The lineup the Texas Rangers sent out Saturday afternoon had seven players who either started the season at Triple A Round Rock or spent part of the season there.
Robinson Chirinos was an eighth when including rehab assignments.
So, naturally, the Rangers got two homers from Elvis Andrus and beat the Oakland Athletics 5-0 on the day after they clinched the American League West.
Flash back to 2010, when the Rangers also won the day after clinching the division. Colby Lewis, with the 200-inning bonus clause within reach, allowed two runs in six innings, and Mitch Moreland knocked two home runs in a 16-9 victory in which the Rangers had 22 hits.
Maybe it’s Oakland Coliseum. Maybe it’s the A’s. Maybe the Rangers have some pretty good depth.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from Saturday’s victory.
1. The deck might have seemed stacked against Yu Darvish on Saturday.
He was pitching a day game after a nighttime celebration, against a team that has always been his nemesis, and with a lineup behind him that might have won the Pacific Coast League.
Darvish had also been battling himself in recent starts, with the exception of his Sept. 9 start at Anaheim.
But Darvish delivered one of his top two starts of the season, allowing two hits and a walk in seven scoreless innings. He walked nine for only his third career victory against the A’s in 14 starts.
Combined with the seven scoreless innings Friday from Cole Hamels in the AL West clincher, the Rangers’ top two pitchers appear to be trending the right way at the most important time of the season.
Each will have one more start next weekend, presumably an abbreviated start to save some bullets for Games 1 and 2 of the AL Division Series. Each said that he still has some tinkering to do, which can be accomplished during between-starts bullpens and in their final regular-season outings.
If these guys give the Rangers a chance in the playoff games they start, the Rangers will have a chance in every series.
2. Six years ago, Elvis Andrus didn’t play the day after the Rangers clinched the AL West at Oakland Coliseum. He came to the clubhouse, put on a hoodie, put the hood over his head, tied it tight so that only his mouth was showing, and went to sleep.
He was ailing again Saturday, though this time with a cold that prevented him from celebrating division title like it was 2010. So, he told manager Jeff Bansiter that he could play.
Good thing for the Rangers and Andrus, who has posted the best offensive numbers of his career.
Andrus hit two two-run homers, giving him a career-high eight on the season and a career-high 68 RBIs. His average was at a career-high .297 entering the game. He upped that to .299.
The first homer, in the second, went to straightaway center field, just clearing the wall and Jake Smolinski’s glove. The second homer, in the sixth, sailed just over the foul pole into the second deck in left field.
“I’ve been sick a little bit, so yesterday, unfortunately, was the first time I couldn’t celebrate with the guys,” Andrus said. “So, I said I’ll play tomorrow and take Sunday off.”
A productive Andrus has been a boon to the lineup. He’s another hitter an opposing team can’t take lightly, and his spot in the bottom of the order helps generate base runners when the lineup flips back to the top.
He’s never going to live down what happened in Game 5 of the ALDS last year, but it’s time for people to move on. Andrus made it his goal to come into 2016 with more focus all around.
It’s safe to say he’s done that during the best season of his career after the hardest game of his career in Game 5 of the ALDS, when he committed two errors in the fifth inning.
“It means a lot, especially after last year,” Andrus said. “It was such a tough off-season, and I tried to use it the right way. I don’t want it to stop.”
3. The Rangers had 11 pitchers and 14 position players on their roster for the ALDS last year. Among the pitchers, seven were relievers.
That seemed to be an acceptable number for a short series, though a 14-inning game threatened to put eventual Game 4 starter Derek Holland into the game.
Only a day after clinching a second straight West title, Banister said that he would prefer an eight-man bullpen. It will be contingent on the ALDS opponent and if the Rangers are covered with just a four-man bench.
That doesn’t seem like it will be hard to do.
Jurickson Profar can play all four infield positions and is a switch-hitter. If Shin-Soo Choo returns, that would give the Rangers a fairly potent outfielder on the bench, either the left-handed-hitting Nomar Mazara or right-handed-hitting Carlos Gomez.
Maybe the lefty-hitting Choo is a bench player for the ALDS.
Robinson Chirinos would be the third member as the backup to catcher Jonathan Lucroy.
That leaves the last spot. The Rangers could go with a pure speed option in Delino DeShields. Ryan Rua has been with the team most of the season and can play first base and the corner outfield spots.
With Profar also able to play first base, perhaps Rua becomes the odd man out if the Rangers go with eight relievers.
The bench candidates are going to get a chance to play this week as regulars get some rest. Banister also wants the bench players to be as crisp as possible heading into the postseason.
The Rangers have come along way from 2010 and 2011, when they had Esteban German on their postseason rosters. A versatile player, he didn’t pose nearly the same offensive threat as the Rangers’ potential bench pieces do this year.