By Dic Humphrey
The Texas Rangers stayed alive in the American League Wild Card race Saturday by beating Los Angeles 7-4 in a game with the earliest start time in Arlington Ranger history. It was a sloppy game as the Angels committed five errors and handed the Rangers three unearned runs. The win ran Texas’ current winning streak to six games. Saturday’s win coupled with Tampa’s loss to Toronto vaulted Texas into a tie for the second Wild Card spot. (Cleveland beat Minnesota 5-1 to take over the top spot in the Wild Card race.)
The import is that the Rangers now hold their playoff fate in their own hands. They can make the playoffs by winning games, without needing help from another team to beat an opponent Texas is chasing.
Los Angeles scored in the top of the first; but the Rangers came back to tie in the bottom half of the inning, then take a 5-1 lead with four more runs in the second. Derek Holland was the Rangers’ starter, and even with the four run lead, he was unable to complete five innings to qualify for the win for the third time in six September starts. Holland surrendered a run in the third and two more in the fifth before being replaced by Joaquin Soria, who became the winning pitcher. Holland gave up all four Angels’ runs on eight hits in 4-2/3rds innings. The usually reliable Ranger bullpen turned in their usually reliable performance, shutting out L. A. over the final 4-1/3rd innings.
Joe Nathan earned his 43rd save of the season after striking out Howie Kendrick in the ninth. Kendrick represented the tying run, as Josh Hamilton had doubled with two outs followed by a walk to Mike Trout to set the stage for Kendrick.
The game was moved to an 11:05 start time for fear of rainy weather. Actually, rain fell intermittently throughout the game until the ninth inning, when a deluge came. Players said afterward that they were glad Kendrick struck out, because no one wanted to field a ball in the heavy downpour.
Sunday, the Rangers and Angels meet again with Yu Darvish facing Jason Vargas. Darvish is 3-0 with a 3.00 ERA against the Angels this season, while Vargas has a 2.89 ERA against Texas in three starts. It will be the first time in Ranger history that game number 162 has bearing on the Rangers making the playoffs.
If the Rangers win Sunday, they can do no worse than a two-way tie for the second Wild Card spot. They can also tie for the second Wild Card spot if they lose and Tampa Bay also loses. A three-way tie is possible if both Texas and Tampa win and Cleveland loses. However, if Texas wins and Tampa loses, the Rangers are in as a Wild Card team irrespective of the results of Cleveland’s game.
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