DALLAS - It’s over. The scheduled portion, at least.
You could be tempted to scoff, but the fact is dozens, if not hundreds, of professional baseball players played their last games in the Major leagues this weekend, and that’s properly sad. Probably at least a couple Rangers (although we’ll keep our fingers crossed on that).
A lot of guys played their last for the 2016 Rangers, definitely. Some of them are notable and figure heavily in the future (Joey Gallo, Yohander Mendez). Some… probably don’t (Derek Holland and the 9.5 million dollar question this winter).
Either way, on to the wild.
The Last Rays of Summer
Friday’s game set out a simple mission; win, and the road to the World Series comes through Arlington. Lose, and… well either you have to win on Saturday or do a bit of scoreboard watching.
Spoiler alert: Yu Darvish was the starter.
He allowed a run. He allowed a walk. The man he walked was the only run, which is kind of poetic. He struck out twelve Rays while throwing ninety seven pitches, which is certainly poetic of a different sort.
He sent a message, north and east; I don’t care if your feathers are blue or orange, I will strike out ten birds regardless.
The aforementioned walk was to Kevin Kiermaier in the sixth, driven in in short order by Evan Longoria with the Rays’ only extra base hit of the night, a double. The score was 2-1 at the time (a first inning Adrian Beltre single and a 3rd inning solo shot from Carlos Beltran had accounted for the scoring to that point) and the tying run was on second with no outs. Yu Darvish might have been in trouble.
13 pitches later, Darvish had struck out the side, swinging. He then gave a little show of emotion. You could call it that, if you’re into downplaying things.
The Rays failed to execute the shutdown inning in the bottom of the frame as Rougned Odor launched a shot to right field that somehow ‘only’ left his bat at 96 miles per hour. If Yu is ready for either set of birds, Rougie wants you to know he is too (but he really, really wants the blue ones).
Quiet innings from Barnette and Diekman, Bush, and Dyson followed, and with a 3-1 final, Texas had clinched home field and lineups were about to get weird.
We’re gonna breeze here a bit so roll with it. On Saturday, Colby Lewis sent in his final audition tape for Game Four and… it really wasn’t bad. He allowed four runs, but none of them were earned due to an error by Rougned Odor that should have ended the third inning.
Instead, Evan Longoria’s groundout following the error scored old friend Bobby Wilson, and Colby followed with a walk and then his customary home run (which found two men on base instead of the usual zero).
The Rangers’ PCL All Star team lineup scored only one run (Robinson Chirinos homer), and the game was set at 4-1. Absent that third inning, Lewis walked none and allowed only three hits (plus one hit batsmen), and he pitched into the seventh inning.
Given the history of Colby Lewis and October, I feel comfortable with him starting the fourth game, particularly if multi-inning weapons like Alex Claudio, Matt Bush, and Tony Barnette (assuming he’s stretched enough to get 3+ outs) are available behind him.
As far as offense, well… Ryan Rua hit a double, and he’s part of a complex equation of position players who will be on the ALDS roster or not.
Finally, on Sunday, Martin Perez started his final game of the 2016 regular season, and it wasn’t good. He departed after three innings with seven hits allowed, three runs in, and a walk against only two strikeouts (although he did get ten ground outs compared to one fly out, so that’s a sign Martin is working as he’s supposed to). The relievers continued their historic shutout stretch until the seventh, when the Rays broke the streak with a run off Jake Diekman.
The Rangers had received offense from Ryan Runa (single, 2nd inning) and Jonathan Lucroy (homer, 4th), so the single run Diek allowed brought the score to 4-2. At this point, virtually all of the lineup had ceded to backups, but, you didn’t think even those guys would ever, ever quit, did you?
Jurickson Profar worked a two-out, bases loaded walk in the eighth to bring the score to 4-3 (one run games!) but Danny Farquhar struck out Delino DeShields to end the threat.
Keone Kela worked around a leadoff double to keep the score static in the top of the ninth, and a string of three straight singles from Jared Hoying, Chirinos, and Hanser Alberto tied the score at four apiece, leaving the winning run at second with no outs. Can you imagine the beauty of a walkoff, one-run win in Game 162 for the 2016 Texas Rangers?
It wasn’t to be. Mazara struck out, Nicholas flied out, Gallo struck out. On to the tenth, when possible ALDS bullpen member Tanner Scheppers allowed two runs, and the Rangers went quietly in their half. Hey, you got an extra inning of the magical 2016 regular season, at least.
Bring on the birds
The Rangers, Orioles, and Blue Jays are all off today, awaiting tomorrow's single-elimination game in Toronto to see who flies in the Texas and who gets bombarded with poorly photoshopped pictures of their team’s notables fishing.
The game will be on TBS at 7:00 pm CT, if that’s your thing.
Notably, the Blue Jays had to expend Aaron Sanchez on Sunday to get here, so they will bring Marcus Stroman to the mound against Chris Tillman.
As far as team to team matchups go for your rooting interests, the Rangers were 4-3 against Baltimore, with a 31-32 runs scored because the Rangers laugh at run differential. They were 3-4 against Toronto, 21-36 run differential. Notably, they were 3-1 at home against Baltimore, and 2-1 at home against Toronto, which featured a little incident you may remember in the last game between the two teams.
I asked Banister if he had any preference on who they play in the first round. Specifically: “Do you want another shot at Toronto?”...
Banister sat up and leaned forward.
“I don’t get to choose who they are, so that part of it… it’s a great question, and it’s kinda one of those questions that ...could only go poorly for me,” Banister said through a smile, as the room chuckled. “I get it, you’re a journalist, you gotta ask that question. At least you asked it! But look,” ... Whoever it happens to be, we’ll show up, get dressed up, put pine tar on our bats, rub the balls up and move on. Play a game.”
Those were the words he said. The only words, really, that he could say. But I had my answer. I got it before he said a thing. “Banister sat up and leaned forward…”
And because no sign off I could do here would ever match what Vin Scully gave us yesterday (and besides, the weekend wrap-up (and me!) will be with you throughout these playoffs, wherever they may take us), let me just say; thanks, reader (and editor [Editor's Note: You're welcome!], and beat writer, and fellow writers, and leadership, and Dale, too!).
Joe'll still be writing about the Rangers in the playoffs and the Cowboys, too, so follow him on Twitter @thejoeursery.
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