It’s not that it was a completely meaningless game at Globe Life Park in Arlington on Saturday night, it was just ...mostly meaningless. How close to meaningless? Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus watched from the bullpen.
There were a few bits of intrigue to be invented: the left-field scoreboard held scores from around the league that would, I suppose, have an indirect impact on both teams: fans of and press covering the Rays watched to see how the A’s, Braves, Reds, and Diamondbacks fared, hoping for wins elsewhere, grimacing at their own consolation-prize lead in Texas, and hoping for better draft position. Meanwhile, Rangers fans watched some of the same games, noting the score of Yankees/Orioles while keeping an eye on Boston/Toronto, Atlanta/Detroit and later, Oakland/Seattle, but only out of curiosity to see whose plane might be landing in Texas early Wednesday morning.
With the Rangers having wrapped up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with their win last night, the search for significance broadened its horizons and came up with these factors to look for:
1. Were hot dogs on sale for a discounted price?
No. There will be home games this postseason (hopefully a lot of them) There is no need to set blowout prices on hot dogs. Also, never trust a discount hot dog.
2. How would Colby Lewis fare in his final regular-season start?
Pretty good! Colby pitched into the 7th inning, threw 101 pitches, and 71 strikes (the average strike percentage in MLB hovers around 61-62%.) Yeah, he gave up four runs, but they were all unearned, coming in the third inning when – after a Bobby Wilson single – Kevin Kiermaier lasered a ball off Rougned Odor’s shin and into no-man’s land in foul territory in right field. With runners on second and third and just one out, Evan Longoria grounded out to shortstop to score the first run. A walk later, Corey Dickerson put a solid golf swing on a curveball that might have been a bit too center-of-the-plate, but was only about 18 inches off the ground. Dickerson put it over the fence, and it was 4-0.
But Colby would only give up two hits after that: a fourth-inning Mikie Mahtook double down the left-field line that grazed third-base umpire Mike Muchlinski in the hand as it bounded past, and a 7th-inning Alexei Ramirez double off the left-field wall. Lewis would finish with 0 earned runs, 3 strikeouts, 1 walk, and the loss. It wasn’t the stuff of legends, but for a veteran that will probably slot in as the 4th starter, it’s not bad.
3. Tomorrow is the last regular-season home game. How are the Dot Race Standings going?
Good question: Red is at 27, Blue is at 27, and Green is at 26. Remember, no wagering.
4. Can the Rangers still set a new franchise record for wins in a season?
No. But they can still tie it tomorrow if they win. The old record is 96, in 2011.
5. How’s the bullpen looking as we approach the postseason?
After getting scoreless outings last night from Tony Barnette, Jake Diekman, Matt Bush, and Sam Dyson, tonight, they got scoreless outings from Alex Claudio, Derek Holland, and Tanner Scheppers. That extended the club record for consecutive scoreless relief innings to 32⅔ innings. If you want to include the Washington Senators years, Texas would need three innings of scoreless work tomorrow to tie the 1969 Senators, who crafted a 35⅔-inning streak.
In short: Bullpen looks great.
6. Would anything else interesting happen in the game to keep it from being a waste of time?
Sure! Robinson Chirinos hit a ball to the warning track in the third inning, then in the sixth, he hit one even further. It was his 9th home run of the season, and would account for all the Rangers runs. Also, in the 8th, Jared Hoying would pinch-run and steal his first career base. Ian Desmond and Rougned Odor each made stellar defensive plays to rob Nick Franklin. And Jake Odorizzi, who the Rangers were heavily linked to in trade talks around the deadline, was stellar, striking out 8 in six innings.
7. Why am I seven questions deep into a meaningless almost meaningless game?
Fantastic question. There's really nothing more to say. Tomorrow, the Rangers wrap up their season with a 2:05 start time here at the park. By the time they finish, hopefully the scoreboard will narrow down the potential candidates for a plane ride to Texas. The postseason is right around the corner. Rest up, hydrate, get a long-sleeved shirt, and save up your hot-dog money: the postseason ride is about to begin.