead of the traditional 2-2-1. MLB had to make the adjustment when they added the second wild card in early March.
* If the Rangers win one of the three games at Oakland, they will be AL West champions and either the No. 1 or 2 seed. If they’re the one-seed, they would begin the ALDS on the road against the winner of the wild card game. If they are the two-seed, they will begin the ALDS on the road at the AL Central winner (likely Detroit).
* For the Rangers to guarantee themselves of being the one-seed in the AL with home-field advantage, they need to sweep the A’s. They currently have a one-game lead on the New York Yankees and Baltimore for best American League record. The Rangers hold the tiebreaker over the Orioles by winning the season series, but the Yankees hold the edge on the Rangers.
* If the A’s sweep the Rangers, the A’s will be AL West champions. That would likely leave the Rangers as the away team in the wild card round, traveling to either Baltimore or New York for the one-game series.
Here’s a look at the week that was, and the week that is for the Rangers:
* Sept. 24-27 vs. Oakland: The Rangers split a pivotal four-game series with the A’s to start the week. It was considered a good split for the Rangers at the time, as they kept the A’s four games back on the division lead.
* Sept. 28-30 vs. LA Angels: The Rangers were in position to close out the AL West at home, but lost the first two games of the series to the Angels, who were fighting for their playoff lives. Ryan Dempster struggled once again against the Angels in the series opener, and Saturday’s game was postponed until Sunday. On Sunday, it was a day of highs and lows for Texas. The Rangers started the day by losing Game 1 when Joe Nathan blew a one-run lead in the ninth inning. It was his second blown save of September. In Game 2, though, Nathan and the Rangers redeemed themselves. They battled out of an early four-run hole, and held on for an 8-7 victory that clinched a postseason berth. Sunday wasn’t all good news for the Rangers, as Adrian Beltre left Game 2 with a re-aggravation of a left shoulder strain he originally suffered in Game 1. And Michael Young was pulled with a sore left Achilles late in the game. Beltre and Young were both optimistic they would be able to play tonight.
* Today-Wednesday at Oakland: The Rangers’ first chance at closing out the division is tonight, and rookie left-hander Martin Perez gets the start. Perez lasted only two-thirds of an inning in his last start Wednesday, but manager Ron Washington believes he’s the best option at this point. Matt Harrison is scheduled to start Tuesday against Travis Blackley, and Ryan Dempster is in line to start the regular season finale against A.J. Griffin.
-- Drew Davison