It’s that of the year again when I really start to worry about qualifying for Platinum status with American Airlines for next season.
Even with Platinum watered down some under the new elite benefits following the merger with U.S. Airways, it’s still a big deal.
It comes with two free checked bags, which the bean counters at the Star-Telegram appreciate, and a better chance at getting upgraded. Gold status is only one free checked bag.
After the trip this weekend to Oakland, I’ll be at 43,000 miles. The magic number is 50,000. The winter meetings in Washington will get me another 2,200. An American League Division Series at Baltimore is worth 2,400 miles. Toronto is 2,200 miles. Seattle is 3,300.
A trip to an ALCS at Boston, around 3,100 miles, would get me over the top. A trip to Cleveland would get me close.
An ALDS loss would leave me in need of a trip to the Fall League in Phoenix, but even then I would need another trip — either for work or personal.
I’ve made those mileage runs before. On New Year’s Eve 2012, I flew to Houston Bush, walked around for 30 minutes, and flew right back to DFW.
In 2014, I flew to Denver in the morning, picked up my mom, met my sister, aunt and uncle for lunch, and flew home.
Platinum is a big deal for a beat writer.
Wins are a big deal this time of year for the Rangers.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 3-2 walk-off over the Anaheim Angels.
1. Raise your hand if you want Martin Perez to be in the Rangers’ postseason rotation.
That vote isn’t likely to be unanimous, but the left-hander should get a majority after another nice start.
Forget the sixth inning for now. Perez allowed two runs on four hits. He struck out two. He hit a batter, and that turned into a run, but he didn’t issue a walk for only the third start this season.
He did it all on a mere 79 pitches.
It’s the kind of performance Perez has long been capable of throwing up. He’s done better in his career, of course, but in an up-and-down 2016, this one rated as a top-five outing.
When Perez is at his best, he’s not getting rattled by things happened in the game. He keeps his eyes on the prize, a Rangers win. The call in the sixth inning, which led to manager Jeff Banister getting ejected, was a screwy situation that could have caused Perez to unravel.
Instead, after a Mike Trout RBI triple, Perez stranded Trout and prevented a big inning.
It’s also easy to tell that Perez is going good when he’s getting groundball outs. He had 12 of them Monday. He had only two strikeouts, a number the Rangers would like to see him boost, but he didn’t need the strikeout against the Angels.
Right-hander A.J. Griffin will start Tuesday, and lefty Derek Holland is scheduled to pitch Wednesday.
Postseason matchups, though, will be a factor. No AL lefty is better against lefty batters than Perez (.180). He doesn’t allow many home runs. His road record (2-8, 5.78 ERA) might work against him.
All three remain in the mix for a postseason rotation spot, but it feels like Perez has a clear edge.
2. The aforementioned call that could have affected the outcome of the game came in the sixth inning on a one-out Yunel Escobar double.
The ball rolled to the wall in right-center field and went beneath the padding. Right fielder Nomar Mazara reached for the ball and bobbled it, and when he did, Escobar went to third after slowing at second.
He was easily thrown out.
As he is apt to do, Angels manager Mike Scioscia disagreed. Crew chief Joe West, as he is apt to do, seemed confused. The replay official said that the ball should have been ruled dead because it was lodged underneath padding.
Banister came out to argue, was tossed by Joe West as West is apt to do, and the Angels ended up scoring a run on Trout’s triple after Escobar was placed at second base.
Here is Banister’s point of view:
“What got me ejected is you can not argue a replay. I know that,” Banister said. “I was looking for an explanation. From my view, the ball hit, rolled underneath. I had an outfielder that went to play the ball, and the padding caused him to drop the ball, the runner looked like he was going to stop at second base.
“When he saw Mazara drop the ball, he decided to go and he got thrown out at third. All the sudden they were talking about someone throwing up their arms to stop the action. No one raised their arms.”
“I had an outfielder who felt like the ball was not lodged. If you look at the video, the ball was still spinning. In my estimation, that is not a lodged baseball. But that’s not my call.”
And the crew chief:
“The ball wasn’t going to be caught,” West said. “The umpires are scrambling in the infield to get in position for possible plays. The ball goes out there and sticks.
“From the infield, you can’t tell if it’s stuck. If we had gone out even being 100 feet from it, we may not have been able to tell it was stuck. But when we went to replay, they said it stuck. So, it’s plain and simple a ground-rule double.
“Scoiscia’s argument was the ball stuck. When replay confirmed that, he gets second. The fact that they lost the out in a one-run game is what upset Banister. He’s arguing that we can’t go to the replay. I said, ‘We most certain can. And, secondly, you can’t argue. I’m explaining what the rule is.’ He said, ‘I can argue.’ I said, ‘No, you can’t, and if you don’t stop, you’re going to be ejected. You need to go back to the dugout.’ And he didn’t.”
The good news for the Rangers is that that call didn’t cost them in the end. Elvis Andrus, Carlos Gomez and Ian Desmond opened the ninth with singles, with Desmond bringing home Andrus with the winning run.
The Rangers have 46 come-from-behind wins and are 35-10 in one-run games. Their magic number to clinch a second straight AL West crown is three.
3. As a few readers might remember from a few years back, I really enjoy doing yard work. If it weren’t for my neighbors directly to the east, where a jungle grows in their front and back yards and weeds are constantly trying to invade new territory, my yard would be darn near perfect.
So when Banister talks about the Rangers still having yard work to do, he’s speaking my language. The Rangers, he said, still have yard work remaining before he will feel comfortable about talking about the postseason.
I equated the Rangers’ current position as in the sweeping/leaf-bagging stage. All the mowing, trimming, edging and weed-pulling is finished. All that’s left is cleaning up.
“I’d rather be watering the field right now,” Banister said.
But the manager is loosening up a bit. Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish will start Friday and Saturday at Oakland and probably not again until Friday and Saturday next week. That will give the presumed No. 1 and No. 2 starters for the division series an extra day’s rest before their opening playoff starts.
More importantly, it gives them two more regular-season starts and some extra time between starts to work out the kinks they’ve encountered of late. No yard work is more important to the Rangers the rest of the way.