We all had that one friend when we were kids, didn’t we? The one whose house had all the cool toys. And as long as they weren’t being a jerk about it, you loved going over there. The creeping debt of jealousy had not yet wormed its way into your periphery, as it does to all humankind eventually. Sure, you might get jealous if someone got the red bowl and left the lousy green one to you, but on a macro level, you didn’t allow the gaping maw of inadequacy to keep you up at night because your neighbor Jeremy had a remote control car, a new video game console, and half-dozen of all the best WWF figurines that you didn’t. You just wanted to hang out at his house again as soon as possible, so you could play with Jeremy, along with Hulk Hogan, Junkyard Dog, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Andre the Giant, Kamala, and the Million-Dollar Man.
Tonight, the Rangers clinched home-field advantage, and in doing so established themselves as the Jeremy of the American League. With more and more national eyes focusing on the team as they prepare for the postseason, the Rangers made sure to show off a few wares tonight.
First off was the shiny, sleek, turbo-powered remote-control Yu Darvish. His fastball, slider, and curveball each danced with the sort of precision that begs the search for outside forces exerting their will on the little white dancing pill. Darvish allowed a leadoff single, and then not another hit until the 4th (another single that beat the shift). In the sixth, he walked his first batter, and Evan Longoria followed with the only extra-base hit that Darvish would allow, a liner to the gap in left-center field. Ian Desmond dove to his full stretched horizontal length, but missed the ball by six inches.
By this point, the Rangers were up 2-0, the first run a result of a first-inning Desmond walk, then a stolen base, then an Adrian Beltre double. The second tally came when Carlos Beltran hit a laser-line-drive into the right field seats. Even the oft-broken Shin-Soo Choo was back to full operating speed tonight in his return, singling in his first at-bat.
But now, here in the sixth inning, with one run already home, another in scoring position, and none yet out, Darvish was a single away from giving up the one-run lead. It was the sort of position to which his critics have pointed: maybe Darvish isn’t quite mentally tough enough to bear down in these high leverage situations.
Brad Miller: strikeout swinging
Nick Franklin: strikeout swinging
Jaff Decker: strikeout swinging.
They were his tenth, eleventh, and twelfth strikeouts of the night, against one walk and three hits. Darvish knew the stakes. He pumped his fist and yelled. He is ready for the postseason. Let’s put him away for tonight. There are more fun things to see here.
In the bottom of the sixth, the newest and shiniest of second base prodigies hit his 33rd home run of the year, a no-doubt shot to right field that instantly set off a cannonade of enthusiasm from the Globe Life Park crowd. It was 3-1. He seems ready for the postseason too. How about we check out that abundance of wrestling figurines?
In Spring Trainging, the Rangers bullpen was supposed to be the best the team has ever seen. Tom Wilhelmsen had closed in Seattle, Shawn Tolleson was coming off a successful season as the team’s closer. Andrew Faulkner had perhaps the best Spring of any Rangers reliever. And yet, as the season progressed, the narrative became that not only was the Rangers bullpen not the best, perhaps it wasn’t even very good at all.
But then came the change at closer, and a few acquisitions. So tonight, after Tony Barnette handed off the baseball to Jake Diekman, then Diekman to Matt Bush the bullpen was closing in on not just a belated fulfillment of high expectations, but a number that would set them quite apart. When Matt Bush walked off the mound after a scoreless 8th inning, the bullpen had set a new franchise record: 28⅔ consecutive scoreless innings, breaking the old record which had been set in 2008. Not even making an appearance tonight: Jeremy Jeffress, Tanner Scheppers, Keone Kela or Alex Claudio, each of whom have successfully landed a few crushing jumps from the top rope themselves.
When Sam Dyson walked off that same mound in the 9th, not only had the streak been extended to 29⅔, but the Rangers had also done something else they’d never done before: clinched home-field advantage throughout not just the playoffs, but (thanks to an AL win in the All-Star Game), the World Series, should they advance that far.
There’s nothing to suggest they can’t. With Darvish and Hamels atop the rotation, with the cast of dangermen patrolling the bullpen, and with a lineup that boasts a .304 hitter in the 9-hole and a refugee from the island of misfit toys doing damage in the leadoff spot, the Rangers look like a complete team. Thankfully for us, they’ve not shown an ounce of selfishness: they've been all too happy to share it with us all season long.
Postgame video #1: Banister and Darvish on Darvish.
Postgame video #2: Banister, Bush, Barnette on the bullpen, plus Odor on slump-busting
(Courtesy of the Texas Rangers)
TODAY'S DAILY involves poetry that is probably all out of date after tonight's games in the AL, but it was still fun to write.
TEXAS has clinched home field advantage for any postseason series it will play (club holds tiebreakers over both Boston and Cleveland)…set a club record with its 53rd home win of the season…is tied for the 2nd-most wins in club history (96-2011; 95-1999)…is a season-high 30 games over .500, reaching the mark at any point in a season for just the 3rd time (1999 and 2011).
MORE RELIEF WORK: Texas relievers combined for 3.0 SHO IP tonight to extend the pen’s scoreless inning streak to 29.2 innings, a new club record (previous high was 28.1 IP in May 2008)…the bullpen has allowed just one unearned run in last 37.0 IP beg. 9/18 (9th inning).
YU DARVISH recorded a season-high 12 strikeouts for his 28th career game of 10+ strikeouts…his 28 starts of 10+ strikeouts are 2nd most by any pitcher in his 1st 100 starts (Dwight Gooden-31) and 2nd-most in Texas history (Nolan Ryan-34)…whiffed 12 of 24 batters faced…is the 3rd Texas pitcher to record as many as 12 strikeouts in a start of 6.0 innings-or-less, joining Matt Perisho (6.0 IP, 12 K on 10/3/99 at LAA) and Nolan Ryan (6.0 IP, 14 K on 7/25/89 vs. TOR)…last 2 starts of the regular season: 2-0, 0.64 (1 ER/14.0 IP), 21 strikeouts/2 walks, .109 opponent average (5-46).
ROUGNED ODOR hit his team-leading 33rd home run of the season…has homered in 2 straight for the 5th time this season…his 32 home runs as a second baseman are 2nd-most in club history behind only Alfonso Soriano (35 in 2005)…12 of 24 hits in September went for extra-bases (6 2B/6 HR).
CARLOS BELTRAN hit career home run no. 421 in the 3rd inning…has 5 HR and 21 RBI over his last 29 games.
ADRIAN BELTRE has RBI in 3 straight and 5 of his last 6 games…his 104 RBI are the most by a Ranger since Josh Hamilton had 128 in 2012…has 3 doubles in his last 2 games.
SAM DYSON has converted 11 of 12 and 14 of last 16 save tries…has allowed one run last 14 G/14.0 IP with 14 strikeouts…has earned the win (2) or save (4) in each of the Rangers’ last 6 wins.