Fans of the Texas Rangers find themselves in a bit of a predicament.
The more their favorite team wins and the Seattle Mariners lose, the closer their favorite team comes to clinching the American League West.
So, fans might be inclined to root for whichever teams are facing the Mariners the rest of the way. The first two teams, though, are the Rangers’ fiercest rivals the past two years — the Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays.
What if Ken Giles saves a game this weekend that gets the magic number down to five?
What if Jose Bautista hits the home run next week that beats Seattle and clinches the West for the Rangers?
Do what you’ve got to do, Rangers fans.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 7-6 walk-off Friday night.
1. Cole Hamels pitched really well at times Friday night, but also left too many pitches over the heart of the plate. The red-hot Oakland offense did what it was supposed to do with them and produced six runs in six innings.
The result was another rough outing for Hamels, the third in his past four starts. He wasn’t particularly pleased with the one in which he didn’t allow a bunch of runs.
He has work to do, obviously. He needs to be in top form if the Rangers hope to advance deep into the playoffs, obviously.
At this point last year he was on cruise control, as he was a month ago, only to run into trouble against the Detroit Tigers in the season’s final week. He was down 2-0 after one inning of his final start in Game 162.
But the next eight innings were about as good as possible, and the Rangers won the AL West. Hamels pitched well enough to win Games 2 and 5 of the division series.
So, there’s a recent track record that says he will bounce back and be fine. He has a playoff track record that says he finds another gear. He wasn’t too displeased with the effort.
It’s not time to worry about him yet.
2. A few things from the win that shouldn’t be overlooked:
▪ Mitch Moreland, a left-handed hitter, delivered an RBI single against Sean Doolittle, a left-handed pitcher in a two-run sixth inning. Manager Jeff Banister let Moreland hit because he has been better against lefties the past two months, and it actually extends throughout the season. Moreland entered Friday as a .261 hitter against lefties but .237 against righties.
▪ The bullpen worked three scoreless innings, building on the extra-innings win Monday at Houston when Matt Bush recorded five outs and Keone Kela got six. Sam Dyson got the save. The same trio worked a scoreless inning apiece to shut down an offense that scored 43 runs in a four-game sweep at Kansas City.
▪ Joey Gallo, not exactly known for his speed, was put in motion in the ninth inning and stole second base as Rougned Odor struck out on a pitch in the dirt. That proved to be a critical play as Gallo easy scored on Jonathan Lucroy’s game-winning single down the line. Gallo was running for Adrian Beltre, who might not have been asked to run in the same situation.
▪ The Rangers have 88 wins, the same total they had in 2015 when the won the AL West. The Rangers got there in Game 162 last season. They did it in Game 148 on Friday. They need to go 12-2 to reach 100 wins and 9-5 to set a single-season club record for victories.
3. Shin-Soo Choo was swinging his normal bat Friday afternoon after X-rays showed that the fracture he suffered last month has healed. He should hit off a tee Saturday.
Choo, though, didn’t want to say that he would be back before the end of the season, a door the Rangers have left open by not putting him on the 60-day disabled list. A 60-day DL stay would keep him out of the first round of the playoffs.
It seems unlikely that he will be available in 10 days’ time, though it might seem unlikely that his X-rays came back clean. Choo, all the while, has remained optimistic and has been throwing to 120 feet.
So, let’s say Choo is cleared to ramp up his baseball activities. The Rangers could bring in pitchers from the instructional league to throw him live batting practice or they could ship Choo to the instructional league in Surprise, Ariz., for a few days and let him hit in games as many times as possible.
Surely they would want to see Choo bat in big-league games, so maybe bring him back for the last weekend against Tampa Bay to see if he can be a part of the postseason.
The Rangers miss Choo atop the lineup. Were he to return, the Rangers could platoon Carlos Gomez and Nomar Mazara in left field or just play Gomez if they feel bullish enough about him.
All of those decisions are far down a road that is currently closed. But if Choo can avoid a setback in the coming days, an avenue for him to return before the postseason could be opened.