The last week of the season is upon us, and though the Texas Rangers clinched the American League West last week, I find myself watching the scoreboard more than if they hadn’t clinched.
Games at Yankee Stadium, Rogers Centre, Comerica Park and Minute Maid Park all needed to be monitored Tuesday in addition to the Rangers’ game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Globe Life Park.
Home-field advantage is on the line with the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians. If the Rangers gain the home field with the best record in the league, they could play either Toronto, Baltimore, Detroit, Seattle or Houston in the AL Division Series.
Those five teams are vying for the wild-card game.
If the Rangers don’t have the best record, they will either open the ALDS at home as the No. 2 seed against the No. 3 seed or open on the road as the No. 3 seed at the No. 2 seed.
No matter what happens, come Sunday I will be canceling a bunch of hotel reservations.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from Tuesday’s 6-4 victory.
1. Left-hander Alex Claudio was called upon in the fifth inning to get the final two outs against all right-handed hitters. One of the two runners he inherited from A.J. Griffin scored.
Claudio has been used in those situations often this season, but right-handers give him trouble. Why not try Nick Martinez there or even Tanner Scheppers?
Maybe the answer is that the Rangers are trying to see if Claudio should be on their playoff roster.
Manager Jeff Banister again said that he is leaning toward eight relievers but added that there likely wouldn’t be a true long man. Banister said that a bunch of one-inning types, though the Rangers really have only one of those (Sam Dyson), could shorten games.
Claudio has done some of his best work covering multiple innings, but he’s also hell on lefty hitters (.180). Maybe he morphs into a specialist role and Derek Holland becomes the long man. Maybe it’s the other way around.
Banister said that Claudio was the choice in the fifth as the Rangers were looking for a double-play grounder.
If the past two days have taught us anything about the bullpen, it’s that Jeremy Jeffress and Tony Barnette are healthy and will be on the ALDS roster. Maybe the Rangers were trying to learn more about Claudio on Tuesday.
2. Griffin walked off the mound possibly for the last time this season in the fifth inning, and didn’t seem particularly pleased to be leaving after only 74 pitches.
Two were on, one was out and a bunch of right-handed hitters were coming.
He had also surrendered two home runs to righty hitters and five other hits.
If Griffin is done, he finishes the season with a 7-4 record and a 5.07 ERA. He pitched admirably for the first month of the season, his first major league action since 2013, but his performance declined after coming off the disabled list in late June.
He will be back next season, or at least in spring training, assuming the Rangers don’t release him or non-tender him. Already thin on starting pitching, that seems unlikely.
Griffin has always surrendered home runs, and he’s given up 28 in 23 starts this season. That’s fine if they are solo homers. That wasn’t always the case with Griffin.
He has walked 45 batters in 119 innings. He walked 54 in 2000 innings in 2013. After missing two seasons because of arm injuries and coming back with even less velocity, Griffin might have been pitching around certain batters more or missing more with the slow curveball that helped him pile up 107 strikeouts.
That could be something that’s an easy fix. Maybe it’s a way of life for him now.
He’ll know more next spring.
3. The last few days have kind of hit a rut in terms of news, kind of like the middle of spring training. Case in point: How many more times can the beat guys ask and write about Shin-Soo Choo before the end of the season?
How many games do the Rangers have left?
It’s not an insignificant storyline, just one that leads back to the same place. Choo is in Arizona tearing up the instructional league and will likely be in the Rangers’ lineup for all three weekend games assuming nothing funky happens to him physically.
The question then becomes, is he a viable option for the ALDS roster? If that answer is yes, then what role does he have?
At the very minimum, Choo is an option off the bench. He could also resume his role as the leadoff hitter, dropping Carlos Gomez lower in the lineup and leaving Nomar Mazara as an option off the bench. Gomez and Mazara could also platoon in left field.
Choo could play right field, as he’s done the past two games, or he could be the designated hitter and Carlos Beltran could play right. I don’t see that one happening.
Something will be happening with Choo the rest of the season, and the beat guys will keep writing about it.