Here’s news: The Astros beat the Rangers 7-6 on Sunday.
Here’s what is not news: The Rangers won the first two games of the series by a combined score of 22-12, upping their season mark against Houston to 13-2.
But alas, the win on Sunday moved the Astros back to within 9.5 games of first place in the American League West.
It was Yu Darvish’s worst start of the 2016 season, and it’s not very close. He allowed 5 runs on 7 hits in 4.0 IP, striking out 4 and walking 3. His Game Score of 29 is the lowest figure of the year, nearly half his average Game Score (56) in 13 starts.
Meanwhile, with 6 more runs scored the Rangers continue an impressive string of offense. Since being shutout by the Reds on August 23rd, Texas has generated 81 runs over their last 11 games, an average of 7.4 per contest. Unsurprisingly the Rangers are 9-2 in those games, a 12-1 blowout loss to the Indians and Sunday’s one-run defeat.
Ball go far, team go far. Basically.
Speaking of one-run games, Sunday’s loss is just the 9th in such games for the Rangers in 2016… to go along with 30 wins. There are three teams in baseball with winning percentages above .600 in one-run games:
1 Rangers, 30-9 (.769) 2 Yankees, 22-9 (.710) 3 Tigers, 25-15 (.625)
Interestingly, the Tigers are tied for the second Wild Card in the American League; the Yankees, for their good fortune, are 3.5 games behind them. Without the added luck of being 12.5% and 21%, respectively, better than league average in one-run games, Detroit would be chasing the Wild Card and New York wouldn’t even be in the conversation.
The Rangers have been the luckiest team in MLB, and are currently getting fat off the second-biggest division lead in the sport. But what am I saying, I’ve been writing about their luck in one-run games for nearly two months.
There are 25 games left in the regular season, and here are how the relevant teams in the West stack up:
1 Texas, 82-55 2 Houston, 72-64 (-9.5) 3 Seattle, 69-67 (-12.5)
And here are how the relevant American League teams look in the race for the best record:
1 Texas, 82-55 2 Cleveland, 79-56 (-2.0) 3 Toronto, 77-59 (-4.5) 4 Boston, 76-60 (-5.5)
I’m curious to see how the Rangers handle the next 4 weeks of baseball. I mean, as a human I can understand if they ease their feet off the gas a bit. With a 9.5-game division lead, the hard work is behind them. That isn’t how most fans picture their favorite team being, because don’t they all just give it 100% every second of every game?
Texas has proven they can beat good teams; they are 59-28 (.678) vs. teams above .500 this year. And can you guess how many games, of the 25 remaining, Texas will meet a team above .500?
Six fucking games. Or in others words: 19 of the Rangers final 25 matchups are against teams with losing records. Teams that won’t be playing beyond Game 162.
So it’s my general concession that if the Rangers truly want the best record in the American League — thus home field advantage for each series, including the World Series thanks to the AL winning the dumbass All Star Game, if of course Texas is fortunate enough to make it that far — then they will make it so.
This is typically the time of year where playoff-motivated teams win more than the unmotivated ones.
But who knows. As long as the Rangers win the West and secure a spot in the ALDS, I’m not very confident that they would rather go balls-out for best record when they could give extended rest to their regulars.
Remember, Elvis Andrus has been playing on a bum groin virtually all year; Adrian Beltre and Carlos Beltran aren’t young; Ian Desmond has played almost every day this year; Jonathan Lucroy plays catcher; Nomar Mazara has played more games than at any point of his career; Matt Bush, Sam Dyson and Jake Diekman have all been overused at various points of the year; Derek Holland and Colby Lewis are recently coming off long DL stints;
I’m saying rest wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for this team. Win the West and you have a 1-in-8 chance to be world champs, 12.5 percent. Win the most regular season games and clinch home field advantage and you up your odds by, what, 2 percent? 3 percent?
That doesn’t seem all that worth it to me.
However, thanks to a 13-3 record against the Astros, to go along with an 11-4 mark against the Mariners, and that’s 24-7 vs. the main competition this season has presented the Rangers. In search of How The West Was Won, look no further. This was it.
And now it’s almost time to do the money dance.