The groans from the media dining room Wednesday afternoon were easily heard in the press box after diners watched to the final out of a 6-5 Houston Astros victory.
The win meant that the Texas Rangers, even if they beat the Anaheim Angels, could not clinch the American League West before their final road trip of the season.
The Rangers could still clinch at Globe Life Park, though they would have to lose all three weekend games at Oakland while the Astros sweep four from the Angels.
A clinch at Oakland Coliseum wouldn’t be the first in club history. The Rangers clinched there in 2010. The hero that day was Jorge Cantu, who hit his only homer with the Rangers to push them to a 4-3 victory.
This year it’s setting up to be Cole Hamels or Yu Darvish or Mike Trout. The Rangers will take whatever help they can get from the Angels.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 5-4 loss.
1. The Rangers will have a need for a Derek Holland start next week, but the club hasn’t announced its pitching plans beyond Saturday.
The next time he is seen on a mound could be as a reliever in the playoffs.
The Rangers had 14 position players and 11 pitchers last year for the American League Division Series. Seven of the pitchers were relievers.
If the Rangers take the same approach to their roster next month, Sam Dyson, Matt Bush, Jake Diekman, Keone Kela and Tony Barnette look like locks, assuming Barnette is healthy. That’s the expectation. Two more will be needed.
Tanner Scheppers seems to be making a favorable impression, especially with the status of hard-throwing right-hander Jeremy Jeffress unknown. Another situational lefty could come in handy. Length from a lefty might be attractive.
Holland could fill either lefty role but especially the last one. He did well in that role in the 2010 postseason. Alex Claudio has surprised as the long man this season and is tough on lefties.
There are no guarantees the Rangers will go with Holland, but it’s hard to imagine him not part of the playoff plans. With it looking like there will be no room for him in the rotation, it could be bullpen or bust.
2. Adrian Beltre said it, so it must be true: The Rangers are well aware that they are in a race for home-field advantage for the ALDS and AL Championship Series.
The Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians seem to be winning all the time, though that’s only true in Boston’s case. The Red Sox have won seven straight. The Indians just two.
Beltre recalled the 2011 race for the home field in the ALDS. It went down to the final game, when Mike Napoli hit a two-run homer in the ninth inning to beat the Angels and save the Rangers from an overnight flight to New York.
While the Rangers rested players five years ago and will do so again once they clinch, it won’t be a crazy amount of rest because the home field is so important to the Rangers. They are 50-25 at home this season with six games to go.
The Indians are the only AL team with more home wins, by a mere one. The Chicago Cubs lead the majors with 54 home victories.
3. The Astros are suddenly back in the thick of the wild-card hunt now that they are done playing the Rangers for the season.
Houston swept three from the A’s and plays seven of its final 10 games against the Angels. The other three are against the Seattle Mariners. Seven of 10 are at home.
That’s a pretty smooth road, especially with the Astros 11-1 this season against the Angels. Sheesh.
Should the Rangers hold onto the league’s best record and should the Astros pass the Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles for the second wild-card spot, the two could meet in the ALDS.
Advantage, Rangers. Right? They won the season series 15-4. It’s possible that the Astros wouldn’t have Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers and Alex Bregman for the ALDS.
My gut tells me it wouldn’t be easy. Despite the huge advantage in the regular season, most games were decided by one or two runs.
With less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, there are five teams who could be in the wild-card game. It’s too early to sweat too much on who the Rangers would play if they are the top seed.
Houston, though, is a possibility again.