Rangers need win for "other" AL race, too
But for Texas, this isn't just about clinching the division. It's about hanging onto the No. 1 overall seed in the AL and having some momentum heading into the postseason.
All of a sudden, the New York Yankees have closed to within a game of the Rangers for the best record in the AL (and the Baltimore Orioles are just two back now). Why does that matter? For starters, the top seed faces the wild-card game winner in the ALDS. So the Rangers could sit and watch those two teams play. And it's likely that one or both -- as long as they know they're in the wild-card game early next week -- would throw their No. 1 pitcher in that game, meaning he could only pitch once in full rest in the ALDS.
Beside home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs, the top seed doesn't start its ALDS until Oct. 7. That means three days off between the end of the regular season and the start of the postseason. And it's one more day than the Nos. 2-3 seeds. That might not seem like a big deal, but considering Texas has had two off days the last month, any extra day of rest or even partial relaxation can't be a bad thing.
If the season ended today, the Rangers would face the winner of the Oakland-Baltimore game in the ALDS. That's a favorable matchup no matter which team wins. And while Texas doesn't fear anyone (and I would argue no one wants to play the Rangers in the playoffs), it's a better first-round matchup than facing the Tigers or White Sox. Of course, the standings could shift some more between now and the end of the season.
That's why Ryan Dempster needs to come in, shut down the Mariners and see if the Rangers' offense can get something going (they couldn't Saturday). If he can, it would guarantee the Rangers start a big four-games series with the A's at least four games up. It would also mean that the Yankees wouldn't be in position to tie Texas for the best overall record Sunday, either.
So while the Rangers are in a great spot with the magic number sitting at eight (a Rangers win or an A's loss reduces that number) with 11 games left, they'd like to keep the pressure on those top AL East teams and claim that top seed, too. We saw last year how important it was that the club played well down the stretch and got homefield in the ALDS and, once the Tigers got through, in the ALCS too.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
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Play Podcast ESPN Insider and senior MLB analyst Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the wild-card race and the Rangers' chances of making the playoffs.
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Play Podcast Elvis Andrus joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Rangers' stretch run and the morale level in their clubhouse.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss the latest Rangers news, including the team's struggles, Ron Washington's job security and a rumored trade with the Braves.
Play Podcast Ron Washington joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss the Rangers' dismal September, who's to blame for their September struggles and his status as the team's manager.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss how some people are calling for the Rangers to fire manager Ron Washington.