It All Comes Down To This.
In spite of its local popularity, I've never been a huge fan of the number thirteen. The thought of that number has always given me a feeling of misery.
Yesterday's loss by the Texas Rangers only adds to that. Surely, you know what I mean.
Thirteen, let's recall, is the number of the games that Your Texas Rangers were up on the Moneyballin' Oakland A's in the American League West not too long ago — until, of course, it all fell apart yesterday as the A's beat the Rangers to win the division.
Yesterday's game was a bitch to watch, wasn't it?
We wish it wasn't the biggest story in baseball right now. Alas, it is. ESPN recently noted that not one of their 100 analysts picked the A's to even make the playoffs. And, hey, considering that their team is full of average misfits, I wouldn't have either.
It gets worse: Thirteen, you should note, is also the number of strikeouts Zach Greinke tossed against the Seattle Mariners last week, and he was the first pitcher to do so in five innings or less since 1920. It's too bad that it wasn't him the Rangers traded for and put up on the mound yesterday instead of Ryan Dempster, who couldn't even make it past three innings and looked just terrible.
Still, things aren't yet over for the Rangers. The game they play tomorrow in Arlington, however, means everything. Yup. It's Win or Go Home.
With the new playoff format, the one-game Wild Card match against the Baltimore Orioles serves as a tiebreaker of sorts, and it could be the last game we ever see Josh Hamilton play in a Rangers uniform.
The big questions: Will we see Good Josh or Bad Josh?
Here's hoping he shows up in a big way, and that Texas welcomes New York on Sunday for the ALDS.
Before that, though, let's consider six points worth keeping in mind for tomorrow's game.
• The Rangers' hottest hitter in the last seven days is Adrian Beltre (.321), who continued to do his part in helping the Rangers to what should've been their third straight division title by hitting .426 in the last seven days with 12 hits and 17 total bases. Baltimore's hot bat, by comparison, is Chris Davis. The former Ranger and lefty out of Longview has five home runs in the past week, and is batting .270 for the season.
• The Rangers' starting pitcher on Friday will be Yu Darvish, who hasn't lost a game in six starts since August 17. Also of note: Darvish was fourth in the league in strikeouts during the regular season, notching 221 punch-outs. The Orioles have yet to name their starter.
• Both the Rangers and the Orioles are coming off miserable last games to their seasons: The O's could have pushed the AL East to a tiebreaker against New York with a win on Wednesday, and they were neck-and-neck with the Yankees for first place in the AL East throughout most of September. Meanwhile, the Rangers had sole possession of the AL West division lead from the fourth game of the season to the 161st.
• Geovany Soto has been Darvish's personal catcher ever since the pairing of the two has proved to be a winning one. But Mike Napoli has been playing extremely well since his return from injury, so it'll be interesting to see who Ron Washington will go with on Friday. One assumes Napoli would bat DH in the case that Soto catches, but with a bench full of good hitters, that might not be the case.
• A snap shot of the Rangers' and Orioles' offenses gives the Rangers a statistical advantage: The Rangers have 808 R / .273 BA / .334 OBP / .446 SP against the Orioles' 712 R / .247 BA / .311 OBP / .417 SP.
• Here's a fun fact: On August 22nd, 2007, the Texas Rangers lambasted the Orioles in a 30-3 win, scoring the most runs by a team in MLB history.