SEATTLE – “What will we obtained?” Andrew Heaney shouted as he walked into the meals room within the visiting clubhouse at T-Cell Park, greeting his Rangers teammates. The gamers, their blue “Take October” shirts drenched in champagne, have been watching the ninth inning of the Astros–Diamondbacks sport, ready to see if they might win the AL West title.
The Rangers already had clinched their first postseason berth since 2016, defeating the Mariners, 6-1. That they had popped sufficient champagne bottles to create puddles on the clubhouse ground. And if the Diamondbacks, trailing 1-0, may simply rally to defeat the Astros, the Rangers have been able to get together some extra, understanding the season finale on Sunday could be rendered inconsequential.
Instantly, the gamers began reacting like followers.
Cheers erupted within the meals room when the Diamondbacks’ Jake McCarthy led off the ninth with a single. As Gabriel Moreno walked to the plate, somebody shouted, “Do it Moreno!” And when McCarthy was thrown out making an attempt to steal, one other participant shouted, in mock anger, “Throw the problem flag!”
Such scenes — enjoyable, wacky and a bit bit bizarre — are prone to turn into frequent on this new period of expanded playoffs and complicated tiebreaker formulation. Earlier than the beginning of the four-game Rangers-Mariners collection, with the Rangers needing just one win to seal not less than a wild-card berth, Max Scherzer speculated about how his crew may go a few two-act celebration: Pop the champagne upon reaching the postseason, drink it after capturing the AL West.
The Rangers then misplaced the primary two video games, jeopardizing not solely their possibilities of successful a division they led from April 9 to Aug. 29, but additionally creating the likelihood they might miss the playoffs totally. The Mariners had their two finest pitchers, Luis Castillo and George Kirby, lined up for the ultimate two video games. The Rangers, after investing practically $350 million in beginning pitching the previous two years, have been right down to Heaney, who had been bumped from the rotation however was now wanted to interchange the injured Jon Gray, and the less-than-comforting, “To Be Introduced,” for the season finale.
Castillo vs. Heaney, on paper, appeared a mismatch. Baseball being baseball, it ended up simply that, solely in reverse. The Rangers knocked out Castillo after 2 2/3 innings, marking his shortest begin since Could 22, 2019. And Heaney, who described his season as “f—— wild, up and down, Jekyll and Hyde,” confronted 19 hitters, the precise quantity the Rangers wished. He left with a 5-0 lead and the bases loaded, however Josh Sborz retired Julio Rodriguez and Eugenio Suarez on 4 pitches to flee the jam.
Three members of the Rangers’ beleaguered bullpen — Sborz, rookie Cody Bradford and the resurgent José Leclerc — closed out the Mariners by permitting just one run in 4 2/3 innings. The Rangers’ celebration on the sphere was restrained, virtually as if this was simply one other win.
At 90-71, the Rangers enter the ultimate day main the Astros by one sport. However the Astros maintain the tiebreaker as a result of they gained the season collection, 9-4. So if the Rangers lose on Sunday and the Astros win, Houston will earn its fifth division title in six seasons, the one exception being the pandemic yr in 2020.
A primary-round bye is also at stake, but the Rangers weren’t about to let their preliminary accomplishment go, not after dropping 102 and 94 video games the earlier two seasons. Within the clubhouse, supervisor Bruce Bochy advised the gamers to show it free.
“You’re employed too exhausting in spring coaching to go this up. You’ve obtained to get pleasure from it. You’ve obtained to have fun,” Bochy stated.
“We’re going to have fun tonight. Coming from 100 loss season, it is a fairly particular second for us. However there’s nonetheless extra to come back.”
The preliminary eruption within the clubhouse was normal post-clinch euphoria, gamers donning goggles, shouting with pleasure, spraying champagne. The outpouring of emotion, although, was comparatively short-lived. The gamers, understanding they could must play one other sport of significance the subsequent day, rapidly retreated to the meals room to look at the ninth inning of Astros-Diamondbacks.
On Sunday, the ultimate day of the common season, all video games begin between 3:05 and three:15 ET. However on Saturday, like each different day, the beginning occasions have been extra staggered. Astros-Diamondbacks started 55 minutes after Rangers-Mariners. So, as a substitute of scoreboard watching, the Rangers did precise tv watching, desperate to be taught their destiny.
American League standings
This season, Bochy’s first with the membership, was not with out challenges. The Rangers led the division by a season-high 6 1/2 video games on June 23. However in early September, the Astros outscored them, 39-10, in a three-game sweep in Arlington, dropping them three video games again.
Even for playoff groups, the 162-game season options ebbs and flows, creating varied challenges alongside the best way. Accidents to Corey Seager, Josh Jung and Adolis García compromised the Rangers’ high-powered offense within the second half. And that was nothing, in comparison with what occurred to the Texas rotation.
Jacob deGrom, signed to a five-year, $185 million free-agent contract, began solely six video games earlier than present process his second Tommy John surgical procedure. Nathan Eovaldi, signed to a two-year, $34 million deal, missed greater than a month with a forearm pressure and has a 9.30 ERA since his return in early September.
Scherzer, acquired on the commerce deadline, went on the IL with a strained teres main muscle on Sept. 13, and appears a longshot to pitch once more this season. Grey, within the second yr of a four-year, $56 million contract, is affected by proper decrease forearm tightness, and won’t be eligible to return till the ALCS, if the Rangers get that far.
Then there’s the bullpen. The Rangers are the primary crew to achieve the postseason with extra blown saves (33) than saves (30) for the reason that save statistic grew to become official in 1969. Their 4.78 bullpen ERA ranks twenty fifth within the majors. The groups behind them are among the many worst in baseball.
Second baseman Marcus Semien summed it up properly.
“It has not been simple this yr,” he stated.
Marcus Semien celebrates after the Rangers clinch a playoff spot on Saturday. (Steph Chambers /Getty Pictures)
Again within the meals room, the Rangers groaned when the Diamondbacks’ McCarthy was caught stealing, and once more when Moreno grounded out. The gamers remained standing, glued to the tv. One referred to as for some Chick-fil-A sandwiches to be handed round. And when Geraldo Perdomo drew a two-out stroll, huge cheers erupted once more.
The Diamondbacks’ finest hitter, Corbin Carroll was subsequent.
“He’s 0-for-3!” one Ranger shouted. “He’s due!”
Scherzer, standing shirtless, yelled, “Oppo!” pleading for an opposite-field homer. One other Ranger was much less involved with path, saying, “Simply hit a homer.” The Diamondbacks, nonetheless, weren’t in all that pressing a place. Whereas they, too, have been vying for a postseason berth, all they wanted was a loss by the Reds to safe a spot. When the Diamondbacks took the sphere, the Reds already have been down 5-0 to the Cardinals. By the tip of the primary inning in Arizona, the Reds trailed, 10-0.
Carroll, it turned out, struck out to finish the sport, swinging at a pitch that bounced a number of ft in entrance of residence plate. The Diamondbacks, slightly than bemoan the loss, celebrated their first postseason berth since 2017 by leaping into the pool at Chase Discipline. The Blue Jays, then again, left Rogers Centre in a subdued state after dropping to the Rays, solely to be taught they clinched a wild card after the Mariners misplaced later within the day. Presumably, their celebration will happen Sunday evening.
Nationwide League standings
It’s all a bit chaotic and complicated, and slightly tense for the groups concerned. A number of Rangers retreated to their lockers after the Astros-Diamondbacks ended, rapidly turning their ideas to the season finale. Dane Dunning will begin on three days relaxation in opposition to Kirby, who has a 4.45 ERA in September, his highest in any month this season.
The Mariners, after being eradicated, simply may let down. However the Rangers are assuming nothing, understanding the Astros are enjoying for a similar aim. The Diamondbacks’ motivation is much less clear. Relying upon whether or not they end forward of the Marlins, they are going to face both the Brewers or Phillies, neither a simple opponent.
Semien dismissed any notion that, within the wake of Saturday’s launch of emotion, it will be tough for the Rangers to summon the mandatory vitality for Sport No. 162. “It’s simpler to stand up for tomorrow,” he countered. “We management our future. We’re in first place.”
Catcher/designated hitter Mitch Garver, who reached the postseason with the Twins in 2019 and ‘20, didn’t view the Rangers’ celebration as significantly raucous, saying, “We didn’t go that arduous.” First baseman Nathaniel Lowe, a member of the crew since 2019, agreed.
“I’m fairly certain nobody’s overdone it,” he stated. “Ideally, we’re going to have fun fairly exhausting (Sunday). After getting dominated for so long as I’ve worn this uniform and now clinching a postseason berth, it deserves recognition and celebration.”
And possibly yet one more.
(Prime picture: Steph Chambers / Getty Pictures)