ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers' magic number is three, but because there's a doubleheader today, the Rangers could actually clinch their third consecutive AL West title. How? They'd have to sweep the doubleheader against the Los Angeles Angels and then have the Oakland A's lose to Seattle. But since it is possible, let's do what we've done the past few years: Rewind on the previous clinching games (starting with the most recent). Here are those five (the previous four are as they appeared in a blog entry from this time last year):
Friday, Sept. 23, 2011: The Rangers beat the Seattle Mariners, 5-3, as Craig Gentry has an inside-the-park home run. But that only put the magic number at 1. So the Rangers watched and waited with members of the crowd that night as the A's-Angels game was shown on the big screen. When the A's finished off Los Angeles, the Rangers celebrated on the field and then headed back to the clubhouse for the traditional victory party.
It was the club's second straight AL West title. And as GM Jon Daniels watched the activity in the smoke-filled clubhouse, he was proud of what his team had done.
"We set out a few years ago to build a sustainable, successful, championship-caliber club," Daniels said. "I give credit to Wash, our staff, scouts and players. They've accomplished that. We didn't want to be a one-hit wonder. Now we want to get back and win that championship. We'll see how we do in the tournament."
Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010: Jorge Cantu, who was acquired at the trade deadline to help the club at first base, hit the go-ahead home run in the top of the eighth in Oakland after the A’s had tied it in the bottom of the seventh. The solo shot went to left field. Cantu had struggled since arriving in Texas and he got his first two RBIs as a Ranger to help the club win the clinching game.
"I love it," Young said, as he stood drenched with champagne in the visiting clubhouse in Oakland. "I didn't put goggles on right away. I wanted to taste it and see how badly it hurt. It's a great feeling. These guys are having a great time and deservedly so. We worked extremely hard, overcame a lot of injuries, overcame all kinds of stuff to get where we are right now."
Texas then went on its memorable playoff run, beating the Rays behind Cliff Lee in Game 5 at Tropicana Field and then getting past the Yankees in six games in the ALCS to advance to the club’s first World Series. They lost in five games to the San Francisco Giants.
Sunday, Sept. 26, 1999: The Rangers pounded out double-digit runs in a 10-3 victory to clinch its third postseason invitation in the past four seasons. Rafael Palmeiro hit a sixth-inning grand slam to give the Rangers the title in front of their home fans at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Texas played at Yankee Stadium for the first two games of the best-of-5 division series and were swept for the second straight year. The Rangers lost 3-0 in Arlington to end the series.
Friday, Sept. 25, 1998: The Rangers clinched the division before they actually lost 15-4 to Seattle. The scoreboard in the Kingdome didn’t show the Angels had lost, but word filtered into the Rangers dugout. The club celebrated in the clubhouse in Seattle and not on the field.
The Rangers were 3 ½ games behind the Angels with 20 games left before winning seven of the next nine to take the lead. They beat the Angels five times in the final two weeks of the season to grab the division title.
"I think this makes a statement," Texas manager Johnny Oates told reporters in Seattle that night. “I think it says we're making progress. We want to be a team that contends every year and is looked at as a contender every year. I think this goes a long way towards that."
The Rangers got swept by the Yankees after opening up the playoffs at Yankee Stadium. A 4-0 loss in Game 3 in Arlington ended it. Texas scored just one run the entire series.
Friday, Sept. 27, 1996: Texas clinched the title while still playing in the 13th inning of a 15-inning loss to the Angels in Arlington. When Seattle lost, 8-1, to Oakland, the Rangers had their first division title in front of a sold out crowd of 46,764, which included then Texas governor George W. Bush. After the game, fireworks exploded and players came onto the field to celebrate.
Ken Hill pitched seven solid innings, but it was 2-2 when he left. Garrett Anderson’s two-run single in the top of the 15th was the difference.
Things got a bit scary for the Rangers down the stretch. They led the AL West by nine games with 17 to play, but Seattle swept the Rangers in a four-game series and managed to crawl within one on Sept. 20. But a 7-1 win that day thanks to a great start by John Burkett allowed them to stay in front, and they never looked back.
Texas beat the Yankees in Game 1 of the ALDS at Yankee Stadium and had a 4-1 lead in Game 2 before New York won it in 12 innings. The Yankees won the next two games in Arlington to win the series. They eventually won the World Series over the Atlanta Braves.