TORONTO, ON — Coming into this four-game set in Canada, with their path to the postseason hanging in the balance, the Texas Rangers needed to at the very least split the series with the Toronto Blue Jays to remain contentious in the American League Wild Card race -- especially with that ballclub from up north ahead of them in the standings.
But after winning the final two games of their homestand over the weekend, the Rangers proved up to the task -- and then some -- with their backs against the wall.
With a chance to revitalize their October hopes, Bruce Bochy’s crew swept their direct competition to move their winning streak to six games. And, once again, they staked their claim to an AL playoff spot.
- Game 143: Texas 10, Toronto 4 (W: Dunning, 10-6, L: Bassitt, 14-8)
- Game 144: Texas 6, Toronto 3 (W: Scherzer, 13-6, L: Ryu, 3-3)
- Game 145: Texas 10, Toronto 0 (W: Montgomery, 9-11, L: Kikuchi, 9-6)
- Game 146: Texas 9, Toronto 2 (W: Bradford, 4-1, L: Gausman, 11-9)
Sweep, sweep victory. It had been 30 years since the Texas Rangers took an entire four-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays in Canada. Just one week removed from having been similarly pummeled by the Houston Astros themselves, Texas took one of the AL’s better lineups and pitching staffs to school.
Outscoring the Blue Jays 35-9, and out-hitting them 44-23, the Rangers looked like a completely different team than they had been for the last half of August. The team that showed up to attempt to wrest a playoff spot away from the Blue Jays looked collectively like the ones that had gotten the team into a good position in the season’s first half.
Indeed, the Texas offense continually clicked on all cylinders, and the starting pitching did what it needed to do while the bullpen was far more locked in than anyone would have guessed considering their recent troubles.
By the end of the series, the Rangers had the boo birds out in Toronto as the two clubs switched places in the standings from where they were at the start of the series. Texas now sits 2.5 games ahead of Toronto in the Wild Card chase -- and also snared the season tiebreaker away after winning six of seven games against the Blue Jays this season.
Milestone men. In the top of the 4th inning on Tuesday, with Texas still searching for a run against Jays starter Hyun-Jin Ryu, Corey Seager started off the inning with a career mark. After two fruitless at-bats since a double the night before, Seager grounded a first-pitch cutter from Ryu right back up the middle for career hit number 1,000.
Considering that Seager has missed 43 games this season, the All-Star shortstop’s accomplishments this season have been a sight to behold. He scored on a two-run homer by Robbie Grossman on the very next pitch. With that homer, not only did Grossman give the Rangers a 2-0 lead in an eventual 6-3 victory, but he also crossed the plate as a run scored for the 500th time in his career.
The Evan Carter Show. The Rangers’ No. 1 prospect didn’t waste time making an impact in his road debut. After getting his first career hit at home last Friday, Carter decided to showcase his talents internationally. In the top of the 3rd on Monday, with the Rangers down 2-1, the 21-year old saw one cutter from Chris Bassitt for a strike. Then he deposited the next cutter deep into the right field seats for his first career home run.
The showcase didn’t stop there, either. In the bottom of the 5th, with Texas now leading 3-2, Kevin Kiermaier doubled to lead off the inning and then came around with the intent to score on a George Springer single. The base hit made its way to Carter in left field, and the 2020 second-rounder came up and threw Kiermaier out at the plate to preserve the Rangers' lead.
The next night, Carter went to throw Cavan Biggio out at third, and while that play was overturned on replay, Carter once again displayed his defensive prowess. In the third game, Carter got his first hit with a runner in scoring position for an RBI single. Through seven games into his big league career, Carter is slashing .294/.435/.471 to provide a spark at the bottom of the order for Texas.
Mad Max sidelined. After cruising through five innings in an eventual Rangers victory, Tuesday’s starter Max Scherzer attempted to go through his motion with an out in the bottom of the 6th, but was clearly bothered by something. As Mike Maddux came out to check on the ace, Scherzer looked even more uncomfortable as he was unable to physically produce a warm up pitch for the onlooking trainer before exiting.
Officially, the Rangers announced that Scherzer left the game with a triceps spasm. By the next afternoon, however, the second worst possible news came down from the club. It was announced that Scherzer had suffered a low-grade strain of his teres major muscle and would not pitch again during the regular season. But even a return in the postseason is very much in doubt, even if the Rangers advance.
Scherzer, who was acquired from the New York Mets at the trade deadline for prospect Luisangel Acuña to lead the Rangers into the postseason in the absence of Jacob deGrom, will now be joining his fellow former Mets teammate on the injured list for the remainder of the year.
In his short time with Texas this season, Scherzer went 4-2 with a 3.20 ERA, throwing 45 innings, allowing just five homers while garnering nearly a 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in eight games. But now Texas will be without the man that they had penciled in as their potential Game 1 starter, and for a second time this summer at that.
Chapman still shaky. A solo home run in a comfortable game usually isn’t cause for concern. But if you’re the co-closer on a team that is fighting to hold on to a playoff spot, any sort of hiccup will loom large and raise some eyebrows – no matter the score.
Since August 21, when Aroldis Chapman gave up his first run since July 24, the big lefty has allowed eight runs in nine appearances, including three home runs. In the second game of the series, with the Rangers up 6-2, rookie second baseman Davis Schneider hit a home run off Chapman, his eighth of the season.
Chapman’s ERA now sits at 7.36 in September, which absolutely will not do as a closer.
Scare for Garver. Mitch Garver has somewhat flown under the radar in the second half of the season, but his contributions, even during the recent losing stretch, have been impressive. That’s why there was quite a bit of teeth-gnashing when Garver fouled a ball off his foot in the top of the 4th in Thursday’s finale and was replaced by Sam Huff.
Since the All-Star break, Garver has slashed .301/.415/.595 with 13 home runs and 28 RBI. The early exit was officially diagnosed as a bruise, and Garver will likely avoid being named among the onslaught of recent injured Rangers.
Texas was ultimately very lucky that Garver didn’t end up with an ailment that will cost him significant time. It’s still not an ideal situation to have one of their hottest bats banged up, but for a Rangers team that has been racking up the IL trips of late, a bruise is better than the alternative.
Texas now travels south to Ohio to face a Cleveland Guardians team that is hanging on for dear life at eight games back in the AL Central.
The Astros, meanwhile, face a moribund last place Kansas City club over the weekend.
And the Mariners? They face the perennially dangerous Dodgers.
But with a sweep and six-game winning streak in hand, the Rangers are once again in control of their own destiny.
Do you think the Rangers have turned the corner with their showing up north? Share your thoughts with Matt on Twitter @FisherWritesMLB.