So now you have to ask, was last night’s loss the result of the weirdest quirk ever, where the Rangers cannot win the opening game of a series, and you simply chalk it up to that?
Or, was last night’s loss the result of not playing a pushover, and the real Rangers are being revealed, or at least pushed?
Two things are certain.
One, the Rangers offense is nowhere near as potent, intimidating, or productive without Joey Gallo. The two games before he was injured were prime examples. He hit a grand slam to win one game, and a two-run-homer to win the next. That is the definition of a most valuable player. What he adds to this team cannot be overstated. Then, lose Shin-Soo Choo for a few days and the lineup gets a lot more unspecial.
Two, Oakland is not Baltimore or Kansas City. The Rangers enjoyed a nice in-season vacation from the schedule makers by playing both the Royals and the Orioles back to back. But the Athletics recently won ten in a row the same way, taking advantage of an anemic American League that has Seattle, Detroit and the Angels in it. Then they faced Houston. Then they got swept.
Last season, Oakland was the surprise team in the A.L. This year, the Rangers are hoping to be this year’s version of the Athletics. So this is an important series.
But looking at last year, Oakland won the second wild card slot. And had to win 97 games. New York won the first wild card slot. With 100 wins. That’s what it’s going to take this year as well.
With so few good teams in the league again this year, the elite teams are going to beef up their win totals again. So, 81 wins won’t get a wild card. It’s doubtful that 90 will.
Tampa Bay and the New York Yankees are on their way to winning well over 100 games. One of those two will with the East. The other will be the first wild card. That leaves the second wild card up to Boston, Texas, and Oakland.
After Oakland, Texas plays Boston.
Texas is facing actual competition. This series and the next, while certainly not more important than any other mid-season series, will help the front office see exactly what it has.
One thing is for certain, though. Texas and Oakland are playing for the benefit of finishing a distant second place in the West. The other, a distant third.
It’s a tallest dwarf contest.
It’s bragging rights.
And if you’ve ever been to Oakland, you know there’s nothing else to be proud of.
Paul Blackburn (—, -.–) vs. Joe Palumbo (—, -.–)
Game time: 1:05
Chris Bassitt (3-1, 3.42) vs. Adrian Sampson (4-3, 4.14)
Game time: 8:05