Rangers tighten wild-card race with fifth straight win
09/28/2013 12:09 AM
10/05/2013 7:07 PM
The American League wild-card standings show two teams tied at the top and another one a game back that could wedge itself into a three-day, three-game scramble to reach a division series.
The Texas Rangers, though, are looking only at what they can control. That’s winning ballgames, which they did again Friday night by scoring two runs in the seventh inning to knock off the Los Angeles Angels 5-3.
Tampa Bay and Cleveland are tied for the wild-card spots after the Rays lost at Toronto and the Indians won at Minnesota. The Rangers sit only a game back with two games remaining in the regular season.
Don’t look now, but Wild-card-ageddon is two Rangers wins and one loss each by the Rays and Indians from happening.
“Hopefully, it puts some pressure on them,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “They can’t lose a game because everyone can tie it up. We just want the opportunity. We want that shot to get there and take it.”
Here’s how a three-way tiebreaker would work:
Tampa Bay would play at Cleveland on Monday. The winner would take a wild-card spot, and the loser would play at Rangers Ballpark on Tuesday.
The winner of that game would be the second wild-card team with the head-to-head season series determining home-field advantage for a game Wednesday. In that case, the Rangers would host Tampa Bay and play at Cleveland.
The winner of the game Wednesday would advance to play in the ALDS, likely at Boston.
The Rangers, though, have to win Saturday and Sunday to give themselves a chance. Do that and just about anything can happen, including winning a wild-card spot outright if things go their way in Toronto and Minneapolis or forcing a Monday tiebreaker with one other team for the second wild card.
“We still have a chance,” manager Ron Washington said. “The only thing you can really do is stay focused on what you have to do. What you have to do is go out there and catch the ball when it’s hit to you, make pitches when you have to and put runs on the board when you have to.”
Alex Rios and A.J. Pierzysnki drove in two runs apiece Friday, including one each in the seventh inning as the Rangers broke a 3-3 tie, and four relievers didn’t allow a base runner in relief of Alexi Ogando over the final 3 2/3 innings.
The game was tied 1-1 in the third when C.J. Wilson went wild on the mound.
He got Kinsler on a popup to start the inning, and Andrus followed with a single. Wilson then lost command of the strike zone, walking Rios while throwing two wild pitches.
Wilson was ahead of Adrian Beltre 0-2 before hitting him, and Pierzynski got drilled in the right shoulder to force in a run. Wilson wasn’t done, though, as he uncorked a wild pitch with Jeff Baker batting to bring in Rios.
Wilson told reporters that most of the balls weren’t properly rubbed down. Rangers batters had a different take.
“He just got crazy,” Andrus said. “He was throwing a lot of breaking stuff and couldn’t control it.”
Ogando, meanwhile, got a little wild in the fifth as the Angels forged a tie. Singles by Andrew Romine and Calhoun put runners at the corners with one out, and Ogando walked Mike Trout to load the bases.
Josh Hamilton followed with a two-run single, which was the 1,000th hit of his career, to tie the game.
But the Rangers broke through in the seventh, an inning that opened with Kinsler drawing a walk, moving to second on an errant pickoff throw and going to third on Andrus’ sacrifice bunt.
Rios followed with a single through a drawn-in infield and then quickly stole second. After Beltre struck out, Pierzynski sent a slow chopper up the middle and just beat a high throw that pulled Mark Trumbo from the bag.
Rios never stopped on the play and scored the game’s final run from second. The Rangers are hoping they don’t stop winning over the final two games of the regular season.
“Anything can really happen right now,” Rios said. “But we’re focusing on the task we have tomorrow and the next day.”
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