It’s a game of numbers. Every action a player commits is turned into a number.
Home runs. On-base percentage. Batting average on balls hit in play. RBIs after the seventh inning.
Salary numbers, arbitration numbers, qualifying offer numbers. All that off-season stuff that determines the number of wins a team will get.
Magic numbers. Which, after last night’s odd 3-0 victory over Oakland, in which the Rangers didn’t get a single runner on base in seven of the nine innings, is at zero. As in clinched.
Seven: Number of times the Rangers have won the West Division. In fact, Texas has won its division seven times in the last twenty-one years after not having won it at all in its first twenty-six. So every third year the Rangers win the West. Oakland has won the West the most often, sixteen times, followed by Los Angeles at nine and then Johnny-come-lately Texas.
Eleven: Number of post-season victories needed to win the World Series. You don’t have to go 11-0. 11-8 gets it done. That’s .579 baseball. In September, the Rangers are playing .550. That won’t get it done. Back in June, when they played .714 ball, that works.
Eight: Number of seemingly meaningless games remaining in the season that are anything but meaningless, because—
Ninety-one: Number of wins the Rangers currently have. Cleveland is one-half-game back at 90-63. Boston is one game back at 90-64. The best of the three earns home field advantage throughout the playoffs and into the World Series. Why does it matter? You think if Game 5 last year would have been in Arlington rather than in Toronto it would have turned out much differently? Recall the chaos during the bizarre Shin-Soo Choo at-bat, and how rattled the Rangers played in the home half of that inning with the crowd in a crazed frenzy, before you answer that.
Look at potential opponents. Boston plays better at home (to be fair, not much—.590 to .579, which happens to be the exact percentage needed to win the World Series). Cleveland plays a remarkable .671 at home (best in the American League), but just .500 on the road. And Texas is .667 at home and .519 on the road.
Among Wild Card probables, Toronto, Detroit and Baltimore play much better at home—Baltimore is under .500 on the road.
Home field advantage is important.
Anyone who says it’s not is doing a number on you.
Yu Darvish (5-5, 3.42) vs. Raul Alcantara (1-1, 5.65)
Game time: 3:05
How the Rangers hit against Alcantara.
How the Athletics hit against Darvish.
THE TEXAS RANGERS ARE
THE 2016 AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST CHAMPS.