Last season, with nine games left to go, the Rangers had a seemingly insurmountable lead of 4.5 games in the West. They proceeded to lose five of the next eight, and saw themselves up just one game going into the final game of the season.
They turned comfort into agony.
This season, nine games ago, Texas had a 3.5 game lead over Boston for the best record in the American League, which, more importantly, means home field advantage throughout the payoffs, which, most importantly, means three games at the Fenway House of Horrors as opposed to four. They proceeded to lose five of the next nine, and saw that lead dwindle away to nothing.
Last night, for the first night in twelve nights, the Rangers gained ground over Boston for best record. It was a textbook 2016 Rangers game, except they won by two runs instead of their customary one, although textbook Sam Dyson did his best to make it a one-runner.
And now, with four games left in the season—five for Boston—the Rangers home field advantage fate is in their own hands.
The next four games have plenty of storylines:
Can Texas keep pace with Boston from here on out?
When does Shin-Soo Choo return, and more importantly, how well, and what do you do with him?
What role does Nomar Mazara play if Choo does, indeed, come back?
How does Tony Barnett respond to consecutive appearances?
How do Perez and Lewis do in their final starts?
Where does A.J. Griffin fit into the post-season plans?
Who lines up after Hamels and Darvish? Nobody is deserving. In September, Perez is 1-1 with a 4.85 ERA in four starts, Lewis is 0-3 with a 9.75 ERA in three starts, Griffin is 1-1 with a 7.94 ERA in five starts. As a reference, and a point of encouragement, Kyle Lohse was 0-2 with a 12.54 ERA in two starts for Texas earlier this season—so things aren’t alway as bad as they seem.
Can Mitch Moreland figure out what to do with that tannish-colored piece of tapered lumber he carries with him to the plate and back to the dugout four times a game?
Will the Rougned Odor switch turn on?
Can the Rangers break their franchise record of 96 wins, set in 2011?
And finally, how many twenty-gallon jugs of Tums should Jeff Banister order to get him through every Sam Dyson playoff appearance?
Chase Anderson (9-11, 4.36) vs. Cole Hamels (15-5, 3.30)
Game time: 7:05
How the Brewers hit against Hamels.
How the Rangers hit against Anderson.
TEXAS 93-65, BOSTON 92-65 (-0.5), CLEVELAND 91-66 (-1.5)